Some restaurants are so beloved they’re practically holy; to change them even the tiniest bit would be blasphemous.

Consider the backlash online to Never On Sunday’s decision to rebrand and open an additional day. According to its website, the longtime Mount Vernon deli, which first opened more than 60 years ago, is now called “Nevers” and, yes, will serve on Sundays come fall.

“This feels like an April Fools Joke,” someone wrote on Facebook in response to the news. “This feels dirty.”

“They are renaming it to ‘sometimes on Sundays,’ ” quipped another.

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Baltimoreans’ passion for the classics was also apparent in the responses I received to a recent question on Twitter, the social media platform that just underwent a quixotic rebranding of its own (it’s now called X). I asked readers to tell me about restaurant meals they miss, whether the decadent burgers at the Hamilton Tavern or the affordable doughnuts and peach cake at Hoehn’s in Highlandtown.

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As I did for a recent column on go-to restaurant meals, I tallied the responses in a spreadsheet, which Banner project manager Ruby Yuan transformed into a handy graphic below. (Ruby, like many people who responded to my initial post, misses Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen in Locust Point).

The institutions

Unsurprisingly, storied Baltimore German restaurant Haussner’s, which closed in 1999, came up a lot. One person reminisced how the side salad at the Highlandtown eatery — also home to a freakishly large ball of string — was served with the vegetables separated into individual sections. “Everyone remembers the art, the ball of twine, the desserts, and the entrees but that salad is an indelible part of my childhood memories.” Others are still dreaming of the restaurant’s strawberry pie.

I got FOMO reading memories of Marconi’s, especially that hot fudge sundae. The restaurant spent nearly nine decades at 106 W. Saratoga St. before Orioles owner Peter Angelos closed it down in 2005, according to The Baltimore Business Journal. Carolyn Buck remembers: “The chopped salad at Marconi’s, followed by one of their excellent entrees, ending with the hot fudge sundae. My family dined there one year to celebrate my birthday. Long wait for our table which my now adult kids still talk about.”

Three readers mentioned Connolly’s Seafood, which closed in 1991 after many generations along the Inner Harbor.

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Mount Vernon gathering spots

Baltimoreans also have fond memories of Louie’s Bookstore Cafe and Gampy’s, both once in Mount Vernon. In fact, Gampy’s, short for “Great American Melting Pot,” got more mentions than any other eatery. Several readers specifically called out the restaurant’s Monte Cristo Sandwich, which The Baltimore Sun described as “a deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich served with a warm raspberry sauce that was something of a late-night classic in Gampy’s glory days.” The restaurant shuttered and is now home to Marie Louise Bistro.

Don Friedman ran the 72-seat eatery with his late father, Phil, a prominent restaurateur who everyone called “Pinny.” Gampy’s, Friedman said, was a bustling and lively venue. It stayed open late, until 3 a.m., when staff blasted music as loud as a disco. When customers left, Friedman said, “Your body was literally throbbing with the energy of that place.”

Former Sun restaurant critic Richard Gorelick was a big fan of Louie’s, which got six mentions in reader comments. “It was a perfect place,” Gorelick told me, with a display case of “the best desserts in Baltimore.” The business at 518 N. Charles St. closed more than two decades ago and has been home to several spots since, most recently, The Civil, which ended its run in Mount Vernon this year (though an owner said it would relocate).

“It became a real part of the community, particularly the arts community,” said former owner Jimmy Rouse, whose father was the late developer of Columbia and Cross Keys. He hired artists and hosted regular shows of their work. “Everywhere I go, people ask me why I don’t open it back up,” said Rouse, who is also an artist himself and runs a nonprofit called Transit Choices. He tells them: “I really miss it, but I don’t miss running it.”

Watering holes

Looking to own a new restaurant in Baltimore? Reopen The Dizz. Judging from the responses to my post, the Remington corner bar’s various burgers and rotating dessert case are permanently seared in the consciousness of certain Baltimore diners. (After shutting down in 2019, the space became home to Let’s Brunch, which did not last long.) Other readers are still craving the onion rings at Burke’s, described in The Sun “as a tough waterfront watering hole where punches flew as regularly as shots were poured.” Open in 1934, the downtown haunt finally closed its doors in 2011.

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Remember Dionysus? Readers do. Wrote one: “[I] miss and think about the wings from Dionysus in Mt. Vernon daily.”

Lunch spots

Restaurants don’t need to be fancy to earn a place in our hearts. Many readers mourned lost lunch spots like Soup’s On in Hampden (no relation to the cafe in Midtown-Belvedere of the same name, apparently) as well as Sascha’s 527, once on Charles Street. “I miss Sascha’s chopped salads every day. Those roasted carrots were *chef’s kiss*,” someone wrote.

Joe Benny’s chef and owner Joseph Gardella stands behind the bar.
Joe Benny’s chef and owner Joseph Gardella stands behind the bar of the Little Italy restaurant, which closed in 2023. (Jamyla Krempel/The Baltimore Banner)

Recent losses

Several recent restaurant closures still sting for Baltimore diners. Among them: City Cafe, which shut down in May 2020, Joe Benny’s in Little Italy and Baba’s in Locust Point. Those last two eateries shut down just this year after seemingly braving the worst of the pandemic, shocking longtime customers.

Two readers mentioned Common Ground, the Hampden coffee shop that closed just last month.

Politicos eat, too

Elected officials aren’t immune from lost restaurant nostalgia. Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey offered a long list of places and dishes that he misses, including the breakfast platter at the late Jimmy’s Restaurant, a Fells Point favorite for politicos, as well as the chicken panang at Thairish, a Mount Vernon eatery that several respondents expressed grief over. Meanwhile, Maryland state Sen. Jill P. Carter recalled the late night mussels at Gampy’s.

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Restaurants under new ownership

Then there are the places that are still around — but aren’t the same as they used to be.

Though Fells Point’s One-Eyed Mike’s remains open, the bar has changed hands since its founding, and no longer serves the lasagna that one reader still misses. “[I]t was so good when Mike was still with us!” Another reader says the Caesar salad at The Brewer’s Art used to be better when it came with Parmesan crisps and anchovies.

The moral? In Baltimore, you don’t mess with the classics.

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