John Cullen with Marty Shayt

John Cullen with Marty Shayt

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We were regulars at My Thai in Mount Vernon before their building burned down back in December 2010. When it reopened in January 2013 on Central Avenue in Little Italy, we confess wishing it would have returned to its original Mount Vernon home. The new My Thai feels different from its former location. The main dining room is large, but narrow, with tall ceilings. Rows of tables line one wall, with a long bar lines the other. Additionally, there’s a big -- but undecorated -- back dining room.

In January of this year, the owners of the upscale Oregon Grille in Cockeysville re-opened another restaurant venture, the Valley Inn on Falls Road in Brooklandville, which had been closed for the past three years. The historic building, known as Brooklandville House, dates to 1832.

The Lost City Diner, located across the street from The Charles Theater, is an eye-catching, retro urban diner/luncheonette. The interior is colorful and quirky—complete with large science fiction movie posters and a rocket ship hanging from the pressed tin ceiling—with an old-style counter and a dozen booths and tables throughout the space.

Seduced by gushy write-ups that we’ve read in the Baltimore Sun and Yelp!, we made reservations for dinner at Cunningham’s in Towson which opened in November. We arrived on time for our 7 pm reservation, but the hostess told us our table wasn’t ready and to wait in their (very crowded) bar. Two bartenders paid more attention to filling the servers drink orders than to us. Forty minutes later, the hostess came to escort us to a table which only had one chair for our party of four! After digging up the missing chairs, she left us with a wine list on a tablet encased in a leather cover. It was an interesting touch, but John wondered how customers unfamiliar with tablets would find this. The attempts at an elegant atmosphere were undercut by faux butcher block tables tops. Small two seat tables are laid out in long rows claustrophobically a foot apart.

Samos, the well-regarded mainstay in Baltimore’s Greektown, opened a second location, Samos Greek Island Grill, earlier this fall in the new Canton Crossing shopping center on Boston Street. The shopping center is a bit of an urban anomaly. It’s as if a suburban strip mall—complete with big box stores like Target, Michael’s, Old Navy and a Harris Teeter grocery store—had been magically replicated at the base of Brewer’s Hill within sight of the iconic neon Natty Boh sign and I-95. The new Samos Greek Island Grill appears as though it could easily be a contemporary coffee or fast food joint with its windowed walls, high ceilings, abstract art and a dozen black topped tables.

Tavern on the Hill opened this past July and operates seven days a week, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Taking over the former Howard’s Deli, the pleasant casual interior (with a bar) is a convenient walk from many of the Mt. Vernon bars and theaters. To get there—walk up Charles Street from Center Street to the Washington Monument—you’ll figure out what the name refers to! The big windows facing Cathedral Street offer people watching opportunities, and on warmer days you can eat under the sky on the large patio.

Bluestone, where we recently celebrated Marty’s birthday, is a locally owned, non-chain restaurant. Situated on a side street off York Road, it can be easily missed, but is definitely worth finding. Despite a busy Saturday evening, we were impressed when we got seated right away for our 7pm reservation, and also by the amount of space between tables.

Marty, who ate at the original “Chesapeake” restaurant thirty years ago, wondered why the new restaurant, which opened in June 2013, used the same name when it obviously has nothing in common with the one that closed ­— other than a shared location. Much smaller than the original, it has a small, somewhat formal dining room and a large lounge with a long bar. In the lounge, windows allow for watching commuters or theater-goers passing by on Charles. Adjacent to the bar are small tables and larger half-circle banquette seating. The lounge — even only partly full — was disturbingly noisy.

People just never, ever stumble across Nick’s Fish House casually. Hidden out of sight by a small marina at the base of the Hanover Street Bridge—just south of Route 95 and sandwiched between industrial neighbors—it’s hard to believe that you’re a two minute drive from the hubbub of Federal Hill.

What do you do after retiring from being a civil engineering professor at John Hopkins University for more than 25 years?

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