Sure, open kitchens are cool and trendy, but what about having a portion of your meal prepared right at your table? Imagine being able to choose some of the ingredients and having the chef or your server come right to your table to prep it in front of you. Think of a hibachi grill, where ingredients are sliced, diced and fired up directly in front of patrons. Whether it’s preparing your entree or just whipping up a side, tableside service is becoming more popular at restaurants. Check out these three Baltimore restaurants that are taking prep from behind the walls directly to the table.
The Black Olive
814 S. Bond St.
Baltimore, Md. 21231
The Black Olive, situated along one of Fells Point’s historic cobblestone streets, is owned by husband-wife duo, Stelios and Pauline Spiliadis. Since 1997, Stelios has operated the business and Pauline has served as executive chef. The couple operates in true family style and leans on their son, Demitris, to serve as beverage director. Chef Spiliadis learned many of her cooking methods from her Greek mother-in-law and she employs them in dishes like the fresh fish, imported from as near as the Chesapeake Bay and as far as the Mediterranean Sea. Diners have the option to choose a fish and have it filleted tableside in the dining room. While some might balk at having a whole fish de-boned at the table, many will appreciate the fine art and talents of The Black Olive’s team.
Willow, the Latin cantina in Fells Point, is a Tex-Mex restaurant that opened in 2012. The menu is derived from many locally sourced products, and the cocktails complement the dishes. Willow is next door to Stuggy’s, the hot dog shop, and RYE, the whiskey bar, all of which are owned by the same team. To check out the tableside prep, ask for the guacamole. A server will bring all of the ingredients to you and freshly chop the tomatoes, avocados, onions, cilantro and other ingredients to mash them into a delicious, chunky guacamole in front of your eyes. Share the bowl of warm, salty tortilla chips and dig into the fresh dip. Willow’s guac is one of the specials during happy hour, too, so you can try it out at a discounted price.
Wit & Wisdom Tavern
200 International Drive
Baltimore, Md. 21202
A fine-dining establishment like Wit & Wisdom is a place where you assume that the culinary magic happens behind the scenes. Wit & Wisdom’s kitchen, though, is wide open and elements are even shared with neighboring restaurant PABU. That open concept is extended into some of the dishes, like the Maine lobster pot pie. The butter crust is topped with a healthy piece of lobster, right from the pan beside your table. A sauce of pumpkin, celery, carrots and pearl onions is whipped up tableside and poured atop the lobster and onto the crust. Your server will explain each step while you anxiously await the first bite. The unusual preparation fits right in with Wit & Wisdom’s goal to offer traditional tavern fare with a contemporary twist.
Renee Libby Beck spends her days as a public relations and social media manager for Medifast, Inc. and any spare time that she can find as a freelance writer. Her work has been published in local and national publications. Renee also serves as the Baltimore Food Examiner for Examiner.com.