BEST BURGER: Alewife
Housed in the Eutaw Savings Bank Building, Alewife doesn't mess around when it comes to burgers.
They only serve one -- and that's plenty.
The "smoke burger" is the creation of chef Chad Wells. Like any successful artist, he wanted to take what inspired him and outdo it. The smoke house does nothing conventional. It is a burger with an IQ, as complex as it is delicious. Eleven ounces of seamlessly combined strips of meat including: brisket, skirt and fillet beef.
The name is in tribute to the elements throughout the burger: Smoked Gouda, smoked chipotle mixed within aioli mayonnaise and the slabs of applewood bacon, twice smoked. It's a process to prepare. But it's worth it.
The burger is textural, with great flavor. Ketchup is not needed. The duck fries that accompany it are as rich as the burger. Hand cut and fried in duck fat, they are also tossed with garlic, marjoram, rosemary and salt.
Of the forty-some odd brews that rotate daily, the staff recommends something light to join the meal, nothing heavy, as the smoke burger will fill you up plenty.
Some 180 smoke burgers go out of the kitchen daily. In three weeks they expect to sell their 10,000th. And coming soon, Alewife plans to add "the evil twin," the smoke burger's doppelganger with crab meat. 21 N. Eutaw St., Downtown
BEST WINGS: Kislings
With plenty of TVs tuned to the O's, neighborhood softball trophies on mantles and great wings, Kislings knows how to make you feel right at home. For nearly two decades they've been the go-to for wings. The bar food favorite began with ten cent wings on Sunday night. Unfortunately, the dime-a-wing days are gone, but little else has changed. They don't skimp on the sauce. Each wing is coated, so get the hand-wipe packets stacked up. The buffalo barbecue is a zangy blend of sweet and spicy. For around $1 per wing, you can't beat the price. 2100 Fleet St., Canton
BEST NACHOS: Nacho Mama's
Eight dollars for a helping of "Nacho's Macho Nachos" easily satisfies the munchies of any group stumbling straight off Canton Square. The topping selection is varied and generous. You have your choice of bean, chicken, beef, blackened chicken, crab meat or pulled pork. The secret lies in the cheese. There's a lot of it. It's cooked to a golden bubbly layer that covers the plate from end to end. It's rationed just right with the toppings so you won’t have to get sentimental over that last strip of chicken or jalapeño. Share a plate with a friend and swill it down with a gewd ole' Natty Boh's. 2907 O’Donnell St.
BEST CRAB CAKE: Koco's Pub
Mother and daughter, Marcella and Joanna, prepare every crab cake with the Kocovinos' family recipe on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Love is in the details. A busy day might see as many as 200 crab cakes go out. According to Marcella, making them in batches ensures quantity and proper mixture. Nearly three decades of success hasn't changed Koco's. Crab cakes are still served on paper plates. People come from all over to try out Koco's -- from the mayor of Philadelphia and his city council to pro skater and native Marylander Bucky Lasek and his out of town skater bros. 4301 Harford Road, Arcadia
BEST PIZZA: Joe Squared
Their method for gourmet pizza seems simple enough: thin crust, sourdough, coal-fire, squared pizza. But simple often equals success. All of the sauces are made from scratch. Many herbs, such as basil, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram are grown on the rooftop. They keep a natural starter of sourdough alive for nearly 80 percent of their dough, in a method that dates back some 200 years.
Barbecue chicken pizza, mushroom lovers and the flag pizza are hot sellers. Owner Joe Edwardsen is currently digging the bacon and clam pizza. 133 W. North Ave., Charles North