Over the last few years, Baltimore’s food scene has improved so much. New places opening up all the time, chefs and farmers collaborating, tons of special pop-ups and more. And on the drinks side of the house, many local bartenders are using fresh housemade ingredients, creative spirits and featuring products from local breweries, wineries, distillers. And, it’s only going to get better – the next five years will be huge years of growth for food and drink in Baltimore. I’ve been using a new hashtag lately to celebrate this: #foodtown.
So, yeah, I go out a lot. It’s research for the most part…but of course it’s fun, too. I do have many favorite places, chefs and bartenders around town and when I go back to those places, I try to always order something I haven’t had before. The best people in food & drink are people who play, think, obsess, tinker, study, experiment, research and share. And I love seeing what they’re doing.
Some people order their favorite dish every time…and that’s their choice. It’s smart and safe. However, since I write about food and drinks, it’s a necessity for me to try new things. And now, so many restaurants have seasonal menus using what’s available locally, so it’s easy to try something new.
Sometimes I really just do want that one really delicious thing I had the last time I visited, so I’ve put together a list of my top 20 “go to” items in Baltimore.
20. Roast Chicken at Petit Louis
19. Queso Fundido at Papi’s
18. Tempura Shrimp at Café Cito
17. Wild Boar Bolognese at Birroteca
16. Fumo e Fuoco Pizza at Hersh’s Pizza & Drinks
15. Tuna Tartare at Lobo
14. Disco Fries at Shoofly Diner
13. Buttermilk Pancakes at Johnny’s
12. Duck Pappardelle at Bottega
11. Short Rib at The Food Market
10. Bay Cassoulet at B&O Brasserie
9. Corn Cappellacci at Aggio
8. Thai Mussels at Rocket to Venus
7. Ribeye and Mashed Potatoes at Peter’s Inn
6. Burger at Swallow at the Hollow
5. Michael’s Tuna Tartare at Wit & Wisdom
4. Baked Pumpkin at Helmand
3. Soft Pretzels at Grand Cru
2. Lobster Roll at Thames Street Oyster House
1. Tri-Tip Steak & Griddled Potatoes at Parts & Labor (that herb relish!)
I’m not a huge dessert person (I know, it’s weird…) but here are some that get my attention every time.
5. Candy Bar at Blue Hill Tavern
4. Lemon Dessert at Wit & Wisdom
3. Honeycrisp Apple Napolean at Fleet Street Kitchen
2. Pistachio Toffee Crunch Ice Cream at The Charmery
1. CMP at Woodberry Kitchen
Also, I’ve gotta give some love to the cocktail scene in town. Here are some of my favorite drinks:
10. Fumee Vert at Le Garage
9. Remingtonian at Parts & Labor
8. White Noise at Woodberry Kitchen
7. Queen Bee at B&O American Brasserie
6. Sidecar at The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar
5. Dirty Martini at Grand Cru
4. Old Fashioned at WC Harlan
3. Copperhead at Wit & Wisdom
2. What Is and What Should Never Be at Bookmaker’s Cocktail Club
1. Pisco Sour at Rye
Since I’m a beer fan…a tie for favorite:
Stillwater Debutante at Of Love & Regret
Foxy IPA at Union Craft Brewing
Saison Dupont at De Kleine Duivel
What are your most favorite things to eat and drink out in Baltimore?? What needs to go on this list? (For the record, I still miss PABU and the happy spoons, ribs, Ken Roll and so many cocktails…)
A great little sidebar on the soft pretzels at Grand Cru:
They started when Grand Cru was having an Oktoberfest celebration. The owner (the wonderful) Nelson Carey ordered a bunch of brautwursts, sauerkraut and the pretzels. They had a little setup with beer and Nelson serving the brauts and pretzels. Later that week bartenders Charlie Vascellero and Chris Attenborough were working a slow Sunday shift and needed something to eat…and there was the box of pretzels in the back. So they started heating them up, but couldn’t get the salt to stick. So, they we thought (hmmm…) pretzels and beer go great together why not just soak them in beer first and then add the salt – and it worked!
Says Chris, “Then as it always happens at Grand Cru, the obsession started. We ordered pretzels from all over, tried different salts, different mustards and spreads. That’s how things go at Cru, we find something we like and exhaust all the possibilities to perfect it.”
The pretzels have always been soaked in beer first, and served with Maille mustard – which, seasonally, can get very spicy at times. There have been 3 different spreads/sides served alongside the mustard. The first version was served with taragon drawn butter, the second version with liptauer (paprika-spiked cheese) and the third – and longest version – has been served with the horseradish/cheddar spread. I love that horseradish spread!
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