Though he spent much of his life as a truck driver for the city, Shareef's true calling was cooking. But it wasn't until he resigned from his driving job that he took a leap of faith and opened his first restaurant. Shareef's business has since evolved from halal hot dogs and burgers cooked on a small grill at his first establishment to a full menu of Mediterranean-style wraps, sandwiches, and platters served at two namesake eateries. To anchor the menu, the grill's chefs pair tortillas, buns, and beds of lettuce with halal and kosher meats and vegetables sautéed in their own butter sauce and craft housemade desserts including sweet-potato-and-cheese pies from fresh ingredients. And regardless of what location you are dining at, Shareef and his staff aim to make their space inviting and their food consistent by making every order fresh.
And Shareef's diners aren't the only ones raving about the menu's healthy yet delicious Mediterranean cuisine. The mayor of Baltimore even took notice, presenting the eatery with a certificate of recognition for their "outstanding contributions and dedication to providing . . . families with nutritious, affordable food."
There are lots of ways to get your pizza fix at Zella's Pizzeria, which is back under original ownership. The quickest, perhaps, is to order one of the house's signature gourmet pizzas such as the roasted eggplant topped with roasted red peppers and kalamata olives. But diners with time and energy to spare can pour over the menu to build their own pizza. All pizzas start with freshly made dough before diners choose from six sauces ranging from traditional tomato to herbed olive oil and more than 30 toppings including green olives, fresh tomatoes, and roasted garlic that can be consumed willy-nilly or reorganized on the pie to make the Italian flag. The same top-quality ingredients that go into Zella's pizzas are used to make smaller dishes such as spinach and artichoke calzones and meatball sandwiches.
In the kitchen of Cozy Cafe, cooks marinate chicken breasts in natural spices, craft spicy penne pasta to order, and pan sear southern-style turkey chops. After fully formed dishes pass through the kitchen doors, they travel to wooden tables or lounge-style seating in the restaurant’s dining area, which is brightened by a red accent wall and a flat-screen TV. Patrons can browse the Internet with their laptops or Atari 2600s, using complimentary WiFi while dining on Negril stew chicken and Caribbean-style tofu seasoned with island spices. On the first and third Sunday evening of every month, an open-mic night provides a showcase for musicians, comedians, and poets.
A coffee shop is a great place to get work done without being actively social but still feeling completely social. Use today's Groupon to be productive in the comfort of the crowd instead of alone at home. For $10, you get $20 toward anything edible and drinkable (does not include intangibly consumable events) at Peace & A Cup of Joe. You can snag up to three Groupons, which will be converted into gift cards the first time you head into the quaint, independent shop. These will act just as regular gift cards act, with composure and class. Groupons are also good toward daily specials.
Situated in historic Mt. Vernon, Sweet Bakery Baltimore bakes up daily delights of sweet-tooth satiation, seen in the city’s finest hotels and on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Piping-hot sweet-treat selections include the perennial favorite morning buns—croissant dough rolled in cinnamon and sugar and baked in a muffin cup, similar to the process of primping beauty-pageant contestants ($2.75). Nearly 20 varieties of pie assemble for duty in a spectrum of fruit flavors, including apple crumb ($17.95), pumpkin ($17.95), strawberry rhubarb ($20.95), and blackberry peach ($20.95). Or sample the selection of croissants, served traditionally ($2), glazed in chocolate ($2.25), or pinned together with toothpicks to resemble the Arc de Triomphe. Meanwhile, simple and dressy cupcakes ($2–$2.50) jostle for shelf space beside classic sugar-purveyors such as cookies ($0.60 each, or two for $1), muffins ($2.75), and danishes ($2).
Midtown BBQ & Brew's cooks begin with organic and locally raised meats, slowly smoking them in-house to create dishes that the Baltimore Sun called "unapologetically traditional, rich and charmingly displayed on the plate." Ribs, pulled pork, and housemade sausages share space with sides like spicy crab mac ‘n’ cheese and southern cornbread. An ever-expanding drink selection features macrobrews alongside local creations and imported bottles.
Local-band performances, open-mic nights, and art exhibitions frequently drop in to occupy the restaurant's upper floors. Downstairs, trivia and karaoke keep diners entertained between bites.