1. Bottega (1729 Maryland Ave., [443] 708-5709, bottega1729.com) This compact BYOB is the culinary answer to Station North’s dazzling arts scene. Bottega’s richly flavored dishes—like smoked goose with mustard greens, charred green tomato with fresh mozzarella, a succulent brined pork chop—shine on accord of their ingredients but also the simple yet meticulous preparations employed by owner Adrien Aeschliman and chef Sandy Smith. Service is consistently warm, prices match what you’d expect of the neighborhood, and the food never fails to delight. The perfect spot for a date night, but also an ideal choice for showing a visitor what Baltimore is about: tons of character, little pretension. (Jenn Ladd) Photo by Patrick Pilkey


2. Maggie’s Farm (4341 Harford Road, [410] 254-2376, maggiesfarmmd.com) Maggie’s Farm came on the scene late last year with bright-eyed ambition to serve socially and environmentally friendly food. Taking up the mantle of its predecessor, the Chameleon Café, Maggie’s Farm has come up with some truly transcendent menu items, like ramen-crusted cod and clams casino dumplings, that demonstrate how good farm-to-table dining can be and they have made the place one of the more interesting must-trys in town. (John Houser III) Photo by Jefferson Jackson Steele


3. The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar (850-B W. 36th St.) Corner BYOB chef and owner Bernard Dehaene gives us an opportunity to nosh on top-notch cheeses, meats, and often-exotic small plates (think escargots and pork feet) at prices that even the most penny-wise of us can swing. A thoughtful wine and cocktail list complements the menu’s offerings, the highlights of which include goat’s chevre, frog legs, and fingerling potatoes. And somehow, the dim, windowless cinder-block room manages to possess ambiance to spare. (JL) Photo by J. M. Giordano


4. Mi Comalito (2101 N. Charles St., [410] 837-6005) Mi Comalito offers everything we love in a restaurant (well, everything but alcohol): big flavors, big selections, big portions, and small prices. Central Baltimore was in desperate need of a taco place, and now we have one—and so much more. The pupusas are spectacular. And try the Honduran baleadas, which we dubbed God’s breakfast. (Baynard Woods)


5. The 13th Floor (1 E. Chase St., [410] 347-0880, 13floorbelvedere.com) The refurbished aerie at the former Belvedere Hotel—once the stomping grounds of such luminaries as F. Scott himself—has stepped up to its potential. A cool supper club, in the Diana Krall/Barry White sort of way, the faux-reptile banquettes, and upholstered chairs are a comfy way to enjoy the nightly easy-listening music, top-shelf cocktails, New American cuisine, and spectacular views of the city. (Martha Thomas) Photo by Rah Rah


6. Arthouse (1115 W. 36th St., [443] 438-7700) Even amid Hampden’s many great dining options, Arthouse’s cozy, friendly vibe and diverse flavors stand out. Eclectic, layered appetizers like salmon Napolean (crisp, neat stacks of cured salmon, cucumber, and beet slices, topped with dill, horseradish, and vinaigrette) and the deviled eggs trio (with Maryland crab and Sriracha sauce, pickled beets and salmon caviar, and cured salmon) are lovely, but the real attraction is the brick-oven pizza, and in particular, perfect crusts that balance crispy edges and chewy dough. (Evan Serpick) Photo by Noah Scialom


7. Cunningham’s (1 Olympic Place, [410] 339-7730, cunninghamstowson.com) The latest in the Bagby Restaurant Group collection, this Towson spot features both a wood-fired grill and a wood-fired pizza oven. Chris Allen’s tricked-out comfort-food menu crafted from locally sourced ingredients is easy on the wallet. But if the pricing is casual, the environs are anything but. The mist-gray velvet chairs, billowing light fixtures, and dramatic arched banquette make for an elegant dining room—or sit at a communal counter and watch the cooks at work behind a glittering curtain of crystal baubles. (MT)


8. Oliver Speck’s (507 S. Exeter St., [410] 528-8600, oliverspecks.com) The Jesse Sandlin-helmed barbecue and comfort-food joint has been delighting diners since it opened in August. It’s also a great hangout place, with weeknight specials such as Tuesday movie nights and burger Thursdays, where you can get Sandlin’s signature 16-legged burger with a 16-ounce beer for $16. On occasion, they even bring in Ollie, Sandlin’s pet pig, for a meet-and-greet with patrons. Check the Facebook page for the porcine’s next appearance. (JH) Photo By Sam Holden


9. The Chesapeake (1701 N. Charles St., [410] 547-2760, thechesapeakebaltimore.com target="_blank") This not-your-father’s-Chesapeake parked in its Station North spot last summer with a great deal of fanfare and high expectations. The latest model seems to have gone back to the shop a few times for tweaking (the chef left soon after the opening and service is sketchy), but our hopes remain high. It’s a splendid location and the grand space on the corner of Charles and Lafayette has been beautifully renovated. The menu, offering specialties from the sea along with homey specials, seems just right. Take the place out for a spin; the warranty isn’t up yet. (MT) Photo by Sam Holden


10. Ozra (806 Stiles St., [410] 528-2710, ozra.us) This excellent Persian restaurant set up in a gorgeously renovated space in Little Italy over the summer and has quickly become a favorite date-night spot for many Baltimoreans. Yes, their hummus is great, and yes, the eggplant dips are fantastic, but it is the grilled Cornish game hens that will knock your socks off. Devour a few of those bad boys along with a Persian pale ale and you’ll be booking your return reservation there before you pay the check. (JH)

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