Dining in Baltimore just keeps getting better. This past year, we said hello to a number of new places that are already leaving their marks on our palates. Sadly, we also bid adieu to several respected restaurants, including The Dogwood, Della Notte, Rocco's Capriccio, and Caesar's Den.
Operating a restaurant isn't easy, as any owner or chef will tell you. We hope these newbies will be around for a long time:
By Degrees Cafe: Chef/proprietor Omar Semidey has joined the first wave of restaurants that is transforming the landscape of South Central Avenue near Little Italy and Harbor East. His sleek-looking restaurant in a refurbished warehouse strives for well-prepared plates at reasonable prices.
The Chasseur: Named after the original "Pride of Baltimore" ship, the Canton restaurant spiffied up the former Adam's Eve and started serving upscale comfort food with one of the best meatloaves I had all year. (And there were a lot of meatloaves on menus!) The charming white-cloth bistro is a great addition to the neighborhood.
The Chesapeake: After a long wait, an updated version of its venerable, eponymous predecessor opened with a modern American menu in a historic building in the up-and-coming Station North Arts District. The kitchen's clever twist on Mid-Atlantic cuisine keeps the patrons coming back.
Cunningham's: The new dining juggernaut in town, Bagby Restaurant Group, unveiled its fourth restaurant to immediate acclaim with beautiful environs and a creative farm-to-table menu by executive chef Chris Allen. This is the place Towson has been waiting for.
Liberatore's: The longtime family restaurateurs, who have successfully operated Italian eateries for 25 years, changed it up this year, opening Liquid Lib's, a wine bar adjacent to their Timonium location, and Lib's Grill, a steakhouse/raw bar in Perry Hall. Thinking out of the box is good.
Nickel Taphouse: Chef/owner Robbin Haas, who has worked his culinary magic at Birrotecca, transformed a failed restaurant space in the heart of Mt. Washington into a go-to neighborhood tavern with burgers, oysters, and more.
Oliver Speck's: An innovative re-invention happened within a matter of weeks in Harbor East last summer. Vino Rosina closed, only to open as a barbecue place with owner Jim Lancaster and chef Jesse Sandlin still firmly in place. The new concept offers a great alternative to all the small plates in the area.
Ryleigh's Oyster: The popular Federal Hill spot stretched out to the 'burbs with a second location, taking over a hulking space once housing Gibby's and Rib 'N Reef in Timonium. The seafood-laden menu, raw bar, and newly renovated space already has a loyal following.
Shoo-Fly Diner: Wunderchef Spike Gjerde is creating his vision of American comfort food in Belvedere Square with dishes like fried chicken, cast-iron catfish, and a Chesapeake crab roll. Reviews have been borderline. We're confident the restaurant will soon follow in the footsteps of Gjerde's successful ventures Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact Coffee.