Thursday, August 2, 2007

Welcome to Baltimore

M&S Grill
201 E. Pratt Street

Baltimore, MD 21202

(410) 547-9333

Capitol City Brewery
301 S. Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
(401) 539-PINT

SUMMER VACATION 2007 began well enough with half-days of work for Mint and myself, finishing four hours down I-95 later with the sun setting over Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Not a bad start, you'd say. Then you would have had dinner. But before we get too far into that debacle, I would like to start with the hilarity that is the Brookshire Suites.

Let it be known that we booked a room at the Brookshire because it offered a special package which included two tickets to the National Aquarium at Baltimore, which was specifically why we were in Baltimore to begin with (the free Oceanopoly board game was also nice--the words "eel platypus tuna" inscribed in faux-Latin on its paper money being perhaps the greatest pun ever). Unfortunately, the Brookshire's "Harbor Magic" schtick was dumbfounding.

"Let us make magic happen for you!" was promised on any number of pamphlets, posters and cards littered about our room, yet actual, practical magic made manifest was very clearly absent. Now, our room was quite nice, having been upgraded free of charge, and perhaps all of our magic was used up in that process, but if you promise me a "magical closet" full of items I've forgotten that you "might have remembered" for me, well, there better be more than an iron, a few blankets and a robe inside. And when we ask you for a comb, responding "housekeeping is gone for the night" equals: incorrect answer. (Unless combs aren't magical. I really don't know.) Point being: the ability to watch Criss Angel: Mindfreak is not magic enough to substantiate your claims. Next time, either make your valet pull a rabbit out of his hat or change your slogan to "Harbor Proximity," which is a trick you pulled off quite nicely.

Okay, it's dinnertime.

Knowing nothing about Baltimore aside from the many episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street I watched as a child, and not looking to relive any of those particular childhood memories, we used the Brookshire's "magical" internet connection to determine that a whole lot or restaurants were clustered a few blocks away by the Inner Harbor. In retrospect, I should have looked harder. Sadly, that's not how this story unfolds.

After passing up such choice establishments as Uno's, California Pizza Kitchen, Hooters, and a decidedly un-Irish pub-like establishment claiming to be exactly that, we resigned ourselves to the M&S Grill. After being seated immediately (but waiting about twelve minutes to meet our server), we were informed of the following:

- McCormick & Schmick's is a very fine seafood restaurant
- Everything at M&S Grill is fresh
- The fish is fresh, the steaks both fresh and aged (this confused us)
- The bar uses only fresh-squeezed juice for its signature drink, the Arnold Palmer, a blend of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and fresh-brewed iced tea
- The specials are also fresh, which involve very fresh ingredients

A local brew mentioned somewhere in there sounded both refreshing and fresh, so we ordered two of those and took a few minutes to recoup from the onslaught of freshness over-compensation while our server went to get them. We had to wonder, just what is this city trying to hide with its outpouring of "magic" and "fresh" offers--don't you know that I know that you're making this shit up?

Entirely fuddled from this freshness bullshit, I ordered something that involved flounder and maple-something. Mint ordered chili-lime tilapia. We were given bread that tasted like an everything bagel mutated in the microwave and exploded into a pile of garlic and sesame. Not entirely unpleasant, granted, but not exactly the dinner roll I'm looking for with my seafood. Strike that--I'm not sure I ordered dinner.

Maple what-now!?! I made a wrong turn somewhere off the entrees, because after one bite I clearly arrived at breakfast fish. That's correct, breakfast fish. In retrospect, I made a terrible, terrible mistake, and ordered fish with maple jelly. Why this combination was conceived anywhere outside of Vermont, I do not know, but sitting before me is fish a la breakfast. I could not have made this up. It was exceedingly terrible.

We hurried through, finished our plates, and fled from the M&S Grill as fast as was polite. We walked for a ways around the harbor, past the aquarium, enjoying the breeze cutting through a rather warm night. We were mildly distraught to come across signs directing us towards Baltimore's "Little Italy" and the promise of a good meal far more assured than any offers of magic or freshness we have to this point received. We turned and headed back towards the harbor.

Redemption, just ahead

Eventually, we came across the glowing neon beacon of Capitol City Brewery and decided to have a beer to finish the night. We've enjoyed Capitol City once before (in the Capitol City proper), and were more than pleased with our pints and Photohunt. After an evening fraught with disappointment, we oddly enough found some redemption in a place that offered nothing special but, more importantly, didn't promise anything it couldn't deliver. Honesty, even within the confines of a franchise, is refreshing. And so was the beer.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Stuck in the Inner Harbor? There are two establishments listed at the top of this post. Ignore the first one. Or, walk east towards Little Italy. Lemme know if you find something good.

No comments: