The comestible construction crew at Italian Gardens crafts a blueprint for fine Italian dining with a menu of tantalizing pastas, pizzas, and seafood, and décor that transports diners to lush Italian landscapes. Patrons practice taste-bud calisthenics with an order of battered and fried zucchini sticks with ranch dressing ($5.50) before working out their mandibles with orders of shrimp scampi, which rests jumbo shrimp, garlic, white-wine sauce, mushrooms, and broccoli on a springy mattress of penne noodles ($17.95). The chicken-breast parmigiana swaddles two tender chicken fillets in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese ($14.50) to sate solitary cravings, and an 18-inch New York–style cheese pizza is best shared among friends or amicable space botonists ($13.95).
Dance competitions, Diwali festivals, and scenic dinner cruises are just a few of the many events hosted by India Forum Inc., a non-profit organization formed to pay homage to the various cultures of India. Established in 1973, the group not only celebrates Indian heritage, food, and music, but also shares them with neighbors from other backgrounds during regularly held Indo-American friendship dinners, which are designed to foster communication and camaraderie.
El Rodeo Mexican Cuisine & Tequila Bar treats its guests to a sensory feast, with its colorful interior, elegantly plated Mexican meals, and colorful cocktails made from top-shelf spirits. Guests dine amid a newly designed, slightly irreverent interior, with decorations such as a skeleton swigging from a liquor bottle, brightly painted murals on the walls, and a skeleton suffering a terrible hangover. Chefs whip up succulent lunches and dinners such as salmon cremoso, rich chicken mole poblano, and burritos stuffed with seasonal veggies and tender steak, while barkeeps whip up potent margaritas from high-end tequilas.
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.
Mike and Tim Murphy, the brothers behind Burger Bros., specialize in hand-sculpted burgers that weigh in at a hefty 6 ounces. They crown the patties with toppings such as caramelized onions or blue cheese and also marinate portobello mushrooms for a vegetarian version of their classic handheld. Burgers aren’t the only reason to visit, though. Cooks also toss chicken wings with piquant sauces and cut Idaho potatoes by hand to create their fries. Patrons can sip ice-cream floats, freshly squeezed lemonade, or Mexican Coca-Cola sweetened with real cane sugar rather than mashed up cupcakes.
The dining room at San Sushi Too & Thai One On defies all geographical logic. Turn one way, you're in Thailand; turn another, and you face Japan. On the Japanese side, "the service is rapid and polite and the sushi is fresh," according to the Baltimore Sun. Fourteen seats line the sushi bar, where the chefs prepare 18 creative house sushi specials. For the selection, just look to the chalkboard menus?or ask the chef to make an off-menu favorite, since they happily take requests.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, chefs pan-fry Japanese noodles and channel the flavors of Thailand into drunken noodles or panang goong: shrimp saut?ed with curry paste, coconut milk, and fresh basil. Baltimore City Paper praised the thom kha kai as "tangy and rich at the same time, a study in contrasts" in a 2002 roundup of the city's best soups. On the weekends, the restaurant also hosts live music and dancing once the dining room closes and the chefs fly back to their respective countries to sleep.