By Degrees Café

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Before opening By Degrees Café, a decidedly not-too-schmancy 47-seat eatery in a renovated industrial space between Harbor East and Little Italy, Omar Semidey (who has been schooled by some of the country’s top chefs) did his homework. “We took a look at the market to see what other restaurants in the neighborhood were doing,” he says. “But then we changed it—only by a few degrees.” Get it? This subtle shift in the culinary landscape translates into a pared-down, reasonably priced menu of “simple foods with a twist,” according to the chef/owner, who has also worked at The Wine Market and Fleet Street Kitchen. For example, Semidey’s butternut squash soup has a touch of curry and his BLT is made with apple-wood smoked bacon, fresh greens, cherry tomatoes and tarragon aioli on a baguette. Naturally, the lunchbox specials have already become popular with the Legg Mason and Laureate set. For those sometimes-necessary “liquid lunches” (or dinners), there’s a small but well-edited beer and wine list, too. No dress code, no reservations—and free parking. (A welcome treat downtown.) 415 S. Central Ave, http://www.bydegreescafe.com
—Simone Ellin

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