Baltimore for Foodies

Baltimore may be known for its Ravens and Orioles, but its blue crabs are up there, too. Indeed, Charm City has a storied culinary tradition. Its location right on the Patapsco River, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, gives it access to the Mid-Atlantic’s rich seafood bounty, including those famous crabs. No trip here would be complete without a feast of the sweet, succulent crustacean, steamed and encrusted with a generous dusting of spice, especially Old Bay!

Diners in Baltimore have the good fortune of benefiting from a burgeoning foodie culture, buoyed by TV fame (Food Network’s Duff Goldman anyone?) and local talent. Hometown heroes like Spike Gjerde and Cindy Wolf rack up accolades, including James Beard recognition. (Gjerde won top toque in the region in 2015, with Wolf earning a spot on the short list.) Zagat even named Baltimore number two in its Top 17 Food Cities 2015 list, behind Pittsburgh and above New York City and San Francisco.

The city’s funky free spirit adds flavor, too, with decadent fudge-topped berger cookies, a breakfast spot famous for stoking childhood nostalgia and even a shop dedicated to Bmore’s own Natty Boh beer. Feast on Baltimore’s foodie scene with these top spots.

Faidley Seafood

Family-owned since 1886, where locals order (what else?) lump crab cakes (some taken on the space shuttle) in colorful Lexington Market. Market hours.

Phillips Seafood

In the Power Plant, Eastern shore favorites (crab cakes) plus clams, mahi mahi, lobster since 1956. Sandwiches, steak, chicken, too. Kids' menu. Waterfront view, crab deck and live music. Shipping. L, D (Daily).

Lexington Market

Opened in 1782, now largest of the city’s six historic market buildings. Loud, bustling home of Faidley Seafood with famous crab cakes. Fresh produce, baked goods (Berger cookies), local meats from more than 90 vendors. M-Sa 6 am-6 pm.

Blue Moon Cafe

Popular spot serving breakfast all day. Housemade cinnamon rolls, signature biscuits and gravy and Cap ’n Crunch French toast. B (Daily).

Miss Shirley's Cafe

Named for a late, sassy, influential cook and honoring her with fried green tomatoes, sliders, crab cake Benedict and sandwiches, griddle cakes, omelets, po’boy, soup and sandwich combos. B, L, Br (Daily).

Vaccaro's

Since 1956, Italian sweets (29 varieties of cookies), rum cake, cheesecake, tiramisu, sfogliatelle, pasticiotti, eclairs, gelati, Napoleons, cannoli. Little Italy: Su-Th 9 am-10 pm, F-Sa till midnight. O'Donnell Street hours differ.

Woodberry Kitchen

Originally opened by James Beard Award-winner chef Spike Gjerde, now headed by Lou Sumpter, serving seasonal farm-fresh fare and hearty New England dishes highlighting locally-sourced ingredients in a cozy-rustic setting. Deviled eggs, spicy pork and rigatoni, brick-oven rockfish, Chesapeake oysters.

Charleston

James Beard Award-finalist Cindy Wolf presenting cuisine with a Southern accent—think cornmeal-fried oysters, smoked salmon, lamb or buffalo tenderloin—in three to six courses. Prices range from $79-$124 without wine. Choose from more than 800 wine selections curated by acclaimed sommelier Tony Foreman. D (M-Sa).

Wit and Wisdom

Credentialed chef Zack Mills at Michael Mina’s “modern tavern” dishing up East Coast comfort food: tuna tartare, baked artichoke casserole, coconut-lobster soup, Bourbon Steak burger, Maine lobster pot pie. Upscale dining room with stunning views of the harbor from the patio. Chef's tasting menu of standouts.

Encantada

Whimsical restaurant inside the American Visionary Art Museum, with funky art (extensive Pez collection) greeting diners. Sending out vegetable-forward dishes, supported by GMO-free, sustainably raised meats (duck, wagyu) and complimented by inventive cocktails and eclectic wines. L (W-F), D (W-Sa), Br (Sa-Su).

Thames Street Oyster House

Chef Eric Houseknecht dishing up New England- and Mid-Atlantic-style fare like lobster rolls, bouillabaisse, crab cakes, skirt steak, soups, sandwiches. Inviting main bar room, charming back courtyard, second story dining room with water views. L (W-Su), D (Daily), bar till late.

Magdalena

Inside luxe The Ivy Hotel, haute cuisine with a casual approach in five dining areas: garden (with terrace views), treasury (with vault), wine cellar, tasting room and bar. Chef Mark Levy (The Point, Adirondacks) turning out photogenic plates of stone bass with smoked butter, roasted duck breast, seared War Shore scallops.