Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Charleston in Baltimore


simdelish
 Share

Recommended Posts

Thanks, Rocks, for the impetus to start separate threads...

I have only been once to Charleston, and had an incredible dinner. (I don't venture much up to Bawlmer, as I am a Washingtonian). But I have heard many others say it is the best in Balt and Chef Wolf is top notch. Her other Petit Louis bistro is popular too, and many are anticipating her latest project, Pazo, a Mediterranean-inspired place (two blocks up from Ch) due to open this fall.

Although I not thrilled with the idea of the commute, I am considering a job there...so I am MOST interested in what people's thoughts/experiences are on the food, service, wine, desserts?

thanks in advance for any input

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition to the food, service, wine and dessert, don't forget about the cheese because it is fabulous. I live in Baltimore and Charleston is pretty much our fallback special occasion restaurant. I think the food can be spectacular. I still think about a duck breast I had there a year or so ago. The foie gras is always good and the shrimp and grits are a long standing favorite. It is often a really rich food experience but that's ok with me--it usually is a special occasion, afterall. The service is professional but not overly formal. The servers are well trained. There are others who can chime in on the wine (you guys know who you are) but I've always been pleased, especially when Tony-the man-Foreman sets us up with wines by the course. Worse things can happen to you. The desserts are traditional but solid, falling in line with the rest of the southern influenced menu. And, love the cheese cart, it is the real deal.

I've had many great dinners at Charleston and consider it a favorite. That being said, it is expensive, at least to me. I don't love the decor but it makes sense in light of the whole southern thing. I also don't love the vibe--or lack thereof. It is an older crowd for the most part. Also, probably as a result of the Harbor East location, it is always crowded with tourists who tend to dress down. And, for us locals, it is a special occasion place so there are always lots of birthdays and anniversary celebrations going on. It all contributes to a very not so happening sort of atmosphere. Not that there's anything really wrong with that.

I'm also a fan of Petit Louis and am looking forward to the opening of the new place which I understand will be quite casual and may possibly have a bit of the vibe that Charleston lacks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But I have heard many others say it is the best in Balt and Chef Wolf is top notch. Her other Petit Louis bistro is popular too,

Hi, when in the US I live in Baltimore despite my French base and I think Petit Louis is the most overhyped, overrated place in town (I used to live two blocks away, so it was potentially my neighborhood place). They're also snotty: when I called to make a reservation, they said "We're a French bisto we don't take reservations." They've obviously never been to France. Charleston is OK if you've money to burn.

My advice: stick to DC, things are happening there, Baltimore is where DC was 20 years ago.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The larger issue, I think, is whether a place is special and appealing because of its location, when judged against the local competition, in this case of Baltimore, and whether the same place would be viewed as equally special and appealing no matter where the restaurant was located. I tend to think good is good, irrespective of location. There will always be controversy over that, though, and it might actually be a self-defeating exercise. But I also think it is possible for people to fairly and reasonably come down on different sides of that issue based on their different experiences.

I agree with John with his general comment "My advice: stick to DC, things are happening there, Baltimore is where DC was 20 years ago." But then I've never lived in Baltimore like you both do and I don't have the depth of experience there that you both do. There are going to be exceptions to every generalization, surprises and pleasant experiences to be had, hence the vital role of eG to open those doors--to raise our awareness--and for a while I have heard that more has been going on in Baltimore creatively and that we should make the effort to get over there. I'm willing. (I think the better, more fair, standard of comparison for the Baltimore restaurant scene, if one were to go down that road, is not DC but Philadelphia--and I'd suspect Philly is also a decade ahead of Baltimore in terms of culinary depth, interest and creativity. But then I've dined in Philly a lot more than Baltimore so even that sense might not be accurate.) What I do know is I'd like to read a lot more about B'more on eG from the neighborhood folks and industry insiders, pro and con. And I hope you get your job simdelish!

I've only been once to the restaurant in question, that was after it was reviewed in the Post, but the more-expensive-than-it-probably-should-be, older, somewhat soul-less, touristy vibe already mentioned seems to peg Charleston for me, and it hasn't warranted a return visit. But restaurants change, chefs and owners evolve and everyone has off-nights which can affect an experience--and that's where some trusted local palates help by weighing in, who've dined there repeatedly and over time. If I make it to the bistro or to Pazo I'd approach them openly and on their own terms just like I approach any restaurant anywhere. Thanks simdelish and misscindy for reminding us of a chef whose restaurants you value and that deserve our consideration--and over time hopefully more people will weigh in on one side or another. And thanks John for your sharp dissent. People will make up their own minds.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for your comments so far. I appreciate any and all sides to the story, which is precisely why I posed the question. I do want to know what people think of Charleston. I have done plenty of googling and research (pages and pages!), and am well aware of the excellent reviews of the restaurant, as well as Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman's talents. I also, of course, am interested in the "inside scoop," as I may be employed there... which often gives an altogether different view.

I believe John's comments were directed more at my choice of potential work. I wholeheartedly agree that B'more is way behind D.C. In fact, I think 20 years is being generous. There was (IMHO) MUCH better food in DC 20 years ago than there is now in B'more. (I'm thinking Jean-Louis, Roberto, Yannick at Le Pavillion, etc). And yes, I know DC is a better (and broader) place for my talents -- I came from there! My situation is that I am now based in Annapolis (a whole 'nother thread!), with nothing locally to challenge me. Going to B'more is easier for me physically than DC

Steve, as usual, you are insightful in your way of presenting/looking at a subject. Yes, we do need to look at what a restaurant is doing in light of it's location, and its competition. That is what makes eG so great a resource. I believe Cindy Wolf to be doing some of the best food certainly in Baltimore, and respectfully, good food nationally as well. I know I am not alone in this opinion. She and Tony Foreman are well acquainted/experienced with the business, DC's in particular, as they came from Georgia Brown's, The Occidental, 701, and don't forget Jean-Louis' and Guenter Seeger's collaboration in Atlanta.

The location is changing. Being on the harbor/water is a good thing, it is in any town really, but yes, you get the tourists (just as you have in DC don't forget!). The Charleston Group is making a difference in that area. With Pazo just up the way, and Bin 604 Wine Sellers, they are personally helping to change the face of that side of town, in a good way.

Cindy and Tony went to B'more and made their own niche/reputation outside of DC. They have suceeded not just in their own right, but in raising the "level of food" in B'more overall. By putting themselves "on the map", they have helped put Baltimore on the map too. (no, it's not DC, or NY, but it's trying) It is my intention (if I work for them) to help do that even more, raising the bar again. At Charleston, they are trying to provide a very special dining experience, in the food, the service, the wine. There are areas, though, that they want to improve, hence their interest in hiring me. That is what excites me professionally. I can hopefully "put them on the map" for another reason, desserts. Working for any nationally recognized chef is a good career move for me.

Anyway, enough about me... I do appreciate any other comments or experiences with Charleston that eG'ers could share.

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I used to work in Baltimore and know of Tony Foreman just tangenitally. If you go and work for him, you will be pushed hard, rigorously trained, and held to extremely high expectations. He is an exacting taskmaster who expects nothing short of excellence.

Many, and I do mean many, restaurant veterans have wilted under his system. Few have flourished, but all are probably better off having worked there than not.

As for Baltimore being 20 years behind DC, well, maybe. DC

has far more world class restaurants. My own experience is that DC also has many more high-end, style over substance restaurants.

Baltimore, IMHO, has far more interesting restaurants at affordable prices.

In short, if offered the job, take it. And move to Baltimore, because you'll never be able to afford living in Washington on a Baltimore salary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cindy Wolf is several levels above what she was in D. C. and several levels above every other restaurant in Baltimore. I would compare Charleston to Kinkead's as the D. C. restaurant most similar although I much prefer the ambience and style of Charleston. For me the restaurant that Charleston would be most similar to is Jimmy Sneeds' old Frog and the Redneck in Richmond. For Baltimore Charleston is expensive; by D. C. standards it is reasonably priced. This is not Maestro, Citronelle or Laboratorio; it is a strong three star (with the others four) that stands out in Baltimore.

Edited by Joe H (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was really a fine dining restaurant in Richmond called The Redneck?  :blink:

The Frog (Jean Louis Palladin) and the Redneck (Jimmy Sneed) who now is in Vegas. He was nominated for a Beard award while he was there and originally worked for Palladin at Jean Louis. A serious restaurant that we would drive from D. C. to go to about once a year just as we go to Charleston once a year or so now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me the restaurant that Charleston would be most similar to is Jimmy Sneeds' old Frog and the Redneck in Richmond. 

The one time I dined at Charleston, I had the same comparison in mind. Your mentioning it brought back delicious memories of the Frog and the Redneck!

and yes, Joe, I agree with everything else you said in your post. Your observations are right on.

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...