Chef Profile: George Dailey, of Bolton Hill’s “On the Hill”
Informal international flair in a neighborhood setting . . .
Above: George Dailey, chef-proprietor of On the Hill and Centro Tapas Bar, in Baltimore.
– FOODWISE BALTIMORE-
A friend introduced me to On the Hill shortly after I moved to Baltimore. I have continued going there and recommending it to friends without knowing how and why this little corner café and take-out could be so good. As with so many good stories, this one starts with adventure, love and food.
George Daily and his wife Jessica are the owners of On the Hill, in Bolton Hill, and Centro Tapas Bar, in Federal Hill. George is the chef/proprietor of both.
George Dailey was born near Oxford University in Slough, England where his father currently has two pub-style restaurants. When Dailey was a child, he moved with his mother to Venezuela, where he loved the food. Travel in Spain expanded his Latin palate. As a youth, Dailey spent time in England and worked in his father’s restaurants.
Looking for adventure, Dailey moved to Boston and became the executive sous chef at East Meets West Caterers, the premiere caterer in the region. He met and fell in love with Jessica, who was working as an event planner and soon they started making plans to have their own place. Jessica’s family lives in Baltimore and when they married and had a child, this became home. George’s mother, Coqui, moved here, as well and is responsible for the addictive coconut flan at On the Hill.
This is a long-winded way of explaining how a chef with international credentials and tastes came to Baltimore, bringing with him the experience of the unfussy neighborhood food and culture of his dad’s pubs, fine Spanish cuisine, and a major caterer’s top-quality prep and service discipline.
When they moved to Bolton Hill, the Daileys had spotted a little café on the corner of John and Mosher streets and coveted it. George went in and asked the owners if they knew of a similar place he could buy. One of the owners asked, “Do you want to buy this one? George answered, “yes.” In two months Dailey became the owner of On the Hill. Since 2004 he’s been doing everything right.
The atmosphere is very casual, regulars talk to each other and to strangers. The walls have an ever-changing show of art and a bulletin board holds notes and notices.
Traditional breakfast sandwiches are available every day, as is the savory breakfast burrito. For lunch, my two favorite sandwiches are The Lanvale (home-cooked roast beef, with horseradish cream, field greens and red onion on ciabatta) and On the Hill Club, which I think is big enough for two, especially if you each favor a cup of the soup-of-the-day. Vegetarians will find much to their liking – especially when the Vietnamese Spring Rolls are on the menu. In the evening, go for the Rice, Beans and Sweet Plantains; if you are not a vegetarian add spiced chicken or pork. The premium burgers are moist even when well-done. You can build your own or go for the Zola Burger, if as I do, you like Gorgonzola.
Dailey gets to work early in the morning and sets the day’s menu with the staff. (In the afternoon he heads to Centro). He is very relaxed and pleasant and that seems to be true of everyone who works there. In the winter, there are seven tables inside that seat 18 and in warm weather a few tables and chairs are added outside. More than half the crowd wants take-out – which is all made to order with a great array of beverages.
On the Hill is open from 7 AM until 9 PM Monday through Friday. On Saturday they open at 8 AM, Sunday at 9 AM and close at 9 both days. 1431 John Street @ the corner of Mosher. Telephone 410 225 9667. The website www.onthehillcafe.com will keep you up to the minute.
(PS: One night soon I am going to Centro and sample the Tapas and tell you about them and the other food there.)
This is the first in a new feature on Baltimore Brew, “Foodwise Baltimore,” by Francine Halvorsen. (You’ve been swilling our Brew, readers, but you’ve gotta eat too!)
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.