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Baltimore – Where to eat


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It’s tough for Baltimore to get much airtime on a Forum dominated by DC but that’s not necessarily because its food is less worthy or interesting.  I had the wonderful opportunity to perform a blitz binge in Baltimore recently, akin to my periodic gorging in Paris and here are my thoughts.

1. As I said upthread, Qayum Karzai, brother of Hamid, the Prime Minister, who famously said that if he failed in Afghanistan, he’d go work in one of his bro’s places in Baltimore, has the most consistent and inventive food in town, vide Helmand & Tapas Teatro, although the demise of Limoges is regrettable.

2. Someone needs to renovate the Chesapeake Restaurant and finally “fix” that statue in front of Penn Station upstream.  As Henry II said about Thomas a Beckett - "will no one rid me of this…. ?

3. Portion size in America is one reason for obesity (yah, I know - genes, TV and lack of exercise are part of it too) and evident even at first class places like Saffron where despite the spectacular food, you’re better off ordering two starters than regular courses.

4. Except maybe for Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller, chefs cooking in America had best stick to Californian or Ethnic food than try to imitate Paris Bistro fare.

5. Placing  the next course down milliseconds after the last one is finished, even when it consists of perfect product, perfectly prepared, leads to spiritual indigestion – vide Abacrombie.

6.  Crabs remain Baltimore’s strongest suit and most “typical” dish, vide McCabe’s.

7. But I do miss abats and foie gras.

I heard Edward Kim is back in town from DC. He was chef at xicia (I'm sure I butchered that name), and at Soenge (butchered that to) in Federal Hill.

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John - I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the Chameleon Cafe on Harford Road. I'm fond of the house made charcuterie.

Have you been to the fairly new Salt in Butcher's Hill? I like it a lot...with the notable exception of the desserts which I've not been impressed with. I did, however, really enjoy the braised lamb stroganoff in a porcini broth. Very nice. I love the space and the vibe.

Both are great neighborhood restaurants, imho.

And, as much as it pains me to say it, I didn't love my visit to Saffron since the return of the much missed Edward Kim. I loved Soigne but his magic just isn't working for me at Saffron. First, I hate the space. When they renovated the old Ruby Lounge they managed to suck every last bit of energy from what was a very happening place. Second, I have questions about the source ingredients at Saffron and have had them long before the return of Sir Edward. Either I'm badly mistaken or they are serving previously frozen fish. And, I'm not talking flash freezing, I'm talking fish that has the texture of something that's been sitting in the Trader Joe's freezer section for the last six months. If not, then maybe someone can explain why fish there (with the exception of tuna) tends to be tough and watery. Ugh.

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  • 4 weeks later...
John - I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the Chameleon Cafe on Harford Road.  I'm fond of the house made charcuterie.
Sorry to be so tardy in responding but I've not been watching this Forum while in France. As for the Chameleon Cafe, I'm not blown away but my French teacher, a true Lyonnaise, loves it.
Have you been to the fairly new Salt in Butcher's Hill?
Nope
 

Either I'm badly mistaken or they are serving previously frozen fish.  And, I'm not talking flash freezing, I'm talking fish that has the texture of something that's been sitting in the Trader Joe's freezer section for the last six months.  If not, then maybe someone can explain why fish there (with the exception of tuna) tends to be tough and watery.  Ugh.

I just consulted Colette and neither she nor I can recall ordering fish at Saffron.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Looks like I'm going to have one night in Baltimore in a couple of weeks. That means a dinner & a lunch opportunity. No car. Not sure yet exactly where we are staying (my wife is attending a conference & I get to tag along), but I understand it's near the Inner Harbor.

Before I start going nuts on Google, thought I'd check in here.

The Pierpoint site linked above is dysfunctional. Are they still in business?

Where is McCabe's?

I am interested in good, reasonably priced seafood, much more than I am in fine dining. I can deal with "touristy" if the food is decent.

And yes, outdoor seating would be nice, if anyone's turned up any since May.

Thanks in advance.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Looks  like I'm going to have one night in Baltimore in a couple of weeks.  That means a dinner & a  lunch opportunity.  No car.  Not sure yet exactly where we are staying (my wife is attending a conference & I get to tag along), but I understand it's near the Inner Harbor.

Before I start going nuts on Google, thought I'd check in here.

The Pierpoint site linked above is dysfunctional.  Are they still in business?

Where is McCabe's?

I am interested in good, reasonably priced seafood, much more than I am in fine dining.  I can deal with "touristy" if the food is decent.

And yes, outdoor seating would be nice, if  anyone's turned up any since May.

Thanks in advance.

McCormick & Schmicks in the Inner Harbor isn't bad. It's touristy, but not as mucha as Phillips. It has a lot of outdoor seating and a pretty good view of the harbor.

they are a nationwide chain: http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/

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The Pierpoint site linked above is dysfunctional.  Are they still in business?
I thought it was; have you tried telephoning? (410) 675-2080
Where is McCabe's?

Well, it's a fair distance from downtown hotels/Inner Harbor - about 6 miles on Falls Road in Hamden. And truthfully it's more of a neighborhood dive than a tony fish/crab place. But if you're driving from NJ and will have your car it's OK.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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McCabe's sounds like my kind of place, but we are not driving. I never miss a chance at a train ride.

Was hoping to look at Pierpoint's menu. Still getting "cannot find server."

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Looks  like I'm going to have one night in Baltimore in a couple of weeks.  That means a dinner & a  lunch opportunity.  No car.  Not sure yet exactly where we are staying (my wife is attending a conference & I get to tag along), but I understand it's near the Inner Harbor.

Before I start going nuts on Google, thought I'd check in here.

The Pierpoint site linked above is dysfunctional.  Are they still in business?

Where is McCabe's?

I am interested in good, reasonably priced seafood, much more than I am in fine dining.  I can deal with "touristy" if the food is decent.

And yes, outdoor seating would be nice, if  anyone's turned up any since May.

Thanks in advance.

Mama's on the Half Shell in Canton (5 min cab ride from Inner Harbor) is right up your alley. Great seafood, great oyster bar, true Baltimore.

http://www.mamasonthehalfshell.com/

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Corks RestaurantI lived in Baltimore for 6 years. Corks Restaurant was always a favorite. I'm surprised no one has mentioned them. Great wine list and somewhat reasonable as well. Jerry Peligrinno was the owner/Chef then and always had a solid lineup. Give it a try, it's in Federal Hill....they also have a website that's pretty good.. Corks Restaurant

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Thanks to the Search function at the Baltimore City Paper website, I have come up with the short list of LP Steamers, Phillips (I note the "more touristy" comment), Browns Wharf, & the aforementioned McCormick & Schmick for places to have dinner. They will be easy to get to, they have seafood & outdoor seating, & that's really all I'm looking for right now (good crabs, crabcakes, & fish). Any comments on these places will be welcomed!

Mama's looks good but they don't seem to serve dinner on Sundays so that puts them out of the running.

I think lunch on Monday has to be Faidley's crab cakes at Lexington Mkt. That seems like an essential stop.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Just got back from Bmore today after 4 days. All the places around the inner harbor that I've eaten at (this time and in my previous trips) are mediocre at best. However, just a few blocks off the inner harbour is little italy. Not all the places are great but few of them I thought were pretty good. Vaccaro (sp?) for pastry is pretty good.

The real find on this trip for me was greek town. you have to drive or cab there. Not within walking dist. We went to a resturant called somos (not sure I got the name exactly right) but you can ask the local resident where they'd like eat.

Great food. Really inexpensive (thank goodness because they only take cash).

Anyway, get your self to greektown. You won't be sorry.

Also found some great hispanic hole in the walls a few blocks from fells point but I'm not sure I'd go there at night.

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Thanks to the Search function at the Baltimore City Paper website, I have come up with the short list of LP Steamers, Phillips (I note the "more touristy" comment), Browns Wharf, & the aforementioned McCormick & Schmick for places to have dinner.  They will be easy to get to, they have seafood & outdoor seating, & that's really all I'm looking for right now (good crabs, crabcakes, & fish).  Any comments on these places will be welcomed!

Mama's looks good but they don't seem to serve dinner on Sundays so that puts  them out of the running.

I think lunch on Monday has to be Faidley's crab cakes at Lexington Mkt.  That seems  like an essential stop.

Faidley's is a MUST and an excellent choice for lunch.

Mama's is most definitely open for dinner Sunday night and still my main rec for you. Please, I'm begging you, whatever you do, do not go to Phillips in Inner Harbor. It is a tourist trap hell hole. McCormick and Schmicks is OK, but it's a generic chain and rather expensive. LP Steamers is a good choice. Browns Wharf I would skip. You could also try Nick's Fish House across the harbor. Same type of menu as Mama's, but more outdoor seating. The food will be better at Mam's though.

http://www.nicksfishhouse.com/

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" However, just a few blocks off the inner harbour is little italy. Not all the places are great but few of them I thought were pretty good."

Da Mimmo in Little Italy used to be a good old-style Italian restaurant. I say "used to be" only to accurately reflect the fact that we haven't been in a while, not that we have any specific information about its decline. Our allegiance has shifted to Boccaccio even though we have sentimental attachment to Da Mimmo for introducing us to Pepoli Chianti by Antinori. This wine was our first encounter with the modern style of Chianti, and it was a revelation after the straw-wrapped horrible Chiantis of our younger days. You're forewarned that dining at Da Mimmo won't be a cutting edge experience if you go to their web site. The background music is Dean Martin crooning "That's Amore." We were particularly fond of their veal chop.

Boccacio, also in Little Italy, serves excellent Northern Italian cuisine. It is the top-rated Italian restaurant according to Zagat's. It is definitely a more polished experience compared to Da Mimmo in terms of food, decor, and service. We've had excellent veal and fish/seafood dishes at the restaurant.

These two restaurants offer shuttle bus service to/from the downtown hotels. This is a real convenience considering that parking is a premium in Little Italy and tourists may not even have a car. (Of course, the distance from downtown/Inner Harbor to Little Italy is so small that a taxi couldn't cost that much if you're inclined to go that route.)

Indy 67

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Faidley's is a MUST and an excellent choice for lunch.

Mama's is most definitely open for dinner Sunday night and still my main rec for you.  Please, I'm begging you, whatever you do, do not go to Phillips in Inner Harbor.  It is a tourist trap hell hole.  McCormick and Schmicks is OK, but it's a generic chain and rather expensive.  LP Steamers is a good choice.  Browns Wharf I would skip.  You could also try Nick's Fish House across the harbor.  Same type of menu as Mama's, but more outdoor seating.  The food will be better at Mam's though.

Thanks! I'd spotted Nick's too but they seemed a bit further away. We have time constraints - this is a biz trip for my SO & she has to get up early the next morn & deliver a presentation & we have to allow time for the ride back out to Towson, where we are stuck staying because of the conference she is attending. We'll probably see how our day goes & then decide on towards evening.

Mama's website seems to say brunch-only on Sundays, no food after 2:00 pm. I'll give them a call & see if they can go on the now-shorter list. (Steamers, McC&S, Nicks & Mamas.)

Gotta love Greektowns. We stumbled onto the one in Chicago a few years back & had the same sort of experience.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Faidley's is a MUST and an excellent choice for lunch.

Tried go find if a review had been done from fellow eGullet(ers) on Lexington Market.

This afternoon I had a chance to revisit this market, (after visiting my ill FIL @ UMD Med Center, MICU).

My FIL has family visiting from Peurto Rico, and they were wondering about the market and how it compared to open farmer's market in their area.

Upon entering through Faidley's (which smelled just like Faidley's and looked the same, which is a good thing) I encountered the "rest" of this market.

It was absolutely disgusting! Sorry to say this, and I must be an old' stick in the mud, but I thought it was not the market of yester/year. :sad:

Has anyone else been there recently? Maybe it's just me, living on a farm, and being out of the flow of the big city.

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It was absolutely disgusting! Sorry to say this, and I must be an old' stick in the mud, but I thought it was not the market of yester/year.  :sad:

Has anyone else been there recently? Maybe it's just me, living on a farm, and being out of the flow of the big city.

Since I'm not a lifelong Baltimorean I cannot comment on when things changed at the Lexington Market, but your description is accurate. What's the sign on the building say - "World famous?" Yes, but for what?

On the other hand, our farmers' markets are indeed wonderful.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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The best-laid plans..... I'll just say, with regard to Sunday dinner, "4 hours at the Mercy Hospital ER" and leave it at that. As a result we barely had time to zip into McCormick & Schmick, referenced above, before their kitchen closed. Lovely view, but apart from that it could have been anywhere. Crab cakes made with crab flown in from MEXICO in Baltimore? Puh-leese! My seafood Newburg was at least made with local crab & it was decent; and I'll give them due credit for a fine chopped tomato, pepper, onion & cuke salad.

Monday's logistics dictated against Lex Mkt. I wound up wandering Fells Point, where I eventually discovered the Broadway Market. I spied the refrigerated display counter at Vikki's Fells Point Deli, piled high with handmade crabcakes waiting to be tossed into the fryer, and sensed that I was onto something.

The funky little lunch counter looked mighty inviting, but it was just too nice a day to stay inside. I got my crabcakes, coleslaw & iced tea from Vikki's, got some scrumptious looking fries (looked too good to pass up) from another vendor, & took my finds down to a bench under a little shade tree in the brick-paved park by the water at the base of the Market area.

The crabcakes - crispy, spicy, full of big crab lumps - and the coleslaw - minced green pepper! - were the best I've had in fifty-plus years on this planet. The fries were right up there. If it gets any better than that, I'd like to know where.

We really enjoyed Baltimore and are considering returning in September for The Running Of The Pigs. (I have made this a link since it's a food-related event, there will be a pork BBQ cookoff.)

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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We went to a resturant called somos (not sure I got the name exactly right) but you can ask the local resident where they'd like eat.

Having worked at Johns Hopkins Bayview for a number of years prior to "farming", I had many wonderful lunches at Samos, it is as quoted "Greektown's best-kept secrets.." by CitySearch. If you do get back in September, ghostrider....this would be a great, welcome to Balmer, kinda dig.

As far as McCormick & Schmick, well you know.............eh. Mexico for crab.....good grief.

Please come back, we have lots of wonderful, high end and or/ relaxing, or casual dining........that really does shine.

Just don't go to Lexington Mkt, unless that is.......you get a raw one at the oyster bar, and devour a crabcake from Faidley's of course, while standing.... :wink:

Sorry 'bout the trip to Mercy. 4 hours sounds not bad. :wacko:

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Was poking around the Net for hotel rooms in Baltimore the weekend of Sept 9th & was shocked to find that they are nearly already all booked, it is virtually impossible to find a decent room available, even at premium prices.

Does anyone know what else is going on in town then? I can't believe that the Pig Run and the BBQ competition is that big. Is this due to the Orioles or the start of football season or something?

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Does anyone know what else is going on in town then?

Well I am not fully aware of what is going on in Baltimore, but the Yankee's in town w/Orioles could be part of the combo. Usually attracts a big crowd.

Also, the Comics/Baltimore/Diamond at Convention Center.

Sept 8-11 Defenders Day Star Bangled Banner weekend, War of 1812 re-enactments, parades, fireworks etc.

I guess that is why it is booked up.

Don't know where you can stay, but the Hunt Valley, Towson area is another thought, depending on where you event is.

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Thanks. It's probably a combination of all of the above. A room for Saturday night is almost impossible to come by.

There are rooms in Towson but still pretty pricey. Most, perhaps all, of the cheap ones in Linthicum seem taken. In Baltimore proper you're looking at $279 per night for the few rooms that remain.

I really don't want to spend $1000 for a long weekend & that's what it looks like right now when you add in train fare. Doesn't leave much for Vikki's crabcakes, even at $5.00 a pop, and I must have more of those!

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Does anyone know what else is going on in town then?

Well I am not fully aware of what is going on in Baltimore, but the Yankee's in town w/Orioles could be part of the combo. Usually attracts a big crowd.

You got it. Yankees are in town. Streets filled with New Yorkers. Stay clear of Inner Harbor.

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I've also discovered that the Baltimore Carnival is that same weekend (Caribbean food in Druid Hill Park!). But yes, I have no doubt that it is the Yankee fans who are sucking up all of the hotel rooms.

We are looking at the Day's Inn, just north of the MD State Faiirgrounds in Timonium, as our last hope. Any advice from anyone familiar with the area would be welcome. (We were looking at a few places in Towson, but some of the review comments regarding hookers, drug deals, ants & cockroaches were a bit off-putting. I guess Towson has its seedy side.)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I'm coming to Baltimore this weekend for an anime convention (If you think that rabid Yankee or Oriole fans are bad, try people from ages 12-50 wearing costumes from Japanese animation :-P) and my girlfriend and I want to do something very crab-esque. I liked Obrycki's, but she's petrified of the prices. I saw in this thread that Mama's on the Half Shell got a mention; how are they for something crabesque? Is there anything like Obrycki's in the city?

We're basically restricted to within a quick cab ride of the Inner Harbor as we have to line up at the Convention Center for tickets at some point in the evening.

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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Mama's rocks. Cab from Inner Harbor will cost no more than ten bucks, and you wouldn't find a parking spot in Canton Square anyway. Just tell the cabbie to take you to the town square in Canton, it's not large, and you can't miss Mama's on the corner. Great crab bisque, raw bar, and workable crabcakes. They've even got coddies from the Bawlmer days of yore. If you go on the weekend, and are over 21, there are also some interesting taverns to grab a beer.

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