Kit Waskom Pollard writes about restaurants, food and other things that make Baltimore great, for numerous publications, including the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore’s Child, and on her blog Mango & Ginger (www.mangoandginger.blogspot.com).
Historically, Charm City has been known more for down and dirty, Natty Boh-fueled crab feasts than fine dining. But over the past few years, a serious food culture has sprung up in and around the city. You can’t go wrong with our crabs, of course, but these days, our kitchens are known for more than their skill with crustaceans. IAEE Expo! Expo! attendees are in for a treat when you arrive in Baltimore this December!
Photos courtesy of Atlas Restaurant Group
Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods – little enclaves, some only a few blocks in diameter, each with its own distinct personality. And each with its own food culture.
From the Convention Center and the Baltimore Hilton, many of the city’s best food neighborhoods are walkable; others are just a short cab or Uber ride away. Here are a few reliable local favorites, by neighborhood:
The area immediately outside the Convention Center is home to tons of restaurants, many of which are chains – from The Capital Grille steakhouse (www.thecapitalgrille.com) to Shake Shack (www.shakeshack.com).
Locals and tourists alike love the cocktails and creative American food at B&O Brasserie (www.bandorestaurant.com), a great-looking space in the Hotel Monaco, just a short walk up Charles Street.
One of Baltimore’s loveliest and most historic neighborhoods, Mount Vernon is a short walk north from downtown. Stroll up Charles Street to The Helmand (www.helmand.com), our beloved Afghan restaurant, or stop for top notch Italian in a gorgeous space at Sotto Sopra (www.sottosoprainc.com).
Just south of downtown, Federal Hill is a fun historic neighborhood with dozens of good restaurants. Get drinks and dinner at Bookmakers Cocktail Club (www.bookmakersbaltimore.com), wings and creatively-topped fries at The Local Fry (www.thelocalfry.com) or oysters and crushes – a locally famous juice-and-vodka cocktail – at Ryleigh’s Oyster (www.ryleighs.com).
Located to the east of downtown, Harbor East is newly developed, glossy and full of high-end dining experiences. Azumi (www.azumirestaurant.com), in the Four Seasons Hotel, serves some of the city’s best Japanese fare; Wit + Wisdom (www.witandwisdombaltimore.com), also in the Four Seasons, is home to fabulous American food, a bar serving creative cocktails, and a patio boasting some of the best views in the city.
Other don’t-miss spots in Harbor East include Cinghiale (www.cgeno.com) for thoughtful Italian, Fleet Street Kitchen (www.fleetstretkitchen.com) for interesting American food and Ouzo Bay Greek Kouzina, (www.ouzobay.com) for splashy Greek dishes (and more great views).
As its name suggests, Little Italy – a small neighborhood just north of Harbor East – is home to some of Baltimore’s oldest and most beloved Italian restaurants. Bmore natives fight over which red sauce joint is the best – Chiapparelli’s (www.chiapparellis.com) and Sabatino’s (www.sabatinos.com) are frequent faves – though in recent years, a younger generation of Italian-American Baltimoreans have made names for themselves, opening spots like Pane e Vino (408 South High Street, 410-685-3300), a cozy, fun wine bar.
Fells Point is pure Baltimore. Charming, historic and quirky, this seafaring neighborhood is full of fun bars and restaurants. Fans of interesting cocktails – and the food that goes with them – will enjoy Rye (www.ryebaltimore.com); those looking for more traditional burger-and-beer fare should try Kooper’s Tavern (www.kooperstavern.com). Thames Street Oyster House (www.thamesstreetoysterhouse.com) is one of the city’s hottest reservations; it’s a great place for oysters and other seafood dishes.
Hampden, Remington & Clipper Mill
These quirky neighborhoods, just a short drive north of downtown, are home to some of Baltimore’s most celebrated restaurants, including Woodberry Kitchen (www.woodberrykitchen.com), the farm-to-table place helmed by recent James Beard Award winner Spike Gjerde.
“The Avenue” – Hampden’s 36th Street – is lined with fun shops and laid back restaurants serving excellent food and drinks. Some favorites include The Food Market (www.thefoodmarketbaltimore.com), Le Garage (www.legaragebaltimore.com) and 13.5% Wine Bar (www.135winebar.com).
A word of warning: parking in Hamdpen can be tight, especially during the holiday season, when the 700 block of 34th Street goes wild with its famously over-the-top Christmas lights display.
For more information about Expo Expo and to learn more about Baltimore, visit www.myexpoexpo.com.