Bakers Park's cakesmiths are visual artists, using buttercream and fondant like a painter uses watercolors and buttercream. They draw from a large palette, mixing batter into flavors such as chocolate or red velvet. Eventually, all of these components come together into an elaborate design, such as a birthday cake shaped like a giant cheeseburger, or a baby shower cake that looks like a kid's shoe. And while they specialize in these sorts of cakes, not everything the bakers create is destined for a party. They also make cookies, cupcakes, pies, and other everyday treats.
Though their processes are meticulous, there are no secret recipes at Bakers Park. The bakers happily teach the tricks of their trade to curious would-be confectioners during cake classes.
As one of China's eight regional cuisines, Hunan fare culls its flavors from a rich tradition of slow-cooking methods that includes pot-roasting, braising, stewing, smoking, and pickling. Chefs enhance authentic proteins—ranging from frog and squid to offal—with sour and spicy ingredients such as pickles, sea cucumbers, and chilies. These exotic morsels share menu space with more familiar fare including crispy duck, braised pork, and steamed dumplings. The restaurant also conveniently separates their bill of fare into two distinct categories—American cuisine—to help adventurous and cautious foodies alike select palatable plates. Throughout the space, glowing orbs cast warm light on vibrant crimson walls, rustic Chinese tapestries, intricate carvings, and Tang-dynasty poems praising the Emperor's favorite sitcoms.
The Flores family never dreamed that 15 years after they emigrated from Mexico, Maryland state senator Jim Robey would be on hand at their restaurant opening to whack a celebratory piñata. Yet that's exactly how the business started—with an explosion of candy foretelling a boom of happy customers.
Named for the Flores’s hometown of Nayarit, El Nayar was designed as a reflection of the clan’s personality, which they describe as "authentic Mexican, laid-back, and down-to-earth." They’re proud that amid the exposed-brick columns and blue- and red-tiled counter, immigrants can be found enjoying cactus and eggs beside American businessmen talking shop over tacos and quesadillas. It’s this mentality, along with sizzling fajitas and house-made spicy sauce, that has earned the restaurant an award as a Top 10 Mexican Restaurant by the Baltimore Sun.
Also honored with a Healthy Howard award for the dietary excellence of its menu, the BYOB establishment encourages diners to supplement meals with glasses of a favorite red wine, good for the heart, or shots of tequila, good for hand-walking skills and adding into specialty margaritas.
Jennings Cafe's epicurean curators craft an immense menu from family recipes that helped earn it a spot on the Baltimore Sun's 2009 list of Top 10 All-American Restaurants, and staff members deliver dishes with Zagat-recognized service. Crunch into a combination of fried openers on the Superfecta platter piled with classics including mozzarella sticks, breaded mushrooms, and chicken tenders accompanied by a cadre of dipping sauces ($10.95).
Formerly known as Honey Pig Dumpling, Honey Pig Chicken now broadens its menu beyond steamed bundles of flavor. Even when she isn't present, the pink cheeks and puckered lips of co-owner Mickey Kim still watch over Honey Pig Chicken. Depicted as a warm, friendly cartoon, Kim looks out from a banner that hangs over the counter inside the Catonsville Lotte Plaza's Asian grocery store. That playful personality is reflected in Honey Chicken's aesthetics as well as its menu, which encompasses seven sweet-bun dumplings: beef bulgogi, pork, mixed vegetables, curry with potatoes, shrimp, chicken, and kimchi with ground beef. Newer dishes include spicy Korean-style fried chicken or pork and ddukbokki—a traditional plate consisting of fish and spicy rice cakes.
What Candle Light Inn considers home, others call a landmark or monument. The house in which the restaurant resides has been part of the Catonsville community since the mid 1800s, when it was first built into the area's rolling farmland and called Five Oaks Estate. Since its birth, the building has survived various name changes, a multitude of owners, and even a fire in the 1970s, which left it vacant and with a terrible cough until the present owners, the Lombardini family, purchased it in 1979.
Today, the inn has fully recovered, and models a host of renovations that includes a covered outdoor patio canopied by forestry and surrounded by landscaped gardens. Different tones swirl through each of the house's quarters, along with the wafting scents of the hearty American fare that fills plates for lunch and dinner daily.