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June 15, 2024

Akbar offers good food in a quirky setting

By RENEE SCAVONE | September 28, 2017


COURTESY OF RENEE SCAVONE Akbar is an Indian restaurant located below the streets of Mount Vernon.

I’ve never claimed to be a beacon of good taste, but I like to think that I know a good Indian place when I eat at one.

Akbar Restaurant in Mount Vernon may be a slightly longer commute than Tamber’s, but the quality does not disappoint. The restaurant is the type of place you might miss if you aren’t paying attention. Akbar is located semi-underground, which is kind of a bonus.

I have personally always loved lower level locations, whether they be apartments, shops or anything else. There’s something sort of exclusive about going downstairs to get places: Welcome to Baltimore’s Hottest Underground Indian Restaurant.

Inside, the restaurant continues its rather chic vibe. The walls are exposed brick and warmly stained wood paneling, and the tables have actual cloth napkins and tablecloths.

If there was a litmus test to establish if a restaurant is a classy affair,  it has to be whether or not you end up using stolen Chipotle napkins to clean up your food. Booth seating is available, which is another obvious plus.

When I first arrived at the restaurant, it was to meet some out-of-town family for a meal. It was a rather late dinner, Friday at 9 p.m., but I was surprised at just how empty the place was, especially given that it doesn’t close until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays.

This apparently had not deterred my family. When I walked in, they were sitting at one of the aforementioned booths. Despite being one of two parties in the entire restaurant, they were seated directly next to the only other patrons.

By close, I mean my family and two people on what I could later only guess to be a very strange first date were on two tables at either side of the same booth wall.

Initially I assumed that my relatives had picked the neighborly spots and were simply revealing themselves to be the most Midwestern people on the planet. I came to find out, however, that they were purposefully put there by the server.

As someone who has logged a lot of hard hours in food service, I appreciated this as a way to save time and energy. As someone who was trying to catch up with family, it was a little odd to be able to look directly into the eyes (and I did, very frequently) of literally everyone else in the restaurant.

That being said, it had been a long day, and when our orders came out, I truly only had eyes for my meal. As the second most bland human being on the planet, I almost always get vegetable jalfrezi (credited as jalfreji on their menu). Akbar did a good job at this, which is always a good and comforting sign.

My sister, the first most bland human on the planet, got the chicken curry, which she immediately assured me was “too spicy.” Another great sign for fans of real Indian food.

If you’re really trying to ball out, though, I suggest springing for the crab malabar. The meal is perfect for out-of-towners because it features crab (of course) and is also seasoned well and strongly enough to make a good leftover even after you forget it’s in your fridge for a week.

The dish’s biggest shortcomings are the fact that it costs over $20 and has fennel in it, but sometimes we have to make do with what we can get.

On this first trip I also tried kheer, a rice pudding-based dessert. Our server gave it to us for free, insisting that my entire family try it to complete their full Akbar dining experience.

Like any college student, I am hard pressed to ever say a mean word about free food, but to my uncultured eye, the kheer seemed to be pretty good.

In general, the suggestions of our waitress were good and, though not exactly timely, the service was quite pleasant.

Our fellow patrons, who were located in an incredibly convenient spot for communication, informed us that this was one of their top five restaurants in Baltimore. However, the Hooters in the Inner Harbor also made that list, so do with that information what you will.

All in all, while Akbar does require you to take the JHMI to Peabody and is slightly more expensive than Tamber’s, the experience is worth the extra hassle. The restaurant also offers pretty inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffets, if you’re really trying to justify getting Indian food.

So go ahead, sit by the sunken front window and laugh at the people rushing up and down North Charles to get to their above-ground law offices or whatever. Surface dwellers.

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