Baltimore Restaurant Week

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My husband and I participated in Baltimore Restaurant Week (July 24-28) on Monday at Restaurante Tio Pepe. I had heard the legends about this place from my father-in-law, a life-long Baltimorean and local restaurateur (of the far more casual kind) who knew the Spanish restaurants’ original owners and dined there regularly for special ocassions. We had planned to go for our February anniversary, but on the day we had reservations, the city was hit with one of those snowstorms that shuts everything down. When my husband saw Tio Pepe included in the list of restaurants participating in the weeklong program that has about 60 Baltimore restaurants offering three course dinners for $30 per person, he suggested we try it. One of the write-ups described the expected attire at Tio Pepe to be “impeccable dress.” Fearing that this might mean having to wear a sport coat on a 90 degree night, he called to check. Tio Pepe’s told him, “We don’t like shorts. Please come.” So we did. Along with many others. The restaurant was packed — and this was on a Monday. My husband, who frequently drives by the restaurant at 10 East Franklin Street, remarked he’d never seen so many people going in there. From our high-backed red booth nestled in one of the restaurant’s many narrow rooms of rustic whitewashed brick, I spied groups of couples headed to their tables along with parties of women bearing gift bags. I’d heard tales of the restaurants’ impeccable service. And while it was good, our server did keep apologizing for a mysterious inability to locate any bread for us. Perhaps it was the unusually busy Monday night. I ordered the mushrooms on toast appetizer. It reminded me of a fancy grilled cheese, with a rather heavy sauce blanketing the toast. But I ate most of it. My husband deviated from the $30 menu to try the snails. I was leery. But when I saw it served with each snail nestled in its own tiny pot of butter sauce, I tried it. It was not bad. Texture reminded me a bit of mussels, as did the aftertaste. The bread did make it to the table before the entrees. My husband ordered the filet of sole topped with sauteed bananas and dressed with hollandaise. I understand it’s a bit of a specialty there. It was good. Not too sweet. I had the brochette of tenderloin with truffle sauce with string beans and wild rice. The tenderloin was tender and the sauce was just right, not overpowering. We had their white sangria with the meal — a small bottle is $18 and its more than enough for two. The white was a fun summer twist. The taste was quite similar to the red sangria I’ve had, though perhaps a bit sweeter. For dessert we tried the flan and the chocolate roll. Neither wowed me, though the chocolate roll was pleasantly lighter tasting than it appeared. Word is the Baltimore Restaurant Week event is going so well, some restaurants are extending their special $30 menus into the weekend (some offer $20 lunches as well). It’s a great way to try out some of the city’s pricer places at a bit of a discount. Check here for information on participating restaurants .