Few can resist the allure of The Little Owl, and Alton Brown and Michael Symon are among the fans who make a beeline for the restaurant at brunch time. While Alton opts for the whole-wheat pancakes adorned with berries and a splash of syrup, Michael favors a meal that’s more on the savory side. He can’t get enough of the sliders, which feature saucy meatballs nestled in pizza-dough buns. These hearty bites go well with the restaurant’s take on chilaquiles: spicy tortilla chips served with eggs.
Tom Peters is seriously dedicated to Belgian beer, so much so that he was knighted in Belgium for his efforts. His pub offers a vast selection of Belgian and other brews (around 300 varieties total), along with a menu of tempting bites. For an unbeatable combination, pair a sour beer with the Mexicano mussels. A pot of Blue Bay mussels comes laced with jalapenos, peppers and onions that have been sauteed in a sour ale. Limes bring a bit of brightness, while cilantro adds a floral finish.
This longtime fixture of the Baltimore dining scene lures in locals with its fresh seafood dishes. Michael Symon calls the jumbo lump crab cake “wonderful.” The succulent dish is made with a spice-laden sauce and just a bit of breadcrumbs so that the flavor of the meat really shines through. Another standout is the soft-shell crab that’s lightly seasoned, dredged in flour and then pan-fried. “When I think of Baltimore, this is what I think of,” Michael says of the restaurant’s crab dishes.
Sink your teeth into doughy goodness at this pizzeria that offers a tantalizing array of seasonal pies adorned with sauces and salumi created from scratch. Keep it classic with a margherita pizza, which Michael Symon describes as “the true expression of simplicity (and) great ingredients.” Housemade dough is slicked with red sauce, then topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. Another standout is the Rotolo, a roll-up of dough, ricotta and mortadella that’s finished with pistachio pesto.
This fifth-generation-owned fishery is nestled among dozens of fishing shanties in the quaint village of Fishtown. “This is beautiful simplicity and 100 years of history,” Michael Symon says of the spot. Though many of the shanties now house shops, Carlson’s still operates as a fishery capable of processing 1,000 pounds of fish per hour. Customers stop by for specialties such as smoked lake trout. The mild, buttery fish is filleted, then soaked in a saltwater brine and smoked over dry maple wood.
It’s fitting that Speedy Romeo houses a wood-fired oven painted like rocker Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. After all, Chef-Owner Justin Bazdarich is known for his riffs — of the culinary kind. One killer dish is the Paul’s Boutique Pizza. The dough is made from a mix of double-zero and high-gluten flours, resulting in an airy, textured crust. It’s slathered with a Dijon bechamel sauce, then heaped with pastrami, smoked red cabbage kraut and fontina (as well as a flurry of everything-bagel spice) before a quick turn in the oven. Then there’s the KC Royale, a white, clam-studded pizza that Brad Farmerie describes as “almost like taking a bite of clam chowder.”
Michael Symon and Eddie Jackson head to LeAnn Mueller’s laid-back joint to try El Loco. Brisket and pork butt are rubbed with mustard and pickle juice, hit with salt and pepper, then smoked and piled onto a bun. Chipotle slaw, pickled red onions, and black bean and corn salad round out the sandwich.
D.C. barbecue devotees head here for the succulent cuts of meats that are smoked, then finished over a grill fueled by red oak and hickory wood. A standout is the smoke-kissed spare ribs, which come coated in a gorgeous char. They’re not overly seasoned, so the natural flavors of the pork shine through. Another popular pick is the Rocklands Pearl: Creamy mac and cheese is layered with baked beans, then piled with chopped pork and finished with a generous ladleful of housemade barbecue sauce.
At this burger joint and beer garden, Chef-Owner Richard Hartman’s creativity shines through in dishes like the Fried Apple Bacon Blue Cheese Burger that Michael Symon stopped in to try. An 8-ounce beef patty comes loaded with crisp bacon, grilled onions, fried apple slices and a homemade blue cheese dressing. Michael is a fan of the tart-salty combo, calling it “one mean burger.”
The siblings behind this chain of casual restaurants have taken the Parisian bistro concept and given it a uniquely Louisiana twist. Michael Symon and Jay Ducote met up at the Baton Rouge locale for an indulgent meal that included the Croque Madame Burger, which features a slab of griddled ham and a poached egg stacked on a ground turkey patty, then drenched in a bacon-studded Mornay sauce.
For Kansas City-style cue with a creative twist, Michael Symon headed here to chow down on the Burnt Heaven sandwich. A chipotle mayo-slathered bun is piled high with layers of smoked kielbasa and succulent burnt ends, then topped with a mound of creamy coleslaw and fried jalapenos for extra kick.
This farm-to-table spot is a hometown favorite of Michael Symon, who is a fan of the Brunch Burger. Order it to indulge in an Ohio beef patty piled high with cheddar cheese, housemade ketchup, onion rings and a fried egg. The fluffy biscuits and gravy, and the buttery sticky bun are also standouts.
Want to chow down on barbecued ribs, but could do without the sticky mess of eating with your hands? Follow Michael Symon’s lead and order the boneless ribs here. Smoked for two hours and then deboned, these beauties come out tender and caramelized. Also try the baked potato loaded with pulled pork.
Michael Symon and Duff Goldman can’t resist the call of the wild — wild boar, that is. The two met up at this smokehouse to try porky delights like the Wild Boar Flautas. Flour tortillas are loaded with coffee-and-chile-braised pork, then fried into crunchy treats with an exquisitely tender filling.
A smokehouse may seem like an unlikely choice for a fine-dining chef, but owner Mike Johnson’s passion for barbecue shines through in dishes like the Big Muddy. The smoky-sweet sandwich comes piled with smoked brisket, jalapeno cheddar sausage and housemade sauces that make for “great layers of flavor,” Michael Symon says.