Charm City Cook: My Favorite Restaurant. There, I said it.

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PABU bar

I use the phrase “one of my favorites” a lot. I don’t like to single anyone out…for fear of hurt feelings (maybe it’s the youngest of six and only girl thing?). I don’t like to ruffle feathers. I like happy. I guess I’m okay with being the diplomat. I like peace…my inner Quaker.

The “favorite” thing in reference to restaurants is an especially hard one. I started writing this blog about three years ago, (here is my first post) and I’ve had some seriously great food and drinks prepared and served by AMAZINGLY talented people. So, until now, I’ve been super polite. But I gotta ‘fess up. I have an actual favorite – it’s PABU. There, I said it.

When I visited PABU for the first time last summer, I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered, what is an izakaya? Do they just have sushi? Um, sake? It was completely new to me – and to Baltimore for that matter. But I was excited. I love learning and I love food, so I was in. And all of my questions were answered on that first visit. Now, a year later, after countless visits, tasting almost every cocktail, trying any dish they put in front of me and getting to know the people there, I can say with 100 percent certainty that it’s the one place I want to go over and over.

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A friend recently told me that she wasn’t sure what to order on a recent visit to PABU. My advice? First, ask questions. Always ask questions (in general a good idea at restaurants, they want help you enjoy the experience) and go with what sounds good to you. Here is a short list of my go-to items. Cannot miss with these, and this is just a jumping off point.

happy spoons PABU
Happy Spoon (< click on this to learn more)

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Ahi Tuna Poke

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Chili Glazed Ribs

Ken Roll

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Jonah’s Fried Chicken
(it’s not always on the menu…when it is, order it!)

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                                                Photo by PABU
Sushi and sashimi (when in doubt…start with yellowtail!)

And, then there are the adult beverages. Sake, cocktails, beer and wine. And, the whiskey! So many choices. Again, let them guide you…especially on the extensive sake menu (it can seem very overwhelming) – PABU has the largest selection on the East Coast (Baltimore beats New York = fancy pants!). There is a sake for every taste – and do not ever drink sake hot. As I learned in Sake 101 class led by sake sommelier Tiffany Soto, sake is a pasteurized product (think of it like milk) and should be kept cold always to maintain its quality. So, let them help you on the sake.


Head Bartender Nick Jones creates new cocktails all the time, so every time you go you can try something new. Here are some of my favorites.

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Cobra Kai – sake, lillet rouge, white tea syrup,
lime juice and sparking wine


Sora – Hanger One Mandarin vodka, lemon,
strawberry, orange bitters and lemon bitter soda

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Beika – gin, strawberry rhubarb syrup, lemon
and maraschino liqueur

As I go around Baltimore visiting restaurants, chefs and beverage folks, I ask, “Where do you want to go on your day off?” The answer over and over? PABU. Seriously. We’ve (food) nerded out about the beauty that is the happy spoon, the general vibe of the place, the unbelievable sake list and more. The food and drink is top notch, but the service is also. At PABU, they take care of you. They want you to relax and have fun. (Done and done.)


Here’s something fun: PABU is throwing an 80s party! On Tuesday, August 6 from 6:30-10:00, come to PABU with your Madonna bracelets, preppy handbook, new wave hair…whatever 80s thing is your fave. The $29 all you can eat food selections include Okodogs, Loco Moco (Chef Jonah’s take on Stouffer’s frozen meals) and more. Also, pastry chef Chris Ford will offer his twists on Twinkies and HoHos. And Nick is making house-made wine coolers. Remember? Bartles and Jaymes? Oh, dear. Feel like I’m back in high school right now, in someone’s backyard wearing my OP shorts, Ray-Bans and the Lacoste collar is UP!

Costumes are not required, but reservations are encouraged! Call 410-223-1464 for resies.

While I realize that PABU might not be at the top of my list forever and ever…for now…it’s my absolute fave. Give it a try. Go on a Wednesday…it’s Happy Hour all night (hello, 1/2 price sake.)

Tell them I sent you.

Read more at Charm City Cook.

Amy Langrehr

Amy Langrehr is the blogger and Instagrammer behind Charm City Cook.She writes about food, drink, cooking and more in her hometown of Baltimore.
Amy Langrehr

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