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.
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.
If instead of attending galas, Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre joined a yoga class, the venue would probably look a lot like MV Fitness. Inside a Mount Vernon mansion, stationary cycles face floor-to-ceiling windows beneath a vintage chandelier that is warmly reflected in an ornately framed mirror hung above the fireplace. Enormous wooden french doors open onto rooms full of weight machines and cardio equipment, potted plants filling lungs with fresh oxygen as members get into shape. In between punching bags and wall-mounted weightlifting machines, pop art and stained-glass windows add to the antique space's genuine allure. As Baltimore magazine wrote in its Top Gyms of 2012 column, besides the personal trainers and drop-in group fitness classes, “you’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier gym out there.”
Brunch Café | New American Dinner | Trendy Cocktail Bar | Dog-Friendly Patio
Where to Sit: Since City Cafe is split into three sections, where you sit depends on your dining motives. Select from the café section (for morning coffee), the elegant cocktail lounge (for late-night and happy-hour drinks), or the cozy, split-level dining room (for more leisurely meals).
When to Go: Swing by for dinner on Tuesday, when every bottle of wine is discounted by $10 and select entrees only cost $15.
Inside Tip: When the weather's nice, ask your pooch to accompany you for brunch on the dog-friendly patio.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Sip a coffee while scoping out the tiny, but intriguing collection of books at Read Street Books (229 West Read Street).
After: Get your daily dose of culture at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (1212 Cathedral Street) or the Lyric Opera House (140 West Mt. Royal Avenue), both just blocks from City Cafe.