I've always gone out to dinner a lot, ever since I was a kid, but now that I write a weekly restaurant for The Sun, I really go out a lot.
Between dining out, and reading and writing about dining out, I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on what's happening with the Baltimore restaurant scene. But the nature of a once-weekly review is that I don't always get to try new places at my leisure, and I don't get to revisit places I like on regular basis. I just don't have time.
With that in mind, a couple of questions:
What's going on with Kettle Hill?
The restaurant, which opened in the Power Plant last spring, has received lots of good press (including a good Richard Gorelick review in The Sun) for its take on the farm-to-table trend. Just a few weeks ago, I received an urgent text from my friend Dave, who has good taste in bars and restaurants, telling me that it is imperitive I eat there as soon as humanly possible. He loved it - and I trust his judgment.
But just last week, I heard that things have been a little slow there. Why is that? Is the location too...Power Planty? Because I'd love to see that not make a difference - in fact, between Joe Squared and Kettle Hill, I thought the Power Plant might be losing a little of its "Have a Nice Day Cafe" odor.
So this is my way of saying: Go there! Especially since I haven't had a chance to get there yet...and I don't want it to close!
Are people going to Dempsey's for Ravens games?
Last April, I reviewed Dempsey's Brew Pub, in Camden Yards, on a sparkling Sunday afternoon. The Orioles were in Tampa, so the stadium was nearly empty, and the restaurant had just opened, and I don't think many people knew it was open during non-game times. So it was empty, too.
But we thought it was great. The staff was on top of things and the food, while not surprising, was really good.
I can't think of a better place to watch an away O's game, but it would also be a fantastic alternative to Mother's on a Purple Sunday. Maybe this is already happening, I don't know. But if it's not, it should be.
Why isn't Annapolis food better?
This isn't so much a specific restaurant issue, as a restaurants-as-a-whole issue. I've discussed some version of this question with a million different people from the Annapolis area. I think the answer boils down to this: It doesn't have to be.
But that's still disappointing.
Growing up in Severna Park, we went to Annapolis for dinner frequently. Now that I'm older - and now that Baltimore is experiencing something of a food renaissance - I realize that the food south of here just isn't that great. And it's usually overpriced.
Between the views, the tourists, and locals who maybe aren't that adventurous, food-wise, the Annapolis food scene hasn't had to do much to attract diners. As a result, it hasn't advanced nearly as much as the food in many towns of similar size. We were in Frederick a few weeks ago and I was absolutely gaping at all the great-looking restaurants. Granted, Frederick is home to Bryan Voltaggio, and he's a powerhouse chef. But why hasn't some amazing chef adopted Annapolis as his hometown? It's a great place to live (except, of course, for the mediocre food).
Here's what I think needs to happen: Annapolis restaurateurs need to study The Food Market. They should borrow as much as they can from that restaurant - the menu, the management, the way the wait staff talks and moves. Two of the best meals I've had all year have been there and I have yet to hear about someone having a bad experience.
The food is nuanced, but the concept is fairly simple and straighforward. And somebody in management just gets good service. I know it's trickier than they make it look - if it wasn't, everybody would do it and restaurants would never fail. But there are a lot of lessons there for budding restaurateurs.
And that's what Annapolis needs. A few buds.