Whether seated on a patio overlooking stretches of grass or within a cozy dining room aglow with hanging lights, guests at Donna’s are treated to an array of tasty, upscale American dishes. The menu boasts a selection that changes weekly and may include quinoa and homemade falafel, five-spice ribs, salmon on cold noodles, or homemade tacos. From the expansive wine lists, guests select a glass of dry sparkling prosecco to pair with pizza or calamari or sip a seasonal cocktail such as the pineapple caipirinha. In addition to crafting delicious meals, the team at Donna’s offers cooking classes, during which they bake rustic breads, make pastas by hand, and quiet the melodramatic death throes of Italian vegetables.
The chefs at Egyptian Pizza trace their cooking techniques to a different side of the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient Egyptians pioneered the practice of rising dough when they cooked crushed wheat germ and water inside early conical ovens. Honoring their forefathers’ methods, the versatile cooks pull more than 30 types of gourmet thin-crust pizzas out of their wood-fired ovens, along with a lengthy menu of Middle Eastern sandwiches and specialties. They take pains to use natural, fresh, and healthful ingredients to whip up plump fish kebabs, tender meat shawarmas and housemade sauces that have won over the palates of reporters from the Baltimore Sun. Their kitchen looks out onto the casual dining room, where servers help uncork BYOB bottles of wines beneath artwork depicting famous Egyptian landmarks, such as the pyramids, the Sphinx, and other toys left behind by aliens.
Classic Mediterranean food abounds at Desert Cafe, from gardens of crunchy salads to shish kebabs of skewered meat, onions, and peppers. City Paper's review made note of the colorful fabric that decorates the ceiling, forming a vivid canopy above plates of flaky spanakopita or mango curry chicken salad studded with golden raisins. Warm flatbread wraps around gyros made from chicken, beef, or lamb and served with tzatziki sauce. Diners can also enjoy fresh air with their food on a colorful covered patio, sipping drinks amid strings of party lights and wood painted crimson. The caf? is also home to owner Blake Wollman's lauded Wild Pea hummus, which was voted best hummus of 2012 by Baltimore Magazine.
At four stories tall, XS has plenty of room for surprises. Modern art hangs from the exposed brick walls in the deceptively large industrial building, where giant silver tubes stretch from hardwood floor to lofted ceiling and a sleek room with red-leather wall panels awaits discovery. On the ground floor, waiters weave around the wrought-iron staircase and stainless-steel tables bearing platters piled with sushi and Japanese fusion cuisine.
Every morning, these platters hoist breakfast items, including french-toast variations, goodie-stuffed omelets, and smoked salmon. By night, they carry stuffed maki rolls, kobe-beef burgers, and sweet-thai-chili tuna, as well as handcrafted cocktails. Nighttime is also when DJs spin hits, making for a combination nightclub-restaurant to rival CBGB’s, which of course stood for Consume Bacon, Get Bizzay.
Shapiro's Cafe is a low-key neighborhood eatery that has comfort food and coffee down pat. Guests can sample classic deli sandwiches, such as hot brisket on rye, or opt for Mediterranean specialities, such as shawarma and falafel, which was voted best in the city by Baltimore City Paper in 2010 and 2011. Shapiro's also has the caf? staples covered with breakfast sandwiches, light salads, and strawberry and snozzberry smoothies. For a caffeine jolt, try a cup of Zeke's Coffee?the caf? pours it black or can turn it into specialty drinks including mocha lattes.