Grilled steak, crab cakes, chicken dijon?the dishes at Aqua 103 may sound familiar, but the restaurant takes care to elevate its modern American cuisine while remaining true to the recipes' casual roots. Using organic produce as well as locally raised meats, the chefs create hearty meals with an emphasis on fresh flavors and artful presentation. Racks of ribs arrive glazed with a Rinehart Orchard's apple-butter barbecue sauce, the spicy pasta fra diablo overflows with shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels, and bacon-wrapped cuts of filet mignon are seared to perfection atop a cold fusion-powered grill.
Echoing the theme implied by the restaurant's name, Aqua 103's dining room features a striking cerulean-blue accent wall. This subtle maritime homage is echoed by the turquoise cushions on the patio lounge and the blue-lit waterfall flowing behind the space's bar, which was handcrafted from stone and wood according to Hagerstown magazine. Crisp white linens adorn the tables, catching the natural light that cascades through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows.
The windows at Panorama at the Peak provide picturesque mountaintop views of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the weekly changing menu provides tastyesque dishes constructed from organic produce and produce from local farms. Start your square meal on a round note with an order of lamb meatballs served with feta-dill dipping sauce ($8.99). If you'd like to keep your meal as light as a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try a crunchy toasted-walnut watercress salad in a Pennsylvania Dutch–inspired bacon-and-onion dressing ($7.29). Roll Thanksgiving into a conveniently portable sphere with turkey croquettes, three pan-fried cakes served over local apple-cranberry compote ($18.99). Panorama offers vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, and its efforts to provide cruelty-free meats have earned it the Certified Humane label from Humane Farm Animal Care.
Each day, the Timonium and Frederick branches brew eight different types of coffee (Annapolis brews six per day), mining from the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company's coffee reserve, a treasure cove of 120 different varieties of beans. Types of coffee ($1.60 for 12 oz.) are offered on rotating basis, with flavors such as coconut cream and pumpkin spice introducing new aromas to bored taste buds, as well as Swiss Water–decaffeinated varieties for those that love the taste of coffee but find themselves inadvertently building a shrine to Grease after two cups of regular joe. Introduce yourself to the well-crafted wares of Mother Earth with a cup of tea ($1.95 for 20 oz.)—the shop features more than 1,000 kinds of leaves for consumption, from medicinal herb tea to an Eastern Shore variety—or go full throttle with an espresso concoction ($1.50–$4.25).
Tacos and tequila are pretty standard fare at any Mexican restaurant. But Casa Rico Tacos & Tequila ups the ante with gourmet fillings such as tilapia drizzled in chipotle cream sauce, and pork carnitas with roasted pineapple and red onions. As for the house tequilas, they're infused with spicy flavors including cinnamon and tres chilies. The latter goes into one of the restaurant's many specialty margaritas, a fiery concoction made with mango, fresh mint, and passion fruit involved in a torrid love triangle.
Since 1987, Casa Rico has been serving recipes crafted by owner and executive chef Renu. She prepares many regional specialties, including molcajete?a stew with cactus, potatoes, and cheese?as well as a Monterey-style grill combo with skirt steak and chipotle shrimp. In keeping with the food, the dining rooms have a south-of-the-border look; Mexican art hangs on pink and yellow walls, Spanish tile covers the ceiling, and striped blankets add a colorful touch to banquet tables.
In India's capital of New Delhi, there sits a small chunk of space called Delhi 6, where the region's food lovers congregate for the abundance of authentic Indian cuisine. So, when Seema Sharma and her husband, Ajay Kasana, made good on their dream and opened a restaurant in Frederick County, naming it Delhi6 was a no-brainer. "I grew up all my childhood eating that food," Sharma once told the Town Courier, "it's engrained in my mind."
Inside Delhi6, amber-colored walls mix with dark hardwood floors to create a warm, rich contrast. Through glass windows, visitors can peer into the kitchen, where chefs are busy grinding the restaurant's spices and cooking up daily-baked Indian breads. On the walls, Sharma made sure to feature decorative reminders of Delhi6's roots, including more than 8,000 Indian bangle bracelets, which hang as a nod to the vendors who line New Delhi streets doling out artisan goods.
Following Baja Fresh?s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.