Baltimore Dining

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Baltimore Dining
Baltimore’s food scene celebrates local traditions while merging them with new and innovative cuisine. There are both classic casual restaurants and modern special occasion dining options, all served with a twist.
By Elizabeth Doerr, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Edwin Ramsberg/age fotostock
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    Maryland Crab and Seafood
    Maryland is synonymous with the blue crab, and at least one crab feast must be part of your itinerary. Some local favorites include L.P. Steamers, which has daily drinks specials and whose rooftop offers views of the harbor; Costas Inn, which hosts live music on Fridays and karaoke on Saturdays; or Reter's Crabhouse, which is a bit outside the city but has a fun, tropical beach–type vibe. All of them offer a casual dining experience, and excellent crab. For lump crab and crab cakes, go to Duda’s Tavern in Fells Point or Faidley’s in Lexington Market. Thames Street Oyster House does oysters really well.
    Photo by Edwin Ramsberg/age fotostock
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    Immigrant Influence
    Baltimore’s history as an immigration entry point has been a major influence on the food. Authentic Italian fare can be found in Little Italy, especially at Isabella’s and Vaccaro’s, as well as at Trinacria's downtown grocery. The Eastern European influence is strong, too: Ostrowski of Bank Street serves Polish sausages, and Ze Mean Bean Café offers goulash, pierogi, and other Slavic classics. For Mexican head to Tortilleria Sinaloa, where the tacos earn rave reviews thanks to handmade tortillas, or La Sirenita. Baltimore has a restaurant to represent nearly every national cuisine: Try Samos in Greektown, Attman’s Jewish Deli, Chicken Rico’s Peruvian rotisserie chicken, Mekong Delta’s Vietnamese dishes, and The Helmand for Afghan cuisine.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    The Craft Beer Movement
    While Baltimoreans are loyal to their Natty Boh (National Bohemian), many beer connoisseurs are following the city's craft beer movement. Of Love & Regret pub and Birroteca treat fine beer like fine wine, pairing craft brews with gourmet cuisine. Taste local brews at the source, with weekend tastings and occasional food truck rallies at Union Craft Brewing. The Brewer’s Art and Heavy Seas Alehouse are tried and true breweries, serving quality pub grub to complement their tasty beers. Toast to Baltimore beer every October at Baltimore Beer Week at bars and breweries all over the city.
    Photo courtesy of Jordan August/Union Craft Brewing
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    Atmospheric Coffee Shops
    There’s no shortage of atmospheric coffee shops in Baltimore. Artifact Coffee, little sister to Woodberry Kitchen, serves sophisticated pour-over coffee and locally sourced food in a converted cotton mill. In Hampden, Spro serves craft coffee using different methods for different beans, from French press to cold brew. Across from Patterson Park, the tiny Patterson Perk is an excellent place to people-watch with a cup in hand. With a brick and mortar shop in Hamilton, Zeke’s Coffee can be bought by the cup or the pound at numerous restaurants and shops. Many of their their small-batch roasts are named to honor the city, such as Charm City and the Black and Orange blend.
    Photo by Elizabeth Doerr
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    Wine Bars Serving Food
    Baltimore has wine bars that run the gamut from sophisticated to cozy, and many of them serve food as well. The Corner Charcuterie Bar in Hampden has an unassuming and homey setting that could seem at odds with its menu of fantastic wines and the sophisticated cheese and meat platters. Tapas Teatro serves wine and tapas with a modern Spanish vibe. Pick up gourmet treats such as artisanal cheese at Belvedere Square Market before sitting down for a glass of wine at Grand Cru. Sip wine on the water at V-NO or Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point. Other classic wine bars include the Wine Market Bistro, Hampden's 13.5%, and Chesapeake Wine Company.
    Photo by Elizabeth Doerr
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    Track Down the Food Trucks
    Baltimore’s fleet of food trucks keeps growing, and some of them are worth making an effort to track down. The Gypsy Queen dishes out foods with a Maryland influence, such as the crab cone of Old Bay-spiced crab cake over fries. It's hard to believe some of their hand-held delights have come out of a truck. The Jolly Pig serves pulled-pork tacos and filling sandwiches, GrrChe puts a gourmet spin on grilled cheese, and Icedgems Baking has two cupcake trucks. The Charm City Food Trucks website keeps eager food truck aficionados alert to various food truck locations and rallies around the city, and the Baltimore Sun has an online food truck tracker.
    Photo courtesy of DaRua
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    Baltimore's Gourmet Dives
    Walk around any neighborhood in Baltimore and you’re bound to pass small and simple-looking restaurants that offer way more than meets the eye on the outside. In Fells Point, Henninger’s Tavern is a local hideaway that serves delicious pub food and decadent seafood dishes. In the Hamilton neighborhood, Big Bad Wolf serves excellent barbecue in a yellow-brick shack, while Hamilton Tavern’s nondescript exterior hides the outstanding burgers and craft beer found inside. In Station North, Club Charles may seem like a seedy dive bar with its red glow, but once your eyes adjust, you’ll start to appreciate the art deco lounge and the well-stocked jukebox. Furthermore, the eclectic menu has plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians.
    Photo by Elizabeth Doerr
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    Alfresco Dining
    The summer months might get a little sticky, but the long spring and fall make for great outdoor dining in Baltimore. On the harbor, Waterfront Kitchen is the place for fine dining alfresco, while Captain James Crab House is the place for a casual meal in a unique setting shaped like a ship. Tapas Teatro and Thames Street Oyster House both have sidewalk seating, and the latter has a quieter back patio as well. Woodberry Kitchen has an idyllic outdoor patio overlooking the historic Clipper Mill, and diners can congregate at the outdoor fire pit for locally sourced, gourmet fare. Enjoy an elegant meal at Gertrude’s at the Baltimore Museum of Art, with terrace seating surrounding a bubbling fountain and a pool.
    Photo courtesy of Dusan Vuksanovic/Woodberry Kitchen
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    Linger over Brunch
    You can’t beat a slow, leisurely brunch on a lazy weekend morning. Baltimore’s burgeoning brunch scene is becoming more diverse. The line gets long at the tiny Blue Moon Café in Fells Point, but it's worth the wait for decadent dishes like the Cap’n Crunch French toast. Blue Moon Too in Federal Hill is similarly and deservedly busy. Water for Chocolate is another casual and cozy spot with Southern-inspired soul food like barbecue shrimp and grits. Golden West Café is a local favorite with Southwest comfort food and a laid-back vibe. At Maggie's Farm, the fried-to-order doughnuts and chicken and waffles are standouts. For classic and inventive morning cocktails to accompany a gourmet brunch, try The Food Market or Fork & Wrench.
    Photo by Elizabeth Doerr
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    The Sweetest Desserts
    Incredible desserts can be found in many of Baltimore's popular restaurants, and there are several spots that demand you save room. The Charmery ice cream shop changes its flavors regularly, using locally sourced products wherever possible and paying tribute to Baltimore favorites like Old Bay Caramel and Berger Cookies and Cream. Vaccaro’s in Little Italy and Canton is busy late into the evening serving cannoli and tiramisu like a true Italian pastry shop. Dangerously Delicious Pies also keeps late evening hours, slicing up their sweet and savory pies for a post-dinner treat.
    Photo by Amanda Boe