The Charm City Cook shares her go-to carry-out restaurants
Since March, like most people, I have been hunkering down at home. A lot. Very thankfully, I like where I live, and as luck would have it, I rescued a wonderful senior dog in January. My girl Magnolia is an 11-year-old terrier mix, spry for her age, a little nutty, and definitely attached to me now that we’ve been together almost all the time for about nine months. She has been great company for me during confinement. What lucky timing, huh?
I’ve dined inside four times since March. Once was at Petit Louis in June, True Chesapeake in July, Dylan’s in September and Ananda in October. All of these experiences felt very, very safe, but I would have preferred to be outside now that I think about it. Hindsight, yeah. Petit Louis has done an incredible job with their outdoor set up. I will try to go there for as long as I possibly can. I just ordered hats and gloves on Etsy, and as I walked my dog last night, I thought…wow, it’s already cold. November 24.
I’ve ordered takeout from about 15 places with varying degrees of success. Since I live in Hampden, most of these are close to home. Here are a few favorites:
I love a good Smashburger and Sally O’s in Highlandtown has the best one I’ve had in a long time. We also got watermelon and feta salad (it was August), and while that does not sound super exciting, this one was incredibly bright and flavorful. Can’t wait to order from Sally O’s again — Jesse, I love your restaurant! Big thanks to Chris from Eat More Baltimore for this fantastic burger photo! (Now I want a Sally O’s Smashburger…)
Orto’s takeout was very, very good. I even ordered a steak to-go and it was perfect. That Caesar is already a Baltimore classic. I could eat that every single week. I’m such a fan of Orto — the service, the food, the care they take — all lovely. Also, I noticed there is often a parking spot at the corner of Charles and Lanvale which makes running in to grab your food easy and quick.
The Prime Rib was almost as good as being there, but honestly nothing can beat being there. But here we are, never thought I’d ever get The Prime Rib to go. We even had martinis in pouches. And the way it was packed was impressive and guaranteed success. What a huge treat to share that in the backyard with two friends in my pod.
The place I think I’ve ordered the most takeout from is 18-8 Sushi at The Rotunda. If I could have sushi once a week, I totally would. It gets a little expensive, though. So, my favorite thing to do is get the Maki Lunch Special which is three rolls for $15.00 (which I try to split between lunch and dinner.) Just order it online via the restaurant’s website and pick it up curbside, they have it down. (Note: When I looked online while writing this, I didn’t see the Maki Lunch Special, so I will check to see if they are still offering that.)
I have an extreme weakness for the mozzarella sticks at The Food Market. They are cheesy and decadent and just make me really happy. Get them. While you’re at it, get the spaghetti and crab meatballs, which are part of a $20 Monday night deal, along with four other entrees. And they have cocktails to go, too. The Food Market is really consistent, even in COVID.
Orient Express in Charles Village has what many consider to be the best Chinese takeout in the City, and more adventurous eaters will love diving into their Szechuan menu. I’ve only ordered a few things from that menu, as I am more of a Hunan beef and shrimp fried rice girl. I’ve never ever had a bad meal from Orient Express.
One night, early on in confinement, I ordered a smashburger, fries and a bottled Old Fashioned (best in the City) from The Bluebird Cocktail Room. It was on a Friday night when I was so tired and really just wanted a good dinner and go to bed. And I did! And…ps. They are in the process of opening the old Du Kleine Duvel space next door, including a great little side porch/deck situation, which I plan to visit as soon as it opens. Bundle up, Baltimore.
Clavel has felt like one of the safest, most controlled environments. They have not offered indoor dining at all and are still not planning on it anytime soon. Their takeout truck outside is staffed by the nicest people and it seems that their burritos (new to the menu) are the sleeper hit of COVID takeout. My favorite order is the Carne Asada burrito and chips + guac. Oh and duh, a margarita. Did you see Lane Harlan and Carlos Raba in Saveur’s 100 Issue? It was incredible. (Go to Saveur’s IG and click on their 100 highlight.) Love seeing good people get some glory, even quietly, which is Clavel’s way.
Dylan’s is my go-to in the neighborhood for so many reasons and so many occasions. I’ve only had takeout once — kale salad and a burger, my fave —but I’ve eaten outside there three or four times this year. I still wish I could be sitting at that bar listening to music, watching the bar staff move in organized, wonderful chaos. Doug and Kara and the rest of the bar crew making me a martini or pouring me a glass of rosé. Toni and Dylan shucking oysters and telling me about their day, Irene checking in with guests, food running and so much more. I know this post is about takeout, but Dylan’s is one place I really miss pre-COVID. Order yourself a kale salad, some potato skins and a cocktail. You will be so happy.
Ekiben is well, Ekiben. Everything they do, they do with such heart and meaning. Nothing is half way. Their menu is not big, as they’d rather do a smaller number of things really, really well and I respect that so much. My favorite thing is the Tempura Broccoli and now they have a gluten-free version that I think is even better than the original, as it stays crispy a little longer. But you should still eat it as SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN (I LOVE THEIR ALL CAPS IG CAPTIONS) which may well be in the parking lot. And the Neighborhood Bird Box is a ridiculous meal — well, two meals —that should cost way more. Go.
Heritage Kitchen in the new market at Whitehall Mill is quickly becoming a favorite of many, many Baltimoreans. First, I have to say that Chef Rey Eugenio is one of the nicest people you will ever come across in this life. He was the Executive Chef at Roy’s in Harbor East for many years and now cooks comforting Filipino food in his gorgeous new space inside Whitehall Market. For the last few years, he was cooking his food at pop-ups all over the city as Masarap. I love the Chicken Adobo (pictured, is incredible, especially those garlicky greens), Arroz Caldo and Lumpia. Order all of it. Menu changes frequently, too, which is great. He will never tell you this, but he has cooked on multiple occasions for Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. They are total Rey fans. Me, too.
The Local Fry makes my absolute favorite wings in town. I learned this past year that you can order drums vs flats (team flats, here) and I almost always get the dry rub style, too many favorite flavors to list. The fries are such a treat, too! I like The Local Fry “original” which is kinda like a taco salad with fries, the Chicken Bacon Ranch and the Korean BBQ fries. The owners, Liz and Kevin, are opening Toki Tako, another fast-casual spot at The Rotunda, in the new year. Very excited for that.
This time last year, Le Comptoir du Vin, was the hottest ticket in town after receiving national press from Bon Appetit among others. To get a table, you had to wait and stalk the reservations system. Much deserved, I must add. This year, they have pivoted multiple times and are now operating what I think is one of the most creative food sources in the city. Featuring a tight and ever-changing inventory of high quality food pantry items and a rotating menu of seasonal dishes you can have at home (lentils, stews, chicken liver mousse…) this little shop is a welcome addition to the post-COVID food shopping options. If you love to cook, you must check it out.
I feel like Golden West Cafe is the scrappiest operation in Baltimore right now. They have steadily provided delicious food (and those killer house margaritas) to go. Owner Sam Classen is one of the kindest people around. Golden West recently hosted a takeout fundraiser for my school (The GreenMount School in Remington) and we were floored by the kindness Sam and her staff showed us. In the middle of a pandemic. I love the Mental Salad and the Plain Jane Burger. And I miss the Long Bar in the back.
Chiyo Sushi has long been my favorite sushi uptown. No matter what, every single time I order takeout or delivery from Chiyo, it is packed perfectly. My favorite rolls are the Green Bay Roll (tempura shrimp, seaweed salad with wasabi tobiko) and Crunchy Tuna Roll (spicy tuna, tempura flakes with avocado, black pepper tuna and tobiko.) Chiyo is always a big treat. Never a miss.
I’ve also been very impressed with the restaurants like Woodberry Kitchen and La Cuchara that have been offering online markets with curbside pickup for everything from locally sourced meat and veggies to housemade breads, pantry essentials and entire prepared meals.
I understand from folks in the Baltimore restaurant industry that many places will shift to carry-out only once it gets really cold outside, which is soon. Some will completely close down for the winter. Some restaurants simply won’t survive. Let’s do all we can to save our favorites. I’ve long said, a restaurant to me is more than food and drinks. It’s people. Even in creating this list and talking about places I’ve ordered from, I talk about how nice the people are…nice matters. I can’t afford to order takeout as often as I would like (and I must say, I love cooking, too) so I will do will do my best. I hope you will do the same.
Being around the restaurant scene in Baltimore for the last ten years or so, I experienced the incredible growth we’ve seen here. So many of us have. I’d call it a boom for sure…but then I always worried that the growth was not sustainable in a city the size and economic level of Baltimore. It’s hard to staff them all well, fill them with diners, all of it. My take on it has always been this: if your new restaurant brings something different to the market, yes. Do it, please. But if it’s just a lot of sameness, I don’t really understand why you’re entering a nearly impossible business like restaurants. Maybe you feel differently as a diner and see it as the more the merrier. But for restaurants, it seemed like even before COVID, it was hard to make a profit and feel good about the future of the industry here. (That is a total aside, but worth mentioning.)
One last thing — please try and order directly from the restaurant whenever you can. Many apps take a huge cut of the restaurant’s profits — some up to 40%. My friends in the industry have told me that a few of the most fair ordering apps are Toast and Chow Now. Many others (GrubHub, Postmates, etc) use predatory practices like listing menus without consent, controlling when the restaurant can receive orders and more. The other really important thing? TIP!! Tip a minimum of 20%. Oh, and if you have a negative experience, reach out to the restaurant directly and do not post negative review online. Show some human kindness. This is really (really, really) hard.
Please add some of your favorite takeout experiences in the comments!
- Charm City Cook: These are a few of my favorite things - November 25, 2020
- What I miss about dining out in Baltimore - April 29, 2020
- Q&A with Patrick Hudson of True Chesapeake Oyster Co., opening Oct. 9 - October 2, 2019