Maynard’s Cafe's flavor slingers craft a surf 'n' turf menu brimming with oceanic delights and land-locked meats. Dining companions can warm up for competitive chew-offs with the Maynard’s Combo, an amalgam of finger foods that include crab balls, jalapeño poppers, chicken tenders, and steamed shrimp among other handheld poppables. Then order up a heftier entree, such as the chicken fettuccini, crab legs and drawn butter, or fried oysters. The new york strip steak cohabitates with crab cakes and brings two sides to the table. Guests can savor their meals while oogling karaoke performers crooning after 9 p.m. Wednesday–Sunday or watch cards go flying during rounds of Texas Hold 'em or high-stakes Go Fish on Thursdays.
To get a sense of The Greene Turtle's commitment to the neighborhood, one need only sit at the bar and look up. Dozens of mugs hang above the counter, emblazoned with the pub's logo and a unique number—each one belongs to a recurring patron. The Mug Club awards its members with draft-beer discounts and other specials, but more importantly, it allows loyal patrons to feel as though they own small slices of the venue without tattooing their names on the bartender's arm. This sense of shared familiarity is what fuels the entire franchise, which refrains from calling its locations "restaurants" in favor of friendlier terms: gathering places, communities, havens.
Many of the locations contribute more than mugs to their districts. Staff members who participate in the annual Tips for Tots program donate the entirety of one day's tips to a nearby Toys for Tots initiative, and Tuesday Funds for Friends events benefit local organizations. These efforts have been chronicled by press sources such as Food and Drink magazine, with features that liken The Greene Turtles' philanthropic generosity to the generous portions of comfort food that leave the kitchens.
From cheeseburger sliders and flatbread pizzas to handmade lump-crab cakes, the offerings on the menu embrace barroom traditions along with ingenuity. The steak and chicken entrees arrive with classic sides of green beans and yukon gold mashed potatoes, whereas the eastern shore mac ‘n’ cheese updates a comfort staple with chopped bacon, lump crab, scallions, and Old Bay seasoning. Diners can enjoy their meals by the glow of private flat-screen TVs—there's one in every booth—or beneath one of many larger televisions broadcasting sports games throughout the venue.
In order to replicate Low country-inspired cuisine, a chef should first stock up on fresh locally-sourced ingredients. The Low country, a geographical area along the coastal plain of South Carolina, stretching from Charleston to Savannah, Georgia, is known for its comforting and alluring tastes. Luckily for Neal Langermann, he's good pals with Hoppin' John, a supplier of heirloom grits from the Georgia mountains who only distributes his naturally pollinated, stone-ground kernels to chefs whom he trusts to do them justice. Neal has yet to disappoint his friend, preparing Hoppin’ John’s grits with a velvety clam broth, andouille sausage, and shrimp for a signature dish that won Baltimore magazine's award for Best Shrimp and Grits in 2012.
Langermann’s Charleston shrimp 'n' grits is one of the many reinvented Low Country classics on the restaurant’s menu. Basking in the sunlit dining room or perched at the upstairs loft bar, diners can savor fried green tomatoes, carolina gumbo, and bog country roasted chicken in a spicy Cajun sauce, before ending meals on a sweet note with a slice of housemade sweet-potato pie and a hug from the resident teddy bear. Langermann’s Low country-inspired fixings "surpass their humble origins," according to Baltimore magazine's 2011 list of its Best Restaurants. The article also notes the restaurant staff’s charming Southern hospitality, assuring visitors will “feel nurtured and at home" when presented with a helping of honey-glazed cornbread.
Mr. Rain's Fun House appears to have witnessed a stampede of exotic animals. On the curved surface of one wall, a flamboyantly colored sculpture of a walrus head stares from between two equally glitzy cows. There are no flowers on the tables—instead, peacock feathers wind upward from curlicued metal bases. Then there's the menu, which offers wild boar and pheasant sausage alongside housemade sauerkraut. From the rohan duck breast to the ruby-red trout, the entrees seek to capture the eye as much as the decor does, a fitting goal for a restaurant located on the third floor of the American Visionary Art Museum.
Bill Buszinski doesn't consider his methods entirely avant-garde, however. The self-trained chef grew up on a 200-acre farm, where he learned the value of made-from-scratch meals and the importance of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs when entering a 100-acre cornfield. His selection of seasonal dishes therefore relies on locally sourced meat and produce. Beverage director Perez Klebahn collaborates with Bill to invent handcrafted cocktails that complement the rotating plates, such as the To Autumn: Jameson Irish whiskey, acorn-squash liqueur, apple cider, Suze bitters, and lemon juice. Maria Buszinski rounds out the staff with her penchant for quirky art design, helping arrange a communal dining space that also hosts "pop-up" gallery shows and events from area artists.
Banksy's Café chefs Will and Rob cultivate a cornucopia of light gourmet fare made from fresh ingredients. The menu's Higher Standards section plays host to hearty helpings such as the Bay Mac, a lump-crab cake buried beneath an avalanche of shrimp salad, lettuce, and tomato (a $13 value). Savvy chefs can also customize quarter-pound Angus beef burgers (a $7 value) with different types of cheese and dressing, enfranchising guests to vote for their favorite combo or accuse ambitious cheddar of gerrymandering. Alternatively, build your own sandwich from three varieties of meat and a choice of bread and cheese (a $7 value) or dunk a half-sandwich in a house-made soup (an $8 value). The chef plates each of the 13 options with a healthy side, such as mayo-free california coleslaw or cuban rice salad, depending on his whims and the current wind direction.