Martick's is widely considered the best French restaurant in Maryland, and is a strong competitor for the best restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. The proprietor, Martick, has been running the place since 1970, and has lived there all his life (he is currently 80). The restaurant is situated in a semi-bad neighborhood, which doesn't seem to have much in the way of life. Next door is a parking garage, and across the street is a burned out martial arts studio. There is no handle on the door; to get in you have to press the buzzer, after which someone will (hopefully) let you in. A former roommate's mother took us all there once; later I heard she had thought we might be walking into a crack house. It's not really that bad, but if you're an out-of-towner, or someone who gets nervous in places like this, it might help to have a local along.

I would say that the interior is bizarre, but that's selling it short. Half of the walls are covered in snakeskin wallpaper, and the rest is riveted sheet metal (the ceiling appears to be tin). All along the sheet metal wall, small holes have been cut and filled with stained glass; these are illuminated from behind by light bulbs. A large wooden statue of a woman holding a loaf of bread stands near one end. And so on...

Anyway, on to the good stuff. Obviously, the specialty at Martick's is French, but a surprising amount of the menu (perhaps a third) is devoted to various Italian and Spanish dishes. The dishes that everybody recommends include the bouillabaisse and the bread pudding. The bread pudding is quite unusual (at least in my experience with bread pudding); it's more like French toast than anything else. For appetizers, I highly recommend a salad of spinach topped with gorgonzola, pear, and pecans. The pecans are OK, the gorgonzola is fantastic, and the sauteed pears are like nothing I've ever experienced. Of course the pate is (really) good, as are the mussels.

Please dress nicely when you come to Martick's. It's not at all required, but you'll feel slightly less awkward about Martick, an 80 year old man who has spent decades running one of the best restaurants in the city, calling your 'sir'. This will almost certainly happen at least once or twice during the night, because whenever Martick isn't in the kitchen cooking, he's out front talking to the customers. Martick is an absolute freak about providing the best possible experience for his customers; I can honestly say I have never experienced better service, for anything, anywhere, ever. It's possible equivalent service can be found in places than are $200 or more per person, but having never been to one I could not say. And while service at a $100 a person restaurant is typically quite good, the big difference for me is that Martick does it because he really cares about his customers having a wonderful time when they come to him. I could only wish I had such dedication to my job.

And most importantly: go soon. The city is considering some major redevelopment in the area, and while they have promised not to bother Martick, he is 80, for crying out loud, he can't do this forever. So go while you still can, and bring friends.

Martick's can be found at 214 W. Mulberry Street, and is open for lunch and dinner. Dinner for two (with wine) will run you $60-100 (plus tip), and lunch can be had for less than $20.

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