Looking for casual, sophisticated, al fresco dining? Here’s three spots close to home

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Village Square Cafe

Every few weeks, on a Friday night, my husband and I meet up with his oldest pal and his wife. Inevitably we choose to dine at Donna’s in Cross Keys. It’s close to both our homes, and the food is fantastic.

Even on the minor level: I don’t usually order a Caesar salad anywhere because it consists of just a bowl of Romaine lettuce with some croutons on top. But the Caesar at Donna’s is unlike any other salad I’ve ever eaten. I don’t know what the secret is, but I promise you will flip!

When I asked co-owner Alan Hirsch recently what was up for spring, he said, “We’ve made some changes to our menu for spring, and there are more to come. Our patio is officially open, and we’re seating on it whenever it’s over 65 degrees during the day. Note that when you reserve at Donna’s Cross Keys, you can reserve an outside table simply by asking for it (both over the phone and online). This particular patio has been named as one of the dreamiest in Baltimore by various travel sites.

Patio dining at Donna’s

Alan named some of the new menu items, including Thai Calamari Salad, featuring lots of greens, sauteed calamari, and housemade sweet lime dressing; Fattoush Salad, a Middle Eastern Salad, dressed with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and mint; house-made three-cheese Spring Ravioli topped with spinach and asparagus; and a Grilled Lamb Burger, served on warm pita with harissa and dill yogurt.

From the bar, they’re featuring a Cucumber Margarita; a Blueberry Old Fashioned and  Blueberry Lemonade made with Cold River vodka. “Of course,” Alan said, “we have lots of rose wines and other wines that are patio-perfect.”

Over at the Village Square Cafe, owner Rosann Glick said, “We are just not the kind of restaurant that changes our menu seasonally. We’ve always strived just to keep things simple and fresh and focus on being a great gathering spot.

“As spring comes into full bloom,” she said, “area Baltimoreans will flock to the Village Square Cafe to enjoy dining on our lovely outdoor garden patio—one of the nicest al fresco dining options in town.” Look for more fresh salad specials, crab dishes and their very popular homemade gazpacho as spring gives way to summer. While the food is always a winner, the true attraction at the Village Square Cafe is its warm and welcoming vibe that attracts business and non-profit leaders, politicians, and families alike.

“We have a reputation for casual, yet attentive, service, making us a hub of activity at the Village of Cross Keys.”

They are open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week along with dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. There’s live music every Saturday night from 6-7:30 pm featuring talented local musicians. They usually have displays by local artists as well and even have the occasional open mic night.

Scoozi patio dining

And the contemporary Italian restaurant Scoozi, at the Cross Keys Radisson, has a courtyard patio at which you can dine or just enjoy drinks on these—finally—warm days and evenings.

“This spring brings new things for Scoozi, the restaurant as well as Scoozi’s bar and lounge area” manager Jennifer Reynolds said. “Starting Mid-May our cocktails will be updated, trendy, fun and fresh. Our bartenders will present these handcrafted artisan cocktails with a twist—using fresh fruit ice in each cocktail. We’ll have our signature Margaritas and more as Monday specials from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. Beginning in June, we will start our Yappy Hour, inviting Cross Keys residents and the local community along with their pets to enjoy fresh homemade dog biscuits and homemade cookies for the owners. We only ask guests to bring a small donation for our local SPCA.”

May also means Mother’s Day! Who could forget, whether you are a mom, have a mom, or are married to a mom. Scoozi is having a special Mother’s Day Brunch on May 13 that promises to wow mom and her fam.

And any time at all, the lobby bar is a comfortable place to meet up with friends or relax before or after dinner.

And you though Cross Keys was just for shopping.

The Village of Cross Keys is located at 5100 Falls Road in Roland Park.  Visit its website for more information.



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