If there's one thing that shapes the food at Carmelo's Italian Restaurant more than the chefs, it's Mother Nature. In the tradition of the Northwest and Sicily, the kitchen uses only local, organic ingredients when possible, and imports some Old World staples straight from Italy. The result is a menu that shifts with the seasons. Using a base of penne noodles splashed with a vodka sauce or the thin crust of a pizza, chefs might feature spinach, red peppers, or feta cheese grown in a nearby field. And since Carmelo's is a BYOB eatery, diners can complement their meal with a hand-selected bottle of wine or jar of bathtub gin.
Each day, the modern interior of Saturday Morning Cafe fills with the aromas of freshly brewed coffee, seafood and chicken sizzling on the grill, and sweet pastries. In warmer weather, these smells might mingle with an invigorating breeze from the Inner Harbor and the dulcet tones of far-off sea shanties in the outdoor seating area. In this casual atmosphere, diners indulge in comfort food, including french toast topped with berries and whipped cream, house-made waffles with Southern-fried chicken, and omelets stuffed with crab and shrimp. Later in the day, chefs prepare sandwiches and specialties such as barbecue chicken and fish and grits. The space also hosts occasional live performances from local musicians and showcases work from local artists.
The menu at Arlon's is even more accommodating than the carryout policy. Spanning classic dishes of American, Italian, and Indian cuisine, everything is available for preparation for gatherings large and small. Submarine sandwiches and stromboli are served among other popular hand-held eats, while entrees include house-made crab cakes and tandoori-style chicken and fish curries. Between all these eclectic dishes, though, the chefs are hard at work crafting their signature dish: thin-crust pizzas made with fresh dough and and a trusty sauce recipe. House specialties include the buffalo chicken pizza drizzled in spicy sauce and bleu cheese, and the seafood pizza, which features shimp and crabmeat seasoned with cocktail sauce and Old Bay.
The chefs at Acropolis Restaurant fill the menu with classic and contemporary Greek dishes. Grilled octopus and spicy feta dip whet appetites for shrimp saganaki with melted kasseri cheese, vegetarian moussaka, and house specialties such as lamb giouvetsi, which simmers braised lamb with string beans, tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Cups of Greek coffee or wines from California, Greece, and Italy complement each meal, which are served at tables lit with a soft glow cast by candles in blue holders. Cool blue and off-white walls hold up framed paintings of Mediterranean vistas, and clean white tablecloths give guests a sense of elegance and a place to win hide-and-seek.
As guests round the corner on their way to Captain James Landing, the first thing they see is the majestic prow of a ship looming over the street, as though ready to set sail across the pavement. This illusion dramatically heralds the maritime theme of the restaurant, where diners enjoy the fruits of the sea alongside the water. When the weather is warm, guests can dine on the waterside patio, crushing crabs and swigging cold beer in harmony with the soothing sounds of gently lapping waves and Aquaman's soft sobbing. Inside feels no less festive, with picnic-style benches lined up beneath a mounted marlin and lamps repurposed from wooden steering wheels.
Despite the fact that everyone has to eat to live, the culinary team at Liv2Eat thinks it should be the other way around. Sourcing seasonal ingredients, they craft a rotating selection of dishes throughout the year, from fresh seafood selections to a local snap pea salad. Six days a week, the back patio and dining rooms bustle during dinner service, and servers transport bottles of wine, craft beers, and champagne throughout the cozy, low-lit dining rooms. On Sundays, the chef/owner puts his own elegant spin on morning noshes that include a green eggs & ham with wilted spinach that gives eaters a penchant for speaking in rhyme.