September/October 2009.

We always applaud when restaurateurs have the audacity to try something a little different in Baltimore. The newly opened Blue Hill Tavern takes some risks and succeeds on all fronts. It truly is a place where one can go for a casual meal and drinks, or for a more formal, special night out. And the location, though a bit off the beaten path, is worth the drive (plus there's free valet service when you pull up, another bonus). The menu is defined as American contemporary fine dining, and that's a good description; classic entrees such as roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, grilled lamb and Delmonico steak appear on the menu. Appetizers include a fun spin on steak and eggs (sirloin carpaccio, fried quail egg and brioche toast) and a charcuterie plate as well as standbys clams casino and oysters Rockefeller.

But the real star is the design (courtesy of Cahill Studio in New Jersey) of the two-story space. Stunning is an understatement. And spacious -- two bar areas (one upstairs adjoins an outdoor patio), multiple dining rooms and an outdoor balcony dining area on the second floor allow for the crowds to pick their own scene to suit their mood. (938 S. Conkling St., 443-388-9363)