by John Cullen and Marty Short
Mother’s Grill has become one of our favorite places on Federal Hill because it consistently offers good, reasonably priced food, lots of options and friendly service. Located in the Cross Street Market area of Federal Hill, it’s a convenient alternative to the pricier Inner Harbor chain restaurants. We usually go to Monther’s for a wide range of sandwiches, soups and salads, but they also offer regular entrees (as well as brunch on weekends)!
Enter the door, and you’ll find yourself in a large, long bar–just keep to the right and you’ll find the hostess and the entrance to the restaurant. You’ll find an intimate, quieter space with dark-pressed tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, old artsy posters, 18 or so tables covered in white paper (and perfect for doodling or practicing your drawing!) and a peek into what’s going on in the kitchen.
Soups are homemade and excellent. Marty is a big fan of the “Maryland Crab Soup” ($3.99 cup), which is full of crab meat and spicy veggies. John gets excited about “Black Been Chili” ($3.99 cup) with ground beef and diced onions (and confesses to using his finger to lick up every last drop)! If you’re hungry, you can get the larger “bowl” for just $1 more.
Sandwiches are mostly in the $8-11 range and come with lettuce, chips and pickles. You can add fries ($1), onion rings ($2), or avocado ($2). (Marty is in lust over the onion rings! John thinks the fries are better than average and easily worth a buck). There are a couple dozen sandwiches to pick from, and picking one isn’t easy because there are a lot that sound good! If you’re feeling brave, try the “Big Buh’s Monster Burger” ($10) with 1lb of beef! (or save your arteries and get the 8 ox version for $8). Marty was tempted by “Fire on the Mountain” ($9), a chicken breast with avocado, mozzarella and pesto, but opted for “Phat Phrank’s Chicken Cheesesteak” ($9). This chicken version of a Philly cheese steak oozing with onions, peppers and cheese on a club roll proved to be just his thing. We were surprised to find an unexpected number of interesting vegetarian options. The “Jerry Garcia’s Veggie Burger” ($8) is a homemade “burger” with veggies, black beans, and oats, and our vegetarian friend found it way yummier than a “Boca Burger”. John tried the “Art Donovan Veggie Melt” ($9) with sauteed veggies and spinach under melted cheese on focaccia bread, and he ended up not missing his daily meat! The “Veggie Stack” with grilled squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, portabella mushroom and red peppers on focaccia even provides a vegan sandwich option.
There are a half dozen entree-sized salads ($8-15). John has tried and enjoyed the “Wild Mushroom Salad” (9) with sauteed mushrooms on a bed of spinach topped with red peppers, walnuts, feta cheese and tomatoes finished off with balsamic vinaigrette.
There are a lot of interesting entrees (mostly $11-18) which we have never tried for no good reason. (maybe our mothers always served us soup & sandwiches, and being at “Mother’s” influenced our decision?) We’ve also been way to good and avoided desserts, but we’ve been sorely tempted by the homemade “Pop Pop’s Homemade Ice Cream” ($4 for two big scoops) after seeing people at another table looking mighty happy eating it.
We love a bargain and “Mother’s” has some bargain nights that are worth remembering: On Mondays, there’s a whole rack of ribs w/ Cole Slaw for $11; on Tuesdays, 1/2 priced burgers (including the veggie, turkey and even the “monster” burgers); and on Thursday, there’s a listing of $10 entrees to pick from.
2008 Best of Baltimore Edition
One of the things we especially like about Mother’s Federal Hill Grille, 1113 S. Charles Street, 410-244-8686, is that it’s a multigenerational hangout. You’ll see toddlers in high chairs and families with teens sharing space with dating couples and fun-loving grandparents. The food is equal opportunity, too. There’s fancy fare if you’d like, but we prefer the casual side of the menu—okay, the caloric stuff known as bar food. (We like to think of Mother’s crisp mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce and meaty Buffalo wings as necessary food groups, but no one’s buying it.) The highlight has to be the Heart Attack on a Plate: a plump, beer-battered burger stuffed with cheddar and then deep-fried. Seeing is believing. Eating is even better.
The Baltimore Sun
Good Food, Good Venue Make Dining Enjoyable
By Karen Nitkin
Special to the Sun
Originally published on September 18, 2003
The thing we loved about Mother’s is that it’s both a fun bar and a serious restaurant.
The fun part was apparent even before we walked in. There’s no missing the famed “purple patio,” scene of many a Ravens revelry. During home games, the crowds can number in the thousands, and the party spills off the deck into the parking lot, said Marc Boyd, general manager at Mother’s.
But once we went inside and walked past the smoke and noise of the bar, we came to a stylish little dining room, with a stamped-tin ceiling, exposed brick walls and a cute sea-scene mural behind a counter that allows peeks into the bustling kitchen. The tables were covered with white paper, so we could color on them if we wanted.
The menu is fairly ambitious and includes six or seven specials that change each week. But even before we put fork to mouth, two items told me we were
in for a treat. One was the gorgonzola vinaigrette salad dressing (doesn’t just reading that make your mouth water?) and the other was the homemade ice cream that’s served daily.
The vinaigrette was one of several house-made dressings and the one we chose for our lobster and crab salad. It added just the right zing to the attractive, fresh and delicious presentation of cold seafood lumps and julienne vegetables over a mix of dark greens.
As for the ice cream, chocolate and vanilla are always offered, plus a third flavor. We were lucky to get chunky monkey, which was banana ice cream studded with bits of chocolate-covered raisins, chocolate-covered pretzels, and a few other chocolate-covered morsels.
One of our favorite dishes was the house specialty of soy-glazed tuna. It arrived rare, as requested, and topped with soy glaze and wasabi mayo, which had been painted into a beautiful pattern. To get an idea of how large it was, hold out your hand with your fingers outstretched. Like other entrees, it came with two generous sides. Not bad for $16.95.
Speaking of sides, Mother’s earned huge bonus points in my eyes for taking them seriously. The cole slaw, crunchy and fresh-tasting, was clearly homemade, and the sauteed mushrooms swam in a rich, earthy marsala sauce. Even the rice pilaf was fluffy.
We also loved that the service was friendly and quick, and the beers were served cold.
This isn’t to say that Mother’s was perfect. The black and blue filet, stuffed with a spicy gorgonzola and mushroom filling and then blackened, was extremely salty. Our mussels came in a nice wine sauce, but the mussels on the bottom were warm, and the ones on top were cold. And a slice of apple pie, though served warm, had a soggy crust. A better choice was the incredibly moist chocolate cake with a fudge-like chocolate icing.
On Sunday nights, entrees at Mother’s are only $10, with the exception of crab cakes and a few expensive specials. We had the crab cakes anyway and found them to be as tasty and lump-filled as some of the best in town. The two-cake serving was very generous for $19.95.
Brothers Dave and Andy Rather, who own and operate Mother’s, opened a live music venue at nearby 8-10 Cross St. on Sept. 4. It’s called Funk Box, and the food will come from the Mother’s kitchen. If the brothers can re-create the atmosphere of Mother’s, bring over the serious food, plus add live music, they’re sure to have another winner on their hands.
Service: *** 1/2
Fair or uneven**
Copyright 2003 by The Baltimore Sun.
The Pedestrian Gourmet
Most of us in Federal Hill know Mother’s for the Purple Patio, music and sports fan gather around big screen TV’s. You would’t expect to find the culinary delights that we did.
Passing through the busy front bar, we progresses to the back dining room and were seated by a hostess. Mother’s menu is not only made up of bar food, but poses numerous daily specials and entrees, as well. My companion spotted the beer battered chicken fingers and decided to go for it, while I chose one of my favorites-mussels. The chicken fingers were moist and plump pieces of white chicken lightly battered and served with spicy remoulade. The mussels, at least two dozen, were served in a tasty broth of tomatoes, garlic and herbs with bread sticks to dip in a flavorful broth.
We couldn’t believe we were actually at Mother’s, no neon beer signs, no big screen TV’s, just high flames from the busy kitchen. Brick walls are decorated with nouveau art prints, and tables are covered with white paper and crayons to keep you busy drawing while you wait for your food.
We decided we were still hungry, so for an entree, the manager recommended the swordfish special for me, and my companion skipped her entree and went straight for dessert. Little did she know what she was going to miss out on! Our dishes arrived and looked and smelled amazing! My dish was a generous piece of grilled swordfish on a bed of penne pasta swimming in a light presto sauce with tomatoes and spinach, and topped with two grilled shrimp. My companion’s dessert was an amazing piece of art and flavor. An ample slice of apple pie a la mode, served with Mother’s own homemade vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon, layered with caramel glaze and topped off with a swirl of chocolate over the top. Need I say more?
Whether looking for a quick bite to eat or a full entree dinner, I highly recommend Mother’s any night of the week.
The Pedestrian Gourmet
Often a restaurant tries to be all things to all people and fails in its attempt. Mother’s Federal Hill Grille (1113 S. Charles St., 410-244-8686), next to the Cross Street Market, comes out of the exercise with a much better batting average than most. We tried Mother’s on a Sunday night, and we brought along a real mother-C.C.’s, to be precise to share the experience. We weren’t sure how we’d fit in with the twenty something crowd, having passed 20 some time ago, but we decided to gi give it a go. The twenty in the front room, which houses the bar, billiard table, and the obligatory big television, politely made way to let us pass into the dining room, where exposed brick walls and a tin ceiling circumscribe a small space that has a surprisingly spacious feel.
Perusing the menu, we saw that Mother’s offers something for every taste-bar food, sandwiches, even a full mimeographed page of eclectic dinner special s. Naturally, we started with appetizers: a cup of Maryland crab soup ($2.95), a plate of 25-cent buffalo wings (the Sunday special), and Regis’ chicken sat ay ($5.95). The soup, spicy and thick with vegetables and crab, met Mom’s high expectations. And I liked the wings-not too incendiary but big and meaty, paired with a blue-cheese dip laced with herbs. Only the sat ay disappointed. The hunks of breast tenderloin were too thick to soak up the flavor of the peanut sauce, and the meat was too tough. This was one of those times when less would have been more thin slices of chicken on delicate skewers would have made the dish more palatable and easier to chew.
By the time the entrees arrived, our sociable server was addressing C.C.’s mother as “Mom.” He’d crayoned his initials on our paper tablecloth and asked how she’d liked the soup as he removed the empty cup and slid a half-pound of medium-sized steamed shrimp ($5.95) before her. The shellfish were thickly seasoned and accompanied by numerous lemon slices and an excellent cocktail sauce. Unfortunately, even though the shrimp proved tasty, the task of releasing them from their shells was arduous. Mom gave up halfway through, from sheer exhaustion.
My mahimahi fish and chips ($8.95) was a case of sheer overkill. The batter was too thick and soggy to create the crisp coating so necessary for proper fish and chips. So I ditched it?I peeled off the grease-filled coating to reveal the mahimahi underneath, and ate the fish au natural. Happily, it was delicious. Strangely, so were the chips. If the potato wedges had had been fried, they didn’t show it-they were crisp and browned and grease-free. If only the mahimahi had been so lucky.
C.C. certainly lucked out in the entree department. She ordered a special: beef tips, spinach, apples, and walnuts with a white- wine demi-glace ($16.95). Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? More like a dessert than a main course. But everything worked: the tender, flavorful meat, the crunch of apples and nuts, the leafy-green goodness of the spinach, the delicate sauce. The dish, a huge serving in itself, came with real mashed potatoes, crispy green beans, and chunks of peeled tomato.
The daily specials are where Mother’s really gets eclectic. There were a lot of them Sunday, and they ran the creative gamut, from grilled salmon with pesto aioli and roasted red peppers ($14.95), jerk-seared pork tenderloin with fruit chutney and mashed sweet potatoes ($12-95), or sauteed chicken, roasted peppers, avocado, and eggplant over pasta ($12-95). Someone at Mother’s is designing the kind of meals that Mom-mine, at least, and I’ll bet yours-never imagined.
When dessert time arrived, Mother’s had another surprise in store for us homemade ice cream. Our delightful server, who refilled our sodas and coffee without our having to ask (even once), told us there’s a different flavor each week (vanilla is always available). We sampled a dish of banana-brownie. C.C. rolled her eyes heavenward on the first bite. 11 Fabulous, ” she sighed. I appreciated the hunks of chewy brownie, C.C. the strong shot of banana flavor. In comparison, Mother’s Key lime pie ($3.95) was merely ordinary.
C.C. and her mom ran into one of the twenty in the rest room. The young woman, trying in vain to balance her Budweiser on the lip of the sink, looked at them as if they might be escapees from Leisure World. “You two out for a night on the town?” she asked. “That’s so cute.” It was 7 P.M. “Better get us home,” a laughing C.C. said upon returning from the ladies’ room. “We’re in violation of old-farts’ curfew.
August 13, 2010
Dave & Marc,
I wanted to take a moment and thank you both, along with your entire staff, for a hugely successful afternoon on Saturday. Neither my wife nor I could have imagined the day going as incredibly well as it did. The room was set perfectly, the food was amazing, service was swift and a great time was had by all. Along with Marc, Reds and Clare took great care of all of our needs prior to and during the event. All of our guests absolutely raved about the food and about the room and restaurant as a whole.
Thank you again for making it all around a great day for my entire family.
Have a good evening.
District Manager – Baltimore
February 25, 2010
Thank you so much for all of your help in making my party a huge success. Not only was it a wonderful turnout, but the staff was accommodating and courteous. My boyfriend was so surprised and I could not be happier with my decision of choosing Mother’s as the venue.
Have a great day!
December 3, 2008
I just wanted to send a note your way to THANK your excellent staff for a great late afternoon/early evening at Mothers after the Navy/Notre Dame Football game on November 15, 2008. We had arranged for a group of 20 fans to gather at mothers after the game, and it could not have been a better time. Mr. Mark Boyd expertly took care of us from the moment we arrived until we walked out the door. Despite the usual filled-to-capacity crowd, the tables were available and the staff was ready to give us “First Class” treatment! We were made to feel very comfortable and did not have to wait for a sing thing. The two waitresses were quick with the drinks, careful to get the extensive orders right and extremely attentive. The delicious food was expertly prepared by the kitchen and delivered by the waitresses all at the same time and at just the right temperature. It could not have been more enjoyable or better! Please extend a hearty “WELL DONE” from a gang of Navy fans to all your staff under the very able leadership of Mr. Boyd — He, and they, really did go above and beyond!
Kenneth W. Kuehne
Captain, US Navy (ret.)
May 26, 2000
Dear Mr. Rather:
I’m sending you this note of thanks, for allowing us to host the final meeting of the school year for the athletic directors of The Baltimore City Public School System, at Mother’s. We enjoyed a great meeting on May 19. The food was fantastic. Everyone enjoyed the accommodations and of course their meals.
Patty, our hostess, helped make our sort business meeting at your establishment a real pleasure. We also wish to extend thanks to her for the fine and gracious service she provided to everyone present.
In closing, a Hollywood strongman once said in one of his famous movies, “I’All be back”. Well, ditto! This, along with our thanks, goes out to you and your staff from the Baltimore City School’s A.D.’s