Baltimore has great news for foodies: Each distinct neighborhood’s unique personality shines through its culinary scene.
By Hope S. Philbrick
What most defines Baltimore cuisine is its waterfront location and laid-back attitude.
The Chesapeake Bay makes itself known by way of crab and seafood—it would be a challenge to find a restaurant without some seafood on its menu. (Barring an allergy, I can’t fathom why you’d want to.) Seafood reigns, but menus are far from predictable. As is true nationwide, today’s leading Baltimore chefs showcase fresh ingredients, local produce and give regional go-to recipes creative new spins.
Yet Baltimore’s food is as unpretentious as its people. While there’s a strong sense of pride in local, non-chain restaurants with authentic, fresh food and inventive menu items, highly rated establishments aren’t full of highfalutin snobs. (Odds are, any folks with their noses in the air are out-of-towners.) At even the hottest neighborhood restaurants regulars are known by name.
Fabulous to funky, swanky to homey, classic to trendy, Baltimore boasts a mix of dining options. Get to know the city one neighborhood and restaurant at a time. Our guide will help you get started.
When you think of Baltimore, this is the view that most likely springs to mind, since it’s the most photographed area of the city. A major seaport since the 1700s, Inner Harbor is the heart of Baltimore.
Miss Shirley’s Café
750 E. Pratt St.
Locals and visitors alike are lured here by dishes like crab and fried green tomato eggs benedict and coconut cream-stuffed French toast. If you wake up with a sweet tooth, be sure to get breakfast here.
Federal Hill boasts Baltimore’s best view from atop its namesake grassy knoll, where patriots celebrated Maryland’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Today the neighborhood is home to a mix of new professionals and empty nesters.
36 E. Cross St.
Quality ingredients, confidently prepared. If you skip their crab and lobster mac and cheese, I can’t forgive you.
24 E. Cross St.
The city’s first green-certified restaurant roasts free-trade coffee beans and serves irresistible pastries.
A vibrant waterfront community with cobblestone streets and historic architecture, Fell’s Point is popular with filmmakers (it’s appeared in Sleepless in Seattle and Homicide: Life in the Streets), tourists and locals.
737 S. Broadway
This standout pours Baltimore’s largest beer selection, boasting 140 varieties on tap and over 1,200 by the bottle.
802 S. Broadway
Tasty, organic treats satisfy taste buds with maximum flavor. Frozen confections get top billing, but on cold days don’t miss their hot chocolate.
Hampden is the hub of hipster chic and eccentric kitsch, a place where everybody calls you ‘hon.’
1002 W. 36th St.
This local treasure is more than a place to get your fill of classic diner fare and traditional local dishes: It’s the business that launched this neighborhood’s renewal and host of the annual HonFest.
Home to some of the city’s newest hotels and other businesses, this still emerging neighborhood is being transformed into one of Baltimore’s swankiest.
1425 Aliceanna St.
This upscale eatery brings Mediterranean flair to its menu with dishes like Neopolitan pizza, regional cheeses, house-made breads, grilled seafood, spit-roasted game and aged ribeyes as well as its 100-label wine list.
615 President St.
Ceviche at its best. The kitchen here proves that creativity and quality can live in harmony.
Once entirely industrial, Locust Point is best known as the home of Fort McHenry, the place that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem during the War of 1812.
921 E. Fort Ave., Suite 135
Creative menu, unpretentious setting. Sip from over 30 wines by the glass alongside charcuterie, cheese and upscale creations by Chef Jason Lear.
The city’s cultural district, Mount Vernon is home to an art institute, music conservatory and university.
1106 N. Charles St.
Wet your whistle on these finely crafted microbrews. The sampler makes it easy to taste each variety.
1001 Cathedral St.
While in Baltimore order crab at least once. This is a great place to get it. The chef transforms the quintessential Baltimore ingredient into dishes that are at once familiar and brand new. Don’t miss the cream of crab soup.
Sascha’s 527 Café
527 N. Charles St.
Eclectic menu, swanky setting. The menu offers appealing options for vegetarians as well as omnivores.
405 N. Charles St.
The menu offers a range of temptations, though on any given visit you can also trust that the special is worthy of your attention.
If the architecture in this neighborhood isn’t enough to make you feel transported overseas, the food will clinch it.
Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano
306 S. High St.
Whatever you order at Aldo’s, it’s bound to be the best you’ve ever tasted—even if you recently toured Italy. (If this isn’t the best Italian food you’ve ever tasted, then you must have an Italian grandmother who should open a restaurant, stat.) A romantic mood makes Aldo’s a popular setting for engagements.
The city that bills itself as “a multicultural, family friendly, pet friendly and gay travel friendly destination that offers something for everyone” has a vibrant downtown.
B&O American Brassiere
2 N. Charles St.
The menu is a mouthwatering collection of quality ingredients, expertly prepared. The fact that it changes with the seasons is just a welcome excuse to keep coming back. The bar excels alongside the kitchen.
-Photo Credits: skyline, steamed crabs courtesy Visit Baltimore; servers courtesy Pazo; scallops courtesy B&O American Brassiere.
Research was conducted while on assignment for Sunday Paper, where this story was first published. Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.