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.
Husband-wife duo Julio and Lily Soto opened Azul 17 to celebrate not only Mexican cuisine, but to also embrace the culture through music, vibrant design, and a selection of more than 100 tequilas made with 100% blue agave. Their chefs all hail from Mexico and bring family recipes to the kitchen?including one chef's grandmother's recipe for black beans. It's ?old world style with updated presentation,? says manager Peter Bonohue. Peter has been in the restaurant business since he could legally work, and to him, Azul 17 has an especially fun atmosphere. ?I love tequila now,? he confessed.
While chefs simmer their signature mole sauce and servers add fresh lime juice to margaritas, guests recline atop white leather banquettes or modern chairs. Eyes dance with murals and shimmering blue-tile mosaics splashed against white walls. Those whites are illuminated with a multicolored neon glow as DJs spin club, house, and Mexican tunes starting at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays at 8 p.m., guests can spice up their tired hokey-pokey routine with salsa lessons.
A lengthy lineup of traditional game-day fare and a sports atmosphere captivate fans at Fox and Hound - Bailey's, where the kitchen remains open as late as its neighboring fully stocked bar. Chefs cook until the wee hours of the morning and always until the bar closes, baking Bavarian pretzel starters, crafting towers of onion rings, and preparing hand-battered chicken tenders that are cooked until they are golden brown. They blend their own seasonings to sprinkle over grilled-to-order burgers, and draw from a diverse roster of cheeses and toppings to crown their wood-oven-inspired flatbreads.
While manning the bars, bartenders tap into a stash of libations, such as UV Whipped vodka and Patron Silver tequila, to mix their specialty cocktails. To further foster a sporting ambiance, high-definition TVs glow with sports games and custom music-video playlists, and guests partake in pastimes of ump bashing, billiards, or competitive people watching.
Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
In the kitchens of Brasas Grill, El Salvador native Claudia Rivas brings culinary touches learned across Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Peru to her preparation of saffron-infused paella and chilean sea bass. The grill's slate of Latin-American dishes "couldn't be more different from the chicken fingers and burgers served at all the places around it," according to a 2012 review in the Washington Post Express. Reviewer Kristen Page-Kirby singled out the ceviche, as well as the "wine-infused, chewy steak-and-potatoes dish called solomillo al jerez." Elsewhere on the menu, meaty combination plates recall Brazilian-style churrascaria, setting Angus steak and barbecue ribs alongside lobster tails, mussels, and andouille sausage.
The allure of Bill Bateman's Bistro increases exponentially with a glance at the wide-ranging menu. Locally lauded for its superlative wings, Bill Bateman's Bistro's offers glazed poultry in a variety of sizes and sauces. Combine cuisines with 10 ($8.49) of the Sweet Thai Chili Wings, or firmly uphold winged tradition with 30 original buffalo wings ($22.99). Fifty Wings from Hell ($36.99) will sate the fire-deprived tongues of fearless wing devourers and can be ordered via a Ouija board that until recently was just a game. The shrimp-melt wrap ($10.99), jalapeñoed Heat Wave Burger ($8.99), and grilled-chicken-topped California Salad ($10.99) are but a few of the numerous bites capable of complementing the various cold draft beers. For the full rundown of possible palate pleasers, see the complete menu for each participating location: Parkville, Severna Park, Glen Burnie, and Reisterstown.