Behind ground-to-ceiling glass windows, giant butterflies flutter in the sunlight. Though they’re only paintings, they cheerfully greet visitors to Vernisage, introducing the upscale restaurant’s often-whimsical atmosphere. Despite the lighthearted decor, chefs practice serious interpretations of traditional Russian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern fare. They craft grilled shish kebabs, peppery dumplings, crepes, and hearty Russian stews using the same recipes that czars once used to melt invading snowmen armies. Servers pair both chilled and hot fare with a range of Georgian, Russian, and European wines to evoke exotic flavor bouquets. A large main dining hall can accommodate grand banquets, while a separate private dining room hosts smaller groups of up to 30 revelers or 60 children standing on each other’s shoulders.
Inside the savory-scented digs of Honey Baked Ham & Cafe, spools of hardwood-smoked, spiral-sliced ham entice carnivorous palates. Here, chefs uphold the same traditions that Harry J. Hoenselaar created more than 40 years ago. Back then, he chose individual hams, cured them in his secret marinade, and smoked them over hardwood chips before offsetting the earthy flavor with a crisp, sweet glaze. To this day, the staff still makes the signature bone-in hams one at a time and glazes them in the shop.
The hammery's kitchens also whip up classic side dishes and desserts, such as the sweet-potato soufflé. For less formal feasting, party trays and packed lunch boxes fuel business meetings, backyard grad parties, and lengthy end-zone celebrations.
Brothers Jimmy, Tony, and Nick Miller pioneered Buddy Maratta’s Cafe and Deli, christening it after their father’s childhood nickname, with the vision of enlightening palates to traditional Baltimore cuisine. Drawing on his degree from the Baltimore Culinary Institute and on years of fine-dining experience, Chef Nick whips up a menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads and calls upon the Miller mother and aunts to bake homemade desserts and cakes. Platters of specialty crab fries, braised-short-rib cheesesteaks, and a variety of gourmet salads emerge from the kitchen into a casual-dining area where rows of tabletops bask beneath hanging lights and framed artwork, among the free WiFi waves. In addition to dining in, patrons can request catering services for special events, meetings, and jury-duty reunions.
Whether seated on a patio overlooking stretches of grass or within a cozy dining room aglow with hanging lights, guests at Donna’s are treated to an array of tasty, upscale American dishes. The menu boasts a selection that changes weekly and may include quinoa and homemade falafel, five-spice ribs, salmon on cold noodles, or homemade tacos. From the expansive wine lists, guests select a glass of dry sparkling prosecco to pair with pizza or calamari or sip a seasonal cocktail such as the pineapple caipirinha. In addition to crafting delicious meals, the team at Donna’s offers cooking classes, during which they bake rustic breads, make pastas by hand, and quiet the melodramatic death throes of Italian vegetables.
After emigrating to Baltimore from Palermo, Italy, Gioacchino Vaccaro wanted to share the pastries of his homeland with his new neighbors. In 1956, he founded his eponymous pastry shop, an establishment that has since expanded to include four locations. The culinary team dishes out cannoli that ensconce homemade ricotta filling, three-tiered rum cake, and crunchy biscotti cookies.
Beyond pastries, the eateries toast paninis and stuff classic mufalato sandwiches with Italian pepper ham, mortadella, and salami. To complement their meals, visitors can sip hand-crafted espresso drinks, such as cappuccinos in traditional “Italiano” style and house style, served with a dollop of whipped cream. For more adult pours, patrons can opt for assorted martinis, beers, and dessert wines.
Cup Love cools off tongues with classic low- and non-fat frozen yogurt in flavors such as strawberry and vanilla, salty caramel, cake batter, and cookies and cream. Its self-serve machines also dole out creamy Fage Greek frozen yogurt. As a result, Cup Love was voted to have some of the best fro-yo in Baltimore by CBS in 2012.
The shop further satisfies sweet teeth with housemade cupcakes in flavors such as coconut, banana-toffee, and s'mores. Many of the cupcakes are gluten free, low in sugar, and made with multigrain flour, resulting in a dessert that's both healthy and tasty, unlike dark-chocolate-covered peas.