1. Gunning's Seafood. It's between BWI and my folk's house, making it an ideal location to find a few Maryland specialties that, for some odd reason, people just don't make in Texas. I specifically went for the soft shell crab sandwich, which was all that I remembered. Crispy fried and served on white bread with lettuce and tomato, along side Utz's chips. They also had something called "pepper rings", which were bell pepper rings deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Sounds nasty, but it was surprisingly good, although I could only eat 2 of them. The meal was complete with Maryland Crab Soup, a stew of crab meat and veggies seasoned with Old Bay. Mmmmm.... There's nothing fancy about this restaurant, and much of the food is fried casual fare. But it's the stuff you miss when you move out of the region, prepared the way you remember.
2. Eggspectations in Columbia, MD. A Canada-based company that is slowly moving south along the Eastern Seaboard, it's pretty easy to guess that they serve breakfast all day. What might not be so obvious is that their Happy Hour is one of the most popular in town. Half price appetizers and drinks within driving distance to 7 or 8 colleges and universities makes this a no-brainer for people who want something tasty on a limited budget. It's also near my sibling's house and is very child-friendly. So we typically go there each time I visit. On this trip the folks weren't hungry so they just ordered dessert crepes, which were made to order and filled with not-to-sweet fruit and bavarian cream. I ordered the vegetarian lettuce wrap special, which was just as messy as lettuce wraps everywhere. Kids meals consist of standard kit fare at a reduced price, including chicken strips, pasta and fries.
3. G&M Restaurant in Linthicum Heights. Strange location, with Baltimore City off in the distance, and even stranger exterior hide the newly renovated interior and surprising quality of food. There is an on-running debate in Baltimore about who has the best crab cakes. G&M and Obrycki's in Fell's Point typically are at the top of everyone's list. Obrycki's is typically where tourists and other out-of-towners are sent because the location is so easy to find. However, if someone is willing to make the trek, G&M is worth the effort. It's a truly old-school restaurant that's been cranking out typical regional food, including Baltimore-style prime rib and liver and onions along with their award winning crab cakes for almost 2 decades. Everything is well made, from the salads on down to their constantly brewed fresh coffee. They have pastry chefs on staff, as well as seafood and beef specialists. The crab cakes are worth the fuss, and are about the size of a softball. Portions are very large.
4. Mango Grove in Columbia. Back when I lived in Maryland I frequented Mango Grove for it's light vegetarian Indian fare. It was the only place I knew of that served a paper dosa as well as the best malai kafta I've ever had. Since I moved away they purchased what used to be a rather nasty Chinese restaurant next door and converted the Chinese restaurant part to a Northern Indian restaurant that features meat dishes. And they continue to serve vegetarian fare in the Mango Grove portion of the building, as well as the new part. It's a welcome change as I have family members that are adverse to the mere idea of eating vegetarian. I still prefer the malai kafta to everything else on the menu, though. :-) I also recommend the veggie samosas, mango lassi and nan. I'm told the chicken and lamb tikka masala are also quite good. They have very recently opened up an Indian grocery store in the shopping center near the restaurants. I recommend checking them out if you wish to make some of wonderful Indian food on your own.