Tag Archives: Great Service

N is for Nick’s Fish House

I am an advertiser’s dream — short attention span and highly suggestible. So when I see a sign advertising half-price burger night and another for $1.50 Miller Lite, that is what I will order, even if I am in a fish place with lots of deliciousness on tap. Le sigh.

That said, my burger at Nick’s Fish House was delightful, cooked perfectly rare and served by the friendliest bartender I’ve met in a while, and all for $5.50. (That’s including the beer.)

Nick’s Web site hilariously describes the location as “the beautiful Middle Branch adjacent to the historic Hanover Street Bridge and just south of the Inner Harbor. ” I would call it a waterfront bar on the edge of the industrial section of South Baltimore, wedged between I-95 and the Port Covington Wal-Mart. Of course, if you want a place where you can dock your boat, I guess that’s where your bar has to be. (There are slips outside of Nick’s.)

The decor is beachy, stopping just shy of Jimmy Buffet-esque escapism, with pretty palm-frond looking fans circulating overhead and nice wood gleaming everywhere. This time of year, they have a great-looking Christmas tree, but obviously Nick’s is a summertime place. I scurried past the outer deck to get inside, but even so, there are precious few places in Baltimore with good outdoor dining and the sunsets out there in nice weather must be beautiful.

Because I was so overeager to order a burger, I had to ask for the menu after I ordered to check it out. I actually really like oysters, so I was disappointed in myself for obeying my cruel overlords, the Monday Night Specials signs, and not getting some briny goodness. Everything else was pretty typical bar food with a slant toward seafood. Prices skewed a touch high, but there are lots of daily specials, so if you choose judiciously, you’ll probably get out without too much damage. If a summertime kinda place left me this pleased in December, I’m sure I’d be floating on air

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C is for Cool. Really F#_@ing Cool.

Lillet blonde, on the rocks with a twist of orange at Cafe Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. It’s my new favorite cocktail and I love it dearly.

Dinner was good — and the prices at the cafe were reasonable for the birthplace of California cuisine — and the service was great. I showed up well after 8 pm and they parked me at the bar for less than the promised 45 minutes with the wholly distracting Lillet. When I was seated, I said thanks for squeezing me in. The bespectacled, betweeded hostess said, “It’s a pleasure to have you.” I was a late-coming one-top, the type of table that is often on the recieving end of a world-class stink-eye. I’ve never been to a place as famous as CP before and was so happy to find that the staff knows how a small meal can be a big deal to someone like me.

The appetizer (tomato soup) and entree (grilled polenta) were nice, but the alpha and omega of the meal were the aforementioned apperatif and the dessert, hazelnut creampuffs with dark chocolate and caramel sauce. The puffs arrived with coffee as dark and deep as a well. I usually take cream but not tonight. Even I know not to mess with a good thing.

K is for Koco’s Pub

I liked Koco’s Pub, but I think I went during the wrong time of year. Awash in beachy kitsch, this Hamilton mainstay seems like a careworn cliché in mid-July. In winter it probably feels like a tropical resort, with its palm-leaf murals and friendly service. I’m happy to go back and give it a go at some later, chillier date. With all its nods towards points south, Koco’s is a quintessential neighborhood spot.

Koco’s is a meandering, lemon yellow building with a be-parroted sign, looking not entirely unlike a cruise ship run aground on the side of Harford Road. The main entrance is on the side, on Overland Avneue, and when I ducked in on a sunny day, my eyes to a minute to adjust to Koco’s dim lighting. When my pupils sorted themselves out, I saw a clutch of families having dinner, complete with kids playing on the floor. I saw regulars lining the long bar at the far end of the restaurant. I saw the aforementioned beachy kitsch. Ugh.

I’m leery of all things beach-themed (restaurants, parties, weddings, etc), which are often an attempted cheap short cut to fun. Beach = AWESOME, right? There’s a picture of surfboard on this menu and the club sandwich is called a Jammin’ Jamacian, so I must be HAVING A BLAST!!! But really, only the beach truly feels like the beach. Whenever I’m standing in someone’s scrubby back yard next to a tiki torch drinking a melting mai tai, it’s like watching a bad drag queen with five o’clock shadow. C’mon, who are you kidding here?

Anyhoodle, beach-themed places work to do to win me over. Koco’s does the work, with bar food at extremely reasonable prices and happy hour drink specials. (Said happy hour only runs from 3-6, though, so nip out of work early to catch them. There aren’t any food specials, but when fries are $4 a basket that’s not really an issue.) My friend Ellie and I got a few domestic draft beers for $2, served in chilled pint glasses. For our second round, we got new glasses, straight from the freezer – very nice touch. The bartenders were the best I’ve encountered in a long time, attentive but not pushy. Ellie and I opted not to order food – not even Koco’s famous crabcake, which looked like a delectable softball of crabby, flaky goodness – and the staff was no less interested in making sure we were happy.

The bartender even gave us (and everyone else at the bar) an oft-refilled basket of snack mix. I fall for free-salty-snacks-trick every single time a bar places a thirst-inducing treat in front of me, like the rube at the street fair who’s sure he can beat the carnie’s shell game. But really, any place with free snackes is A-OK in my book and the incredible service evoked a four-star Carribbean hotel far more than Parrothead-y décor did. I didn’t feel whisked away to a tropical island, but I did feel right at home.

Note: Koco’s is closed on Sunday and Monday.