Written mostly by college students, website Spoon University takes a fresh eye to local food scenes across the country. Last week SU posted a list of things to eat in Baltimore (yes, Berger Cookies make the list, but there’s more) by three writers, Emily Hu, Kari Gawlik and Kevin, at Johns Hopkins University. What would you add to the list?
Spoon University –Baltimore may best be known for the Inner Harbor, crabs, and beer, but it has so much more to offer. In fact, Charm City has a unique food culture made up of both old school institutions and some of the biggest emerging names in the culinary world. The sheer quantity of good eats is seemingly endless, so we’ve compiled a list of the 24 can’t-miss things to eat in Baltimore.
1. Old Bay
Though not exactly a food on its own, Old Bay is without a doubt the most important condiment in town. No other blend of spices could even dream of having the reputation that Old Bay does in Maryland. Every restaurant in B’more probably has it, as does nearly every home kitchen. Steam crabs in it. Cook chicken with it. Put it on popcorn. There is nothing this powerhouse of a spice can’t do.
2. Natty Boh
But wait, the only thing more reminiscent of Maryland than Old Bay is its dear Natty Boh. Coming in cheaper than water by weight, National Bohemian is the $20 30-rack of choice in the great state of Maryland. Hell, Mr. Boh, the mustachioed mascot, is stamped on just about every surface of Charm City. Fun fact: Baltimore’s developmental soccer team, the Bohemians, is sponsored by Natty Boh.
3. Scones from The Corner Pantry
Corner Pantry has made a huge splash in the Baltimore food scene since it opened just a year and a half ago. Neil Howell is serving up some real deal British food at this eatery on Falls Road. This place is so much more than fish and chips, though (which are not to be missed on Fridays).
A must-try are the scones, both sweet and savory. The flavors change weekly, so my suggestion is go often. Some flavors include cheesy bacon and maple-lemon-thyme. If that’s not enough to persuade you, it’s also his mum’s recipe.
4. Zeke’s Coffee
In Baltimore Zeke’s is to coffee as Natty Boh is to beer. Well, not really, but it’s that famous. Zeke’s is a family-run small batch roastery. Pick up a bag of beans at a local store, or grab a cup at their flagship cafe. Or if you like long lines, visit them at various Baltimore farmers markets on the weekends. It’s worth the wait.
5. Michele’s Granola
Michele’s Granola may be served in various states throughout the Northeast, but it has its roots in Baltimore County. Michele’s prides itself on small batch granola made from organic and non-GMO ingredients. You can’t go wrong with any flavor, but take advantage of the seasonal varieties, like lemon pistachio or apple quinoa.
Bonus: all flavors are vegan.
6. Lobster Roll from Thames Street Oyster House
Thames Street Oyster House is as close to a perfect dining experience as you can get. Not only does the Fells Point eatery make for one hell of a photo op, but the seasonal menu is second to none. Considering the restaurant name, you will have some amazing oysters there, but the lobster roll is the real star of the show.
This is not your ordinary lobster roll. Expect close to an entire lobster, a bit of melted butter, and a melt-in-your-mouth roll. Simplicity at its finest. Good luck getting a reservation.
7. Homemade Pastries from Artifact Coffee
Baltimore culinary superstar Spike Gjerde may be best known for Woodberry Kitchen, but thanks to this addition to his food empire you can enjoy his ridiculous creations on a daily basis at Artifact. Located in an old converted mill, it has the relaxed vibes and kick ass provisions to keep you coming back. All the pastries are made fresh daily and reflect what’s in season (RIP summer, and peach scones).
It also makes for a great study spot and, more importantly, a solid insta.
8. Duck Duck Goose Pizza from Birroteca
When you look at the menu at Birroteca the most striking thing is the nearly endless beer and wine lists. But flip that menu card over, because you’ll realize you may have come for the booze but you’ll stay for the food. They offer both authentic Italian dishes as well as some eclectic (read: ah-mazing) takes on classics.
The can’t miss event is the duck duck goose pizza. Whimsical name? Yes. But unlike the game this ain’t for kiddies. It’s topped with duck confit, fig-onion jam, balsamic, fontina and asiago cheeses, and a duck egg… Yeah.
9. Biscuit Sandwich from Blacksauce Kitchen
Baltimore’s farmers’ markets are a foodie’s heaven. The Waverly and JFX markets on Saturday and Sunday mornings, respectively, have a ton of amazing local vendors with a wide array of foods. No matter which market you visit, there will most definitely be a line at Blacksauce Kitchen. And rightfully so.
Each week these guys feature a different biscuit sandwich, and they’re really damn good. Espresso stout braised chicken, fried pork loin, lamb sausage gravy, and fire roasted peaches are just a few of their recently featured items. You also have your choice of a traditional buttermilk biscuit or a flavor of the week.
10. Dangerously Delicious Pies
There’s not much else to be said that the name hasn’t already revealed. These pies are.dangerously. delicious. As delicious as the sweet pies are, such as the Baltimore bomb, you really should try the savory pies as well. Dine in Monday through Thursday with a friend for a $20 deal featuring two savory slices, two sides, two sweet slices, two drinks, and a food coma.
11. Ramen Bowl from Ejji
Ejji Ramen may be the new kid on the block at Belvedere Market, but it has quickly become THE place for ramen in Baltimore. Ejji uses super fresh and high quality ingredients, and allows you to customize your bowls however you like. If you don’t wanna be ejji and conjure up your own combo, no worries. You can choose one of the chef’s selections.
12. Chicken Salad from Atwater’s
Atwater’s is a pretty big name in Baltimore. With multiple locations and a wide variety of items, there’s no excuse not to go. One of Atwater’s best sellers is the chicken salad made with raisins, apples, cranberries, and basil mayo. Oh yeah, and it’s served on their house made bread. It’s been said to tempt even the most devout vegetarians.
13. Pork Bun from Dooby’s
Dooby’s is the epitome of your one-stop shop. It serves all three meals, bomb coffee, house-made pastries, and Korean-inspired food. Oh and if that’s not enough, it also serves booze all day. Despite that Executive Chef Tim Dyson is cranking out a little bit of everything, he manages to nail ALL of it.
If you’re gonna go, try the pork bun served with Gochujang aioli, soy-caramel, and kimchi. From personal experience it’s equally delicious as breakfast and lunch.
14. Crab Mac & Cheese Hot Dog from Camden Yards
There’s nothing better than chowing on a hot dog while watching your favorite baseball team…Oh, unless it’s a hot dog loaded with crab mac and cheese. You can find it at Camden Yards, the home of the Orioles. Go O’s.
15. Funky Monkey Bread from Miss Shirley’s
There’s a reason why the wait at Miss Shirley’s Restaurant can be two hours long on a Sunday afternoon. The ooey, gooey monkey bread is loaded with chunks of banana, chocolate, and pecans. Share it with friends…or not.
16. Pretzels w/ Beer Cheese Fondue from The Food Market
Have you ever dipped a soft, buttery pretzel stick into a mini pitcher full of beer cheese dip? If not, head to The Food Market in Hampden ASAP. This marriage of two delightful delicacies will have you coming back for more in no time.
17. Berger Cookies
Winner of the 2011 “Best of Baltimore Award” and the “Best Cookie” award of 2011, the Berger cookie has a special place in Baltimore’s heart. The fudge-coated cookie is infamous for the amount of trans fat in it, and may be gone soon due to the new trans fat ban law. Get ‘em while they’re still here (your heart won’t thank you). You can find them at your local grocery or convenience store.
18. Cap’n Crunch French Toast from Blue Moon Cafe
Whoever said you can’t have two breakfasts at once? Not Sarah Simington, the genius behind Blue Moon Café. This Fells Point diner is not only a revered brunch spot, but also the perfect place for late night drunchies on weekends when it’s open 24/7. The beloved diner featured on DDD has done so well that it’s opening up a second location, Blue Moon Too, in Fed Hill.
19. Lobster Fingers from The Food Market
Lobster fingers are the new chicken fingers. Only by dipping them into the to die for honey mustard sauce will you understand how contemporary American cuisine can also be finger food. You can find them at The Food Market, a restaurant by Baltimore’s own Chef Chad Gauss.
20. Pasta from Grano Pasta Bar
Grano Pasta Bar, a small establishment tucked away in Hampden, is easily a Baltimore favorite. The pasta is orgasmic. You have multiple options for sauces and pastas, but your meal will always be cooked perfectly. The ambiance is perfect for date night, as is the price tag.
21. Cannoli Cake (Cassata) from Vaccaro’s
On the surface, Vaccaro’s is an Italian pastry shop. In reality, it’s something much more: Vaccaro’s is a testament to the institution that is dessert. Perfect as a date spot but just as viable for a late night dessert binge, the glass case is stacked with a whole variety of options, the most notable of which being the cannoli cake. The alternating layers of the richest cannoli cream and ethereally light cake will bring a single tear to your eye as you stare, dumbfounded, across the still waters of the Inner Harbor.
22. Bagel Sandwich from Towson Hot Bagels
It’ll be 11:49 AM on a Sunday, and your body will feel like you just went 10 rounds with Manny Pacquiao. You’ll shuffle into line, still wearing sunglasses, and mutter the words “bacon egg and cheese on everything toasted please,” while trying not to vomit. Ten minutes later, you’ll unwrap the prettiest bagel sandwich you’ve ever seen, with an almost excessive amount of bacon. You’ll scarf it down, feel right as rain, and be ready for a Sunday of football. Although the main location is in Towson, there is another store in Canton.
23. Any meat dish from Parts and Labor
While all the food at Parts and Labor is fantastic, where it really shines is its meats. What makes P&L special is that it has its own butcher shop attached to the restaurant, so you can be sure that the meats are as fresh as possible. The freshness is reflected in the food; meats have an indescribable depth of flavor that you just can’t find at most places. Recommendations: anything that used to go oink or moo.
24. Mac and Cheese from Donna’s
Donna’s, a cozy restaurant in Charles Village, has been comforting Hopkins students with their famous three-cheese Mac and Cheese since the beginning of time. Every single problem you might have just melts away into the ethereal cheesiness, and the only thing you can think of is how wonderfully the al dente mac pairs with the perfectly crunchy bread crumbs. Get some.
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