Fellow Food Fiends

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jimmys Seafood - Baltimore

Jimmy's Seafood - Baltimore    Ghost Rating  89/100

Oh man, we woke up pretty hung over, the morning after a great concert and a fair amount of Irish whiskey. We knew there was only one cure, so three of us wandered over to Jimmy's Seafood to check out their fresh crab selection and of course a little hair of the dog. We actually drove to three other places in Canton that were all sold out from the previous evening and ended up at Jimmy's by default. It was about three in the afternoon and we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Our server was very nice and the service was timely. The Atmosphere felt more like a new age Mexican restaurant than a seafood place...the music was so bad that we had to beg the server to change it, and she did, and we were thankful.

We started with the Lump Crab Dip & Garlic Bread. This was the best crab dip that I have had in Baltimore in a few years. It was loaded with nice big lumps, perfect consistency and was very fresh.
I was with another chef buddy of mine and we are usually sticklers about food....but this dip was really good. Totally unexpected. We ordered a pitcher of beer that could have been colder....but it hit the spot. Shortly after the crab dip disappeared the Jumbo Steamed Crabs showed up and we were in heaven. The crabs were well seasoned & cooked perfectly. It was nice being the only people in the whole restaurant because those crabs were hot, fresh & fast. I must say I wasn't expecting this place to be anything worth writing about, but it was actually pretty killer. The fries were just Sysco Fries, but they weren't bad at all. We did not venture into the menu because we came solely for the  crab. However,  I will go back and give a shot one day soon.

Food  -  92   /   Service  -  90   /   Atmosphere  -  86   /   Value  -  89

Overall Ghost Rating  -  89/100

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spice & Dice - Thai Cuisine

Spice & Dice - Thai Cuisine - Towson     Ghost Rating 76/100

I have been driving past this place for awhile now, so today I finally stumbled in for lunch to see what was cookin'. Spice & Dice has been in business for about a year now and the place was relatively busy. Upon walking in, we did not even know if this place was a restaurant. If it wasn't for the waiter who quickly emerged I would have sworn it was day care center run by a colorblind madman on mushrooms. If any of you have ever been here, you know what I mean. Not a single table, chair or shelf matches another. It was like a Saturday morning yard sale explosion, some of it painted over in bright colors, some of it covered in plastic. Beyond weird, one of kind without a doubt. We were immediately intrigued! Not to mention that this restaurant is connected to a comic book and games store (must be the same owner). So while you eat you can gaze at collectible Japanese toys that sell for the price of a 99' Honda.

The service at Spice & Dice was super friendly and fast. The lunch menu was small, but has all of the classics. Each lunch entree comes with a Fried Veggie Spring Roll, choice of Entree and a scoop of Chocolate Ice Cream for under $10. I ordered the Beef Udon Noodle Bowl, level 6 Thai Hot! It was very spicy and had an aromatic broth with lots of fresh veggies. They could have given more beef, it was maybe 2 ounces. They made up for it by garnishing with 6 or 7 seafood meatballs. They were not too bad, I ate some of them...they were a little mysterious however. Overall the Udon was good. I wont be back anytime soon for the Udon, but it passed the test! My Friend ordered the "Jungle Curry" with Fried Tofu. She ate about half of it and wasn't all that thrilled. It was a curry without the coconut milk stated the menu, but it was really sweet and had a very peculiar, almost offsetting aroma. The coconut milk usually helps balance out the fishiness of the red curry paste. The Tofu should have been crispier. The Jasmine Rice was perfect. We escaped for under $30 which isn't too bad these days for a decent lunch. We kind of left the place wondering what the h*** just happened. The bathroom had pictures of Frank Sinatra and old Van Gogh prints.... makes sense right?

Food  -  67   /   Service  -  88   /   Atmosphere  -  62   /   Value  - 88

Overall Ghost Rating -  76/100

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Michael's Cafe - Raw Bar & Grill

Michael's Cafe - Raw Bar & Grill   -   Timonium    Ghost Rating 69/100

Michael's Cafe is in Timonium, right between York Road and the year 1989. This establishment is always busy and has been a favorite amongst many aging baby boomers for years. This place is last call for the single folk in their 60's & 70's and they pack 'em in for happy hour. The Atmosphere is classic old school Baltimore, the walls are completely covered in old Orioles & Ravens Memorabilia, very cool! All in all it's a pretty nice joint on the surface, the menu seems to be full of the ocean's bounty and the price point is approachable. The Raw Bar is always on point, but the menu has its issues....

I have been to Michael's for Bloody Marys and Oysters with much success. However, when I venture from the raw bar to the other menus, strange things happen. We sat in the bar the other day to watch the Orioles play on TV and have some seafood during happy hour. Three of us shared some appetizers and ordered our own entrees. The server had no clue what was going on, took forever and apologized frequently. We started with a dozen Oysters on the Half Shell that were stellar as usual, super fresh, clean and shucked perfectly. We moved on to the Crab & Shrimp Dip with Garlic Bread, this monstrosity is a complete train wreck of a hot mess, the crab meat is back fin at best, and the shrimp was pureed and gritty. The Consistency was runny and the seasoning was off. The garlic bread wasn't bad but the dip was brutal. The Crab Cake at Michael's was very good, not much filler at all, fat jumbo lumps, classic. I ordered it broiled and it wasn't all that hot, good flavor but served warm at best.

The server had come to see what entrees we had decided on and I had a question about the tuna entree special. I asked the server what kind of tuna they were serving and she replied with "regular tuna". I laughed and decided to order the Seared Tuna anyway because she promised it was fresh and I assumed it would be at a raw bar. I ordered it Rare and it came out Medium. I rarely send back food so I scarfed it down anyway and proceeded to feel taken advantage of. It was a piece of tuna that had sinew running through it and wasn't very fresh to begin with, overcooked as %^% with some sauteed veggies and steamed rice. Kinda Gnarly especially for the price tag. My friend ordered the Tuna as well, ordering it Medium Well and receiving it Medium Rare. They recooked it for her getting it nowhere near medium well the second time either, she ate some and poked at the rest. Meh. My girlfriend ordered the Fried Soft Shell Crab Caesar which sounded awesome. The Caesar was actually good but the soft shell crab was horrific. It was burnt on one side and underdone on the flip side. The Crab itself was not tender and smelled of ammonia....really bad. Avoid. Quick recap: Michael's blew it. I have been here before and it was decent, however, the other day was a $200 nightmare for 3.

Food  -  53   /   Service  -  70  /   Atmosphere  -  87   /   Value  - 68
Overall Ghost Rating  -  69/100

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bill Bateman's Bistro

Bill Bateman's Bistro - Perry Hall      Ghost Rating  -  69/100

Bill Bateman's is one of those places I've been to a at least a dozen times and haven't had a good dining experience yet. Expectations are never high when venturing to Bateman's, but somehow I still end up there at least once a month or so. Many of my friends do not have the culinary & service standards that I do, so they love it there. Bateman's does however have a lot of great drink & food specials that are offered daily as well as a very affordable happy hour menu ($1 Oysters, $1 Sliders, $1 Tacos, etc.) and $5 Crushes all day, every day. Weekends you will find a decent build your own bloody bar as well. From a glance this place has a ton of potential and perceived value! Bateman's has a loyal following of locals that come for sports games, live music and all of the other promotions that they run. This place is well known for its Fried Chicken Wings and they have self proclaimed to be the best in town. They offer about 20 different flavors which is always nice. The atmosphere is pretty laid back, not much to it, but not bad. The outdoor seating is the best place to sit if the weather permits.

So its Cinco de Mayo yesterday and the Capitals play off game was on TV. Once again we meet a bunch of people up at Bateman's for $1 Coronas and some lunch. We sat down in the bar area and attempted to rustle up a fermented beverage. 20 Minutes later we finally received our first beer. The server was so slow and non complacent it was mind boggling, this was the 2nd time I've had this server and it's consistent with last time.  In that 20 minutes we saw 2 couples sit down and then proceed to leave because they were being ignored (as usual). The GM was wondering around like she gobbled a quad dose of Xanax and 7 muscle relaxers. She does this every time we are there, literally shuffling around with no sense of urgency or facial emotions. No eye contact with customers and no attempt to help her struggling, insanely slow service staff. Highly entertaining however!

We had to beg our server for a food menu...once we finally had a menu in our grasps we ordered their "Famous" Hot Wings and some French Fries to start with. The chicken wings were barely hot at all (both temperature & scoville units) they were dressed with hardly any sauce and were presented in a comical fashion with 3 decrepit little pieces of celery and a soggy hunk of lettuce. Garbage. The fries were maybe a hand full served in a soup bowl...weird. At that point we decided to drink our lunch so we were not let down any further. For $30 we had 12 beers & some food, awesome deal overall and we had a great time!

I have been here many times so I am going to travel back in time to a month ago. Four of us go to Bateman's for their weekend brunch menu. I ordered the Grilled New York Strip Salad with Blue Cheese Crumbles, Walnuts and Dried Cranberries. The salad sounded really good and hysterically enough the other 3 people at the table ordered the same thing. We were an extremely easy table for the server and for the kitchen. We were some of the first customers in the restaurant and it still took over half an hour for 4 salads. It gets better, all 4 of the salads were completely different even though they were supposed to be identical. 2 of them had no blue cheese, 2 of them had no cranberries, 1 had no walnuts, the steak portion was different on all 4 and not a one had even close to enough dressing. Eventually, the server came over to see how our food was, that's when I politely informed her how messed up our order was. She returned over 5 minutes later with the missing toppings and let us know that the kitchen had to make more dressing!!! 10 minutes later we get our dressing. The Meat was way overcooked, I ordered Medium Rare and received Med-Well, end cuts of low grade steak.

The general consensus was Terrible at best!!! Our tab was over $100 for 4 salads and 4 cocktails, they did not take anything off the bill, offer any compensation or even apologize for the mistakes.
I am a Chef of 20 years and if one of my cooks put those salads out like that they would be unemployed immediately, and how does the person bringing the food not notice all 4 items are completely different?? We will never know. I have a horror story like this one for almost every time I've eaten there, the only consistency in this place, is inconsistency! The Service is always Brutal, Disgruntled, Insanely Slow and even given with an Attitude.

Bateman's does have a surprisingly killer crab cake and an even better burger. I would even say that it is one of the best burgers in town! You will find some edible items on the menu depending on who's cooking. Keep in mind that it's a dice roll every time.....

Food  -  63   /   Service  -  34   /   Atmosphere  -  87   /   Value  -  91
Overall Ghost Rating 69/100

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chowhound Burger Wagon

Koopers Chowhound Burger Wagon - Food Truck    Ghost Rating  72/100

Chowhound is Baltimore's very first food truck, every time I see them parked somewhere they have a line of hungry locals waiting for what's well known as a great burger. Kooper's Tavern has been voted "Best Burger in Baltimore" by Baltimore Magazine and the many hungry patrons that line up daily would agree. They often park at Under Armour and other busy locations with high anticipation from all the workers and foodies in that area.

A couple of days back we tracked Koopers on a food truck website and found them right across the street from Under Armour. I was excited to see they had a Kobe Burger on the menu and some exciting toppings..I was a little bit skeptical though because the price was really low for Wagyu. However, I see Kobe and I have to have it...so I ordered a Kobe Beef Burger with Aged Cheddar and Bacon, Medium Rare. To my regret, I opened my bag and what I received was a well done Black Angus Burger with Pepper jack and Raw Onions. Even if that was the burger I ordered, I would have been highly let down. The burger was cooked to a crisp, had no flavor and was under seasoned, the cheese wasn't melted at all and the bun was an un-toasted, Sysco Kaiser Roll. If that is Baltimore's Best Burger then we are in BIG trouble. I had waited 20 minutes for my burger, walked back to the car and realized it was the wrong burger. The truck was so far away by then and I was hungrier than ever. I figured what better way to over analyze this place than to eat something i didn't even order and critique the %%#$ out of it. First of all the guy that took my order had no clue what customer service is, he was clearly burnt out. He informed me that they were out of the french fries (by noon) and I peer inside to see 2 cooks devouring french fries and smiling, at least they enjoyed some. I skipped the side items and went for the beef. It was an overall disappointment from the service to the final product. I am a HUGE fan of food trucks, but Koopers missed the mark that day.
I would love to give them another chance because it seems the potential is there. If you see them around, give it a shot, maybe I was just unlucky that day....

Food  -  65   /   Service  -  60   /   Atmosphere  -  NA   /   Value  -  90
Overall Ghost Rating  -  72/100

Baltimore has an online Food Truck Tracker that I use often..it's www.foodtrucksmap.com/baltimore/alltrucks 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mamas on the Half Shell

Mamas on the Half Shell  -  Canton Square   Ghost Rating  92/100

Most likely one of the premiere restaurant locations in all of Baltimore County, right on the corner in Canton Square with lots of windows and natural light. Mamas has one of the best happy hours in town if you can get a seat, if not stand, drink and hope to snag a spot when somebody bails. Happy hour starts at 4pm and it's usually packed by then so plan ahead. They have affordable draft beer and a pretty laid back atmosphere and crowd. It can get way cramped in there at times, especially if you don't have a seat. I usually walk around the side of the building to get to the bathroom in the back, it's way quicker than wading through the sea of people by the bar. The service has always been great at the bar and outside and they are known for great Orange Crushes.

My friends and I usually go to Mamas for Oysters & Mussels during happy hour and put a hurting on 'em.  The Oysters here are all cold water artisan oysters with great brine and sweetness. $1 each during happy hour , even at full price, they are worth every penny. The oysters are properly shucked, nice and clean, loaded with "liqueur"and served with homemade sauces if you need them. Spot on every time. The Steamed Mussels with Cajun Butter are super simple, and yet perfect at the same time. They are always fresh, loaded with spices and a heaping 1.5 pound portion for like $7 during happy hour. Mamas has a great Lump Crab Cake, hardly any filler...if we have friends in town that want the "quintessential" Maryland Crab Cake in B-more, we bring them to Mamas. The Daily Specials Menu is always fun and the Brunch Menu is full of Maryland classics done right!

I would go as far as saying that Mamas has the freshest and widest seafood selection for the price in all of Baltimore and the menu is pretty creative! I highly recommend this place to anyone passing through town or any local craving really fresh seafood!

Food  -  93   /   Service  -  92   /   Atmosphere  -  92   /   Value  - 90
Overall Ghost Rating  92/100

Pho Dat Thanh - Vietnamese

Pho Dat Thanh  -  Towson    Ghost Rating  90/100

This is one of my favorite establishments in all of Baltimore, I have been dozens times without a bad experience! They undoubtedly, hands down, serve up the best Hot Pho (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup) in all of Baltimore County.  The service (once they notice you are there) is rapid and seamless. The menu is extremely affordable with a ton of choices and the portions are huge! This is a great place to bring friends and kick back. The Decor is almost nonexistent and the music is hilarious, you will here G n' R & the Eagles guaranteed.

We started with their Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce which are super tasty, light & refreshing. They Have a fair amount of shrimp & pork and are priced under $4. We also had The Roasted Quail with Salt & Lime which is a really nice surprise,  the quail is cooked perfectly with crispy skin and is nowhere near dry. I usually order one of three different Pho dishes on the menu. The one I ordered today and almost very other time is the D1, House Special Pho, with: Brisket, Flank, Rib-Eye, Tripe, Soft Tendon,Veggies, Hot Peppers, Fresh Herbs & Beef Broth...Unreal! This bowl of soup almost rivals the Pho on the West Coast which is the best in America. The Broth is super savory and not too salty, the meat is always fresh and they load you up with a garnish plate 7 inches high (Bean Sprouts, Cilantro, Thai Basil, Jalapeno). My girlfriend had the C4 which is an egg noodle chicken broth soup with veggies & chicken. It's a nice spicy dish loaded with veggies, a great healthy option. She usually gets this as well, when you crave Pho, you know what you are ordering hours before arrival! If ordering any dishes with vegetables make sure and ask for No mushrooms, they use canned mushrooms which is my only complaint about the food here. I eat here about every 2 weeks and I cant wait to go back!

Food  -  94   /   Service  -  92   /   Atmosphere  -  80   /   Value  -  95
Overall Ghost Rating   90/100

UPDATE: My girlfriend got Food Poisoning here the other day from chicken, I am so sad because I love this place so much and now we will never return. I have eaten here dozens of times with no problems what so ever, but it only takes one food poisoning to ruin a place.