Dukem- Ethiopian and Yummy

April 13, 2011

I generally post every few weeks, but I’m posting two entries tonight becuase my last entry, Andy Nelson’s BBQ, was a no brainer. If you have a kid and you live in Baltimore, you’ve probably been there or have heard about it already as a good place to go. On the other hand, Dukem is a little more out there.

Dukem offers Ethiopian food. I really like Ethiopian food. My wife, not so much.

Ethiopian food is generally served communally on one large plate for an entire table. The plate is covered with a thin bread, and all ordered different menu items are served on the breaded plate.

My wife’s main complaint with Ehtiopian food is that different vegetables, meats and lentils are often half-hazardly put together by Ethiopian restaurants on the breaded plate, so you neither have an idea of what you are eating nor an ability to limit what you are eating. For example if you personally don’t eat beef and someone in your party orders beef as an item, the beef ends up mixed with the vegetables at many Ethiopian places. But my wife’s general complaint with Ethiopian food is not an issue at Dukem. Rather Dukem puts different items in clear spaced areas on the breaded plate, so you can eat what you like.

The other unusual aspect of Ethiopian food is you eat it with your hands. Some people don’t like this, but those people have forgotten what it means to be a kid.

Dukem is a fantastic family restaurant in the Mt. Vernon area of Baltimore City (not far from the Meyerhoff), because they really like kids. And this is perfect food for kids. Ethiopian food has items such as lentils, potatoes, egg, easy to chew chicken and beef and plenty of bread. Kids love all those things, and Dukem does them well. Additionally, because everyone eats with their hands, young children like my toddler don’t have to worry about being embarrassed from having difficulty with utensils. Everyone uses their hands, so kids don’t feel self-conscious.

Kids have no preexisting opinions on what food is or should be. They like what tastes good. They like being where people want them, and they like being where they can be kids. Dukem is a great family restaurant for all these reasons. It’s also very inexpensive and should cost a family of four about $40, which also really helps in this economy.

Dukem Restaurant
1100 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 385-0318

http://www.dukemrestaurant.com/Baltimore.htm

Andy Nelson’s BBQ

April 13, 2011

Writing about Andy Nelson’s BBQ seems to be sort of a cop out, because everyone who knows anything about Baltimore-area eating knows Andy Nelson’s. It’s the classic Baltimore BBQ joint, albeit located very close to Hunt Valley rather than the Inner Harbor.

Andy Nelson’s will cost a family of four under $40, and they have excellent BBQ. As long as you eat chicken, beef or prok, a family can’t go wrong here. Conversely, a family of vegetarians and/or vegans would be best going elsewhere, but this is classic BBQ.

I’m not even going to write about the food. It’s fantastic BBQ and I’ll leave it at that. A lot of blogs will tell you as much. No reason to get that from here.

Instead I’m going to write about a few things that probably wouldn’t show up in other blog posts on Andy Nelson’s but further show why it’s a great family restaurant in Baltimore.

The outside area is just picnic tables, but the inside area has seating that reminds you of being in a southern shack with different small rooms. I went to college in Georgia, and I’ve seen my share of southern shacks. Andy Nelson’s has character. Also the walls are covered with different items and knick-knacks, many from Andy Nelson’s days on The Baltimore Colts. There are also a lot of pigs on the walls. Kids can look at these things and be entertained.

The music played through speakers is blues, rockabilly and Little Richard. My son can dance here in his high chair. The music and all the things to look at make eating at Andy Nelson’s fun.

But the best thing I can write about are the people who work here. The last time we went here, one guy was cleaning tables, and he came by several times to play with my son. And this same man also gave my 2 year old a small package of Oreo cookies. For the record a small package of Oreo cookies comes with the kid’s portion meal, but this guy gave my kid a second pack. And that was really nice. My son was much happier to get the second small pack of Oreo cookies than the one that had been sitting on his plate since I brought over the food.

Andy Nelson’s BBQ
11007 York Road
Cockeysville, MD 21030
(410) 527-1226

http://www.andynelsonsbbq.com

Samos- Baltimore Classic & Kid Friendly

March 28, 2011

Samos is a classic Baltimore restaurant in Greektown. It’s either the first or second restaurant almost anyone in Baltimore thinks of when they consider going to Greektown. It’s definitely the first place we think of. Still, for my family at least, going to dinner in Greektown isn’t something we generally think of very often.

We live in the Charles Village section of Baltimore, which is by the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. We live about two miles directly north of the harbor. Greektown must be five miles east of the inner harbor, which means it’s easily 30 minutes from our house without ever driving out of Baltimore City.

This also means, if you have never been to Baltimore before and you’re coming here for a weekend, you might be best to avoid Greektown if you’re staying in the inner harbor (more or less by where my family lives).

That being said, if you’re going to Greektown with a family, Samos might be a fantastic option. I say might be, because visiting Samos comes with requirements. First it’s cash only, so if you have a big family and very little cash, don’t consider going here. The restaurant is very reasonable, but cash only has limitations. Second- Samos does not take reservations. Ever.

Samos does not take reservations. Also it has only a single file waiting areea that holds maybe 20 scrunched people inside, and the restaurant gets packed quickly. In fact, if you have a young kid and it’s a weekend especially, there is a risk going to Samos after 5:15pm. To restate there is no real waiting area, and by 5:30 on the weekends you have to expect a 45 minute wait minimum.

In fact my family only comes here in the unusual situation where, because our schedules are off, we want to go to a restaurant before 5 (once again, because of the distance, we have never even considered coming here on a weeknight).

They also only seem to have 2 or 3 high chairs total, even though the restaurant is two rooms. And I doubt there is a changing table.

Based on the above, why would I ever recommend this place? It sounds horrible for families, right? Well, not really- They love families.

The last time we came here with our son, it was probably about 4:50pm on a Saturday and we had a 20 minute wait. While we were waiting, I held David in a seat in their waiting area by Samos’ cooking grill. My son watched them cook and grill. While he watched them grill, multiple employees of Samos noticed and complimented David.

Also, while we were watching a guy cook, someone I assumed was a manager said my son was both beautiful and looked hungry. For the record my son was the only kid waiting at the time. So he brought David a complimentary paper plate that had just out of the oven pita bread and what must’ve been a quarter of a chicken breast taken right off the grill and then cut up into little pieces to eat while we waited. Everyone in line was envious.

We have taken my son to probably 200 restaurants in his 2 1/2 years, and that has never happened before. Samos is the only place that has had enough sense to realize, before a toddler has a chance to flip out, let’s make him and his parents happy by only giving the kid a little free food while he waits for a table.

And the thing is, it worked to the point where we gave a better tip for this reason, and we especially think about Samos as an option because they did this before we even sat down to eat.

As far as the food, it’s great Greek food that generally costs less than $20 a person. Also please note I realize I did not write much about their actual food, but I did write about why Samos is a great family restaurant. They know and love kids. Also, just as importantly, they understand the family dynamic. Samos makes kids realize they are important restaurant customers too.

Samos Restaurant
600 Oldham Street
Baltimore MD 21224
(410) 675-5292
http://www.samosrestaurant.com

The Falls in Mt Washington

February 20, 2011

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything new, but I’m going to regularly do posts now. I’ve had many good meals (and bad ones) with my family, and new posts are needed. Also people have requested I start posting again.

The Falls Restaurant in the Mt. Washington section of Baltimore should be an ideal family restaurant. It can work incredibly well as either a coffee shop, restaurant or bar. Virtually nothing (including steaks) is more than $20. They have fantastic fries so good you don’t need ketchup. The place gets young people just past 21 going out for fun, families, couples on dates, seniors and everyone else. In general it’s an enjoyable outing and a cool place to be. Also the owners actively market through sites like restaurant.com, so you can get a deal your first time to check it out. They also offer random discounts in different outlets such as to members of my family’s swim club (Meadowbrook in Mt. Washington), so they really are trying to fill the place.

And the above is part of the problem, because the place gets filled, and the service can be attrocious. Utterly attrocious. The last time we went, the one bartender in the filled to capacity restaurant was also our server. Huh? With all the people out of work in Baltimore, they can’t find more service employees?

So why the heck is this the first post I’ve entered in a year- Because this place has the potential to be a destination restaurant for adults with kids in Baltimore. There are always kids at The Falls, and they seem to like kids. The restaurant is reasonable, and it features menu items that you would expect at a much more expensive restaurant. Also The Falls has comfort food done creatively, but not so creatively that their food turns off kids. Even my wife said this is the perfect concept for us, in that it’s lively, keeps my son engaged, it’s on a much higher level for a fun evening out than most chains and it doesn’t have to cost much more than Friday’s.
They just need to get their act in gear and get changing tables in the bathrooms.

I definitely recommend this place once, because it can shine as a family friendly restaurant. However, if it seems like a mess whern you open the door (the restaurant is for all purposes one large open space), it’s probably more of a mess that night than you can imagine. So if it looks like a mess, get out quick and go around the corner to either The Desert Cafe, Mt. Washington Tavern, Ethel & Ramone’s or the French place with crepes and fantastic lemonade.

The Falls
1604 Kelly Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21209
410.367.7840
http://www.thefallsmtwashington.com

Golden West Cafe- Baltimore Family Restaurant to the Extreme

September 15, 2009

The Golden West Cafe is actually so kid friendly and family friendly that it sometimes rubs patrons without kids the wrong way. It’s a place where about ten high chairs of assorted size are along the wall, and the waiting area is also a play area. And kids are allowed to misbehave in the dining area (within reason of course, albeit the within reason parameters are much greater here than most restaurants).

It’s also got a fun, funky vibe. The restaurant is decorated ina casual-coll manner with old album covers everywhere. And a substantial percentage of the wait staff are members of local bands, so Goelden West is a chill place to hang.

Golden West features a breakfast menu all day, but it also has a substantial lunch and dinner menu for those who don’t want breakfast. Many of their menu items have a southwestern flair, hence the name “Golden West.”

Golden West gives huge Cowboy-sized portions, and food quality at Golden West is nothing to scoff at. In fact I’ve taken my discerning parents here who’ve even stayed at to Blackberry Farm (if that means anything to you), and they thought Golden West’s food was excellent.

At one time, before I had a son incidentally, I did not really like Golden West Cafe. It’s the type of place where what goes on goes on, and if you don’t like it, the people who work here often seem very happy to just have you leave. Most restaurants are not like this, because those that are generally go out of business. As it turns out though, Golden West has throved. And one thing that goes on at Golden West Cafe is that kids have a substantial amount of leeway here, which works well if you are going to dine with kids.

If someone from out of town with kids asked me to give them one unique place to take their family for a casual but good meal, it’s possible this would be it.

1105 W 36Th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 889-8891
http://www.goldenwestcafe.com

Golden West Café on Urbanspoon

Blu Bambu, a good Baltimore Family Restaurant

August 25, 2009

Blu Bambu is a good place for a quick meal with kids.  It’s located right on the harbour in the same huge building that ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Cafe and Barnes & Noble are located in, although it’s on the opposite end of the building as ESPN Zone.  Facing the building, Blu Bambu is to the right of Barnes & Noble nearby Chipotle.

Blu Bambu has different Asian options, but probably the best way to describe it would be Mongolian Barbecue that just allows for one bowl.   In that sense don’t expect to gorge yourself at Blu Bambu, because there’s no way to really overeat unless you order multiple meals.  Also many of the appetizers that at first seem most appealing come out fried, which in my view makes them less appealing.  Spring rolls especially are less springy after being fried.  I mostly skip the appetizers. 

On another note, to my knowledge Blu Bambu does not have a restroom with a chaging table, and there aren’t many tables.  So if it’s full, I assume Blu Bambu would be tight. 

So far this has not been the greatest review.  But as of now I only include the best Baltimore family friendly restaurants in this Blog, so there are indeed reasons why Blu Bambu is a standout Baltimore Family Restaurant.

The main positives of Blu Bambu stem from it being cheap, fast and pretty nonchalant.  It’s also a little different, the food is tasty and for the most part rather healthy.  Sure, you won’t be able to gorge yourself here like at traditional Mongolian barbecue restaurants, but gorging isn’t healthy.   And Blu Bambu usually costs less than $10 a person, which is much less than traditional Mongolian Barbecue.  

As an aside, if you’re going non-vegetarian, make sure you get extra meat.  It’s only a couple bucks more, and, if you don’t pay for extra meat, you run the risk of gettting very little/mini-meat.

Really though the main reason I’m including this place is because we once went close to closing time, and one of the employees took a huge amount of interest in our son.  She sang to him, came to our table and made funny faces with him as well as played drums using chopsticks on the table with him.   Now, that only happened once, but it’s never happened to the same extent anyplace else in Baltimore.    

And that’s a major reason we keep coming back.  You won’t get the best meal of your life here.  However, you’ll get a good meal.  Plus ordering Mongolian barbecue style is a little different along with fun.   And you can be sure that they appreciate seeing you.

Blu Bambu

621 E Pratt Street

Baltimore, MD

www.blubambu.net

(410-637-3398)

Blu Bambu on Urbanspoon

Todd Conner’s- Baltimore Family Restaurant Gem

August 6, 2009

Todd Conner’s is really about as good of a family restaurant as you can imagine, although driving by, most people would never really think this family restaurant standout would be.    I’ve never seen it show up on a list of best Baltimore Family Restaurants either, but it definitely is a great place to go if you’re in Baltimore with kids. 

It looks like a nice Fells Point restaurant with plenty of al fresco dining, and it also looks like a quality place to drink.   It is both of those things.  Additionally,  Todd Conner’s takes their food seriously as well.  Those above three things don’t always tie with great family restaurants.   But Todd Conner’s is all about family, because this restaurant is literally based on family.

Todd Conner’s is owned and run by a fairly young husband and wife team, and they have an infant daughter.   In fact the couple expected a boy (they intended to name him “Todd Conner”).   Their restaurant preceded the  delivery, so they named the restaurant in honor of their expected son.  Although they didn’t have a son, so they hope to someday open up a second restaurant and name it for their daughter.

My wife and I have gone here with our son several times, and they’ve always focused on him.  Also the last time we went to Todd Connor’s, the mother of the female owner stopped by with the couple’s  daughter.  What all this means is, you can bring your kids here, and they are happy to have them.  They love kids.

But the food is really good.  It’s not pub food either but rather at least a step above.  It’s also a very cool locale.  You can bring the kids here, get a ribeye steak, fresh catch or pasta dish as well as have a good cold beer like you used to.  The kids will have fun and you will too.

www.toddconners.com

700 S Broadway

Baltimore, MD  21231

Todd Conner's on Urbanspoon

Cafe Hon

March 30, 2009

Cafe Hon is about as family and kid-friendly a restaurant as you can get in Baltimore. They’ve got a large soda and ice cream fountain after all, plus a varied assortment of tasty dessert pies. They sell little toys, games and t-shirts to appeal to the kid in everyone. Ca  fe Hon is about getting a really good meal without breaking the bank, having fun and not taking yourself too seriously.

This Baltimore institution, named after the Baltimoresque institution of a “Hon” (which is a streetsmart, charming, blue collar woman in a beehive hair-due straight out of a John Waters movie), single-handidly provided the catalyst that turned the Hampden section of Baltimore into a place worth going to.

Cafe Hon is a fun restaurant that designed to be a place for families to congregate. The food isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s very inexpensive for the quality. You won’t find fast-food prices here, but you won’t be eating anything near what you’d get from a short order cook.

You always get a very good meal at Cafe Hon. Such things being said, honestly Hon, the last time Melissa, David and I went there, I had a simply fantastic meal that I won’t quickly forget.

It was the week of Mardi Gras. I got a birch beer soda, a surprisingly large bowl of well-spiced crawdads and potatoes as an appetizer for $5 and a sizeable entree of professionally cooked blackened catfish with sides for $12.95. Plus I got a slice of blueberry pie. My meal came to just about $25 with tax, and it was incredible. The catfish was cooked as well as it would have been cooked at Blue Sea or Oceanaire, if either had the sense to offer catfish around Mardi Gras.

I lived in New Orleans for five years when I was younger, so creole/New Orleans food that doesn’t cut it jumps out to me like a sore thumb. Forget about bad New Orleans-style food, I can’t eat anything that doesn’t taste like it came straight out of the French Quarter. I couldn’t believe Cafe Hon cut mustard with the Mud Bugs and Blackened Catfish. They could have charged me $15 more for that meal, and I still would have been happy.

The only minor setback with Cafe Hon in the kid and family-friendly department is it can get packed with tables pretty close together. But in their defense, when we went there with David, the hostess put us in the perfect place for a couple with a baby. We were seated in the back at a table with plenty of space for a high chair, which they brought out so we could then easily attach David’s carrier to it.   Cafe Hon places strong value on families, and these guys really know what they are doing.

Cafe Hon on Urbanspoon

Abbey Burger Bistro

March 14, 2009

The Abbey Burger Bistro is a family friendly restaurant in Baltimore, especially for times you want to believe that life hasn’t changed much since having a kid.  It’s located in what was the Sky Lounge over by Cross Street Market in Federal Hill.

Did you ever go to Sky Lounge?  I did.   Most people didn’t though, and I’m not even sure if I ever bought anything there.  Ergo Abbey Burger Bistro.  Sky Lounge was fashionable and sleek, and so it’s no surprise Abbey Burger Bistro has a very cool vibe for a Burger joint.   It has a very fancy sink.

The Abbey Burger Bistro obviously specializes in burgers, and it really offers a very wide-range of ways to get burgers, including non-beef and vegetarian options.   I went for a very creative concoction-  A buffalo burger between two large slices of toast.  It was yummy, although next time I’ll probably go for a straight all beef burger between a bun.

This is a family-friendly restaurant, and they seem pro-kids.  We went with two other couples.   And one of the other couples also had a baby under 1 years old.  We all had a great time, and our waitress really took an active interest in our babies.  They have multiple high-chairs, and it’s a pretty small restaurant.  Also anyplace that specializes in burgers ain’t gonna break the bank.  There are a few things though that do negatively impact the family-friendliness of this restaurant.

For starters the Abbey Burger Bistro at times almost seems more like a bar that really stresses burgers than a burger restaurant with a bar.   This is why I wrote the Abbey is great at making you think life hasn’t changed much since having a kid.  You definitely feel cooler hanging out with your kid at the Abbey than you do at some other family-friendly restaurants.    But of course the bar can also be a negative for families.

The bar and bar-area takes up a substantial portion of the restaurant, and this is the type of place where you don’t expect to see a table of everyone drinking either soda pop or Similac.  I like most alcoholic beverages, and I had a good beer here.  But one or two drinks is the extent of my drinking since David came along, and there are people at Abbey Burger Bistro who just come  to drink.

We went to the Abbey on a Sunday at 2, and the Ravens had a late afternoon playoff game.  We left about an hour before opening kickoff, and the bartender at least was giving us looks for the last 10 minutes were were there.  He clearly wanted us to leave and was worried we’d stick around.  

You see, bartenders don’t make big bucks on couples with kids.  And incidentally we didn’t stick around.  We left as soon as we were finished, which was always our intention.  Still I don’t think staying around longer would have been wise even if we had wanted to. 

There was another table with kids behind us.  Those people arrived less 15 minutes before we left, and I doubt they had as positive of an experience as we did.  I am sure they received many glares over the course of their meal.  This is because, as anyone who goes out to (or, in my case, used to go out to) bars regularly knows, people want tables to drink.  And the bartenders at least want happy drinking customers. 

Based on the above I wouldn’t advise going here with your kids within an hour of a big sports event.   You might as well sit your kid on the bar at Looney’s.

One issue my wife specifically told me to mention in this Blog hindering the kid-friendliness of Abbey Burger Bistro is that the bathrooms did not have changing tables.   This was a big negative, because David needed a diaper change.  And there really wasn’t anyplace to change him.

When all’s said and done, I definitely recommend the Abbey Burger Bistro for families.  It’s a fun reasonable place with great burgers.  Baltimore really needed a place like this.  Still,  once again, it’s worth putting a little thought into the timing of when you bring the family here. 

And, if your kid wears diapers like mine, make sure the little one gets changed right before you leave for the restaurant.  Albeit I live in Charles Village, so either way a trip to Abbey Burger and Bistro will require a diaper change for David by the end of any meal.

Abbey Burger Bistro

1041 Marshall St
Baltimore, MD

410-453-9698

 

 

Abbey Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

Empty Bowls

March 11, 2009

Empty Bowls is not a restaurant.  So this post is a little cheating I guess.  But Melissa and I both thought it should be included, so I am including it.  Besides- I think a little variety to the posts can only help now and then. 

Empty Bowls is a fundraiser that occurs nationwide apparently.  I just learned that after searching on Google for “empty bowls.”  Here in Baltimore, there was an empty bowls fundraiser last Saturday at College of Notre Dame for St Vincent du Pauls’.

http://www.vincentbaltimore.org/empty_bowls.html

St Vincent du Paul’s provides many services to people in need, so it’s for a good cause.  But the main reason I’m including Empty Bowls here is because this fundraiser was a very kid friendly event focused on food.

The program was $15 for a ticket, and kids could even get a free kids meal.  For $15, there were about 15-17 area restaurants and caterers who specifically brought soup.  Some really good Baltimore-area restaurants like Dogwood, Sabatino’s and Parkside were there, and you could get bowls of soup from any and/or all of the providers. 

There were also free soft drinks and desserts.  Plus there were literally thousands of ceramic bowls made by kids, and buying a ticket also entitled you to choose any one of the bowls and to take it home.

My son David didn’t have any soup, because at five months old he sure can’t have soup.  But he had a good time and got lots of compliments.  Also we met one of Melissa’s co-workers, her husband their four year old son at Empty Bowls, and he had a really good time too. 

This event was really well organized with loads of volunteers who knew what they were doing.  And seriously, I got three great bowls of soup, a bowl of vegetarian chili from One World Cafe which I like, a bowl of clam chowder, two Cokes and a ceramic heart bowl of my choice to take home for $15?!!  Plus I helped out a valuable charity- Since family friendly eating is all about having fun, good food, teaching your kid good values and not breaking the bank, this event was fantastic.

I’m already looking forward to it next year.


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