Eating in Baltimore can mean a cheap and cheerful beef joint in a strip club parking lot or high-end dining in Harbor East. The Maryland city has culinary delights for all types of food fan
Believe it or not, Baltimore is not a war zone. Television shows such as Homicide: Life on the Street, The Corner and, most notably, The Wire have painted a bleak portrait of the city. As with all works of fiction, there is a kernel of truth in the story, but the city is not the feverish hellhole we view through our flatscreens. Baltimore is a friendly and proud place, and one that has a diverse love of food.
Maryland (the state that houses Baltimore) is bordered by the sea on one side and, on the other, mountains and farmland. There is a rich local bounty, which we as Baltimoreans (I was born and bred here) can choose from, and a range of culinary options.
Not surprisingly, Baltimore is known for its seafood, and if there’s one sea creature that we covet above all others, it would have to be the blue crab. We like our crabs steamed, covered in old bay (a local seasoning) and piled high on to brown paper, to await being picked apart by hand, washed down with a cold beer. A real local’s place to enjoy this fantastic delicacy is LP Steamers in the Locust Point neighbourhood. It’s not a particularly fancy place (no true crab house really is), but it is Baltimore through and through.
If getting down and dirty with a crab isn’t your thing, then a crab cake might be more your speed. Faidley Seafood in the historic Lexington Market is the place to go for a giant backfin meat crab cake unlike any other you’ll find in Baltimore. Crispy on the outside, soft and luxurious on the inside, these crab cakes will make a fan of anyone who has never previously had the pleasure to eat one.Nungwi Village
Oysters are another culinary treasure to Baltimoreans, and Thames Street Oyster House, in the old port neighbourhood of Fells Point, delivers these beautiful bivalves in an upscale setting. Choose from local oysters and others plucked from up and down the east coast, as well as regional modern American seafood dishes… It’s a seafoodies’ paradise.Nungwi Village
Different parts of the US have their own unique barbecue, and Baltimore is no different. We have pit beef – a large hunk of beef (usually a rump roast) that has been dry rubbed, smoked, grilled to rare, sliced paper thin and served on a Kaiser roll with onions, mustard and horseradish. The best is made at Chaps Charcoal Restaurant. Housed in the parking lot of a strip club (yes, you read that right), Chaps has been serving the best pit beef in town for over 25 years. If you’re an ardent carnivore in Baltimore, Chaps is a must-visit.
Just because Baltimore has a working-class exterior doesn’t mean we don’t like to get dressed up occasionally, and head out for a gourmet meal. Charleston, in the Harbor East part of town, has been winning awards regionally and nationally since it opened in 1997. Chef Cindy Wolf, along with her wine director and co-owner Tony Foreman, has been at the forefront of fine dining in Baltimore, and although an evening here isn’t cheap (three courses from $79, or $117 with wine, going up to six courses for $114/$179), it’s worth it.
Baltimore is a city that loves food and wants to share it. It’s an easy city to fall in love with as a gourmand in search of new and delicious experiences.
John Houser III, cook and food writer for the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore City Paper, and he blogs at rouxde.blogspot.com
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