At the corner of Eastern and Central Avenues it is hard to say whether By Degrees Cafe is Little Italy or Harbor East here in Baltimore. One percentage of a degree here or there probably would clarify the question. Although, their culinary map is a couple degrees changed from your normal expectations with slight twists to enhance your meal and tantalize your palate.
Chef Omar Semidey, professionally trained at the French Culinary Institute, did his due diligence in his native Big Apple culinary arena. He journeyed to Baltimore just about four years ago and during that time continued to grow his culinary chops at The Wine Market, Wit & Wisdom and with the Bagby Restaurant Group’s Fleet Street Kitchen. His restaurant repertoire immersed him in how to do it right; service, food and libations.
By Degrees Cafe is as much about lunch as it is about dinner. Locals and business folks can simply order on-line and have slow-roasted pork sandwich/spicy aioli, eggplant/crispy mushroom/tofu, pan-roasted chicken/jalapeno aioli/fennel sandwiches on super fresh baguettes ready for pick up, dine in or delivered. Their array of soups, salads, main plates and desserts are more than a degree above what is normally available for lunch.
It was just last week that the husband and I went down to By Degrees Cafe for dinner; we were guests of Chef Semidey. We were there around 6:30 pm and took advantage of the free assigned parking in their parking lot. Should that be full, there is a parking lot just across the street for $3 evening rate or street parking. I must say it was a pleasure not to pay $8 to $10 in valet fees plus tip that is a usual add on for downtown dining.
Casual is the key word here, no need to dress up, The open warehouse, exposed brick décor with the colorful hue of the last moments of sunset floating in the mullion windows screamed urban chic when we arrived. A chalkboard menu and bar greet you on the first level. By Degrees Cafe has a beer and wine license offering an assortment of pale ales, lager and brown ales as well as bottled brews. Wine is available by glass or bottle with a good cross section of reds and whites. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 5 pm to 7 pm - 25% off all beer and wine.
Since it was dinner time we gave a number of dishes a try. One of the specials that night was a stuffing salad with sausage and fennel, in honor of the soon to arrive Thanksgiving meal. The husband went with that but couldn’t keep his fork out of my shaved Brussels sprouts salad with golden raisins, toasted almonds and crunchy Granny Smith apples in a cool, refreshing buttermilk dressing. Salads are available in two sizes.
When I had looked at By Degrees Cafe menu on line and saw pasta Bolognese I knew that would be my choice, like the cafe’s mantra of a couple degrees different, the rigatoni was topped with a beef and pork ragu – the twists were the nicoise olives and herbed ricotta cheese. Chef Semidey is of Puerto Rican heritage and takes his mother’s recipe for roasted pork and updates it with the likes of fennel. The dish is listed as Cuban-style roast pork because of the accompanying black beans and rice.
The decision was tough on what dessert to share. We were both pretty full. We ordered the caramel bread pudding with caramel ice cream and caramel sauce. It was a tossup, we considered their chocolate mousse, with olive oil, sea salt and crunchy chocolate pearls (vegetarian). Chef sent out both.You won’t go wrong with either but if you are only choosing one, go for the chocolate mousse, get two – you won’t want to share and they are only $5 each.
By Degrees Cafe
415 S. Central Avenue
Corner of Eastern Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 522- 0478
Open Monday – Saturday
11:30 am to 4:30pm / 5pm to 9 pm
Lunch & Dinner
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