Bite into Baltimore

Where to dine in Charm City

January 2, 2024

Cast iron bowl of mussels with sliced bread on top
Steamed mussels at The Choptank

Hi, hon! Welcome to Bawlmer. Established as a port and shipbuilding town in 1729, Charm City has long been home to a diverse bunch of hardworking residents. Maybe that’s why we have more than 200 distinct neighborhoods here, each with its own personality and flair. For visitors to our town, this means an authentic, eclectic, and delightful experience no matter where they choose to dine. Yes, crab is still king, but there’s so much more—Haitian, Cuban, Italian, Japanese, and plenty of good old Southern comfort (we’re south of the Mason–Dixon line, after all).

Don’t know where to start? Check out this list of favorite spots a walk, rideshare, cab, or water taxi ride away from the Baltimore Convention Center and downtown hotels. Many were also featured in Frommer’s most recent list of Best Restaurants in Baltimore. Dig in!

Near the Convention Center (Downtown)

B&O American Brasserie
2 N. Charles St.
Baltimore’s railroad past is on full display in this classic eatery, tucked into the historic former Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Company Headquarters Building, now a Kimpton Hotel. The building’s original features are intact and showcase such nostalgic touches as chairs and tables from original B&O dining cars. The menu, though, is pure 21st century, offering everything from fresh farmers’ market produce and seafood to cutting-edge cocktails. Brunch (Sat, Sun), B, L (M–F), D daily $$

Kona Grill
1 E. Pratt St. Bldg. #103
Looking for a little bit of everything? This national chain is here for you. Miso soup and jalapeño yellowtail sashimi share the menu with a steakhouse burger and a fried chicken sandwich. Try the avocado egg rolls and the baby back ribs, which are prepared with a five-spice rub and come with a side of Asian slaw. Find salads, pasta, meat dishes, and seafood entrées, too. Don’t miss the delicious desserts; the warm butter cake with raspberry sauce is a winner. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L, D daily $–$$

Plate of three mini waffles with fried chicken
Chicken ’n cheddar green onion waffles at Miss Shirley’s Café Dan Whipps Photography

Miss Shirley’s Café
750 E. Pratt St.
What began as a small, 42-seat café in the Roland Park neighborhood has grown into a Maryland landmark with four locations, including this one at Inner Harbor. Its Southern-inspired menu—with chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, crab hash and fried green tomato eggs Benedict, pimento cheese biscuits, and the Gravy Train Southern Skillet—keeps diners coming back. It’s impressively inclusive, with vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, and gluten-free options. There’s even a menu in braille. Reservations are not accepted; the wait for a table can be up to two hours on weekends. Brunch, B, L daily $–$$

Pratt Street Ale House
206 W. Pratt St.
Conveniently situated on the main downtown thoroughfare, this taproom is a mainstay for visitors and locals who work close to the Inner Harbor. Fish and chips, crispy Brussels sprouts, wings, and other traditional ale house bites abound, along with Baltimore favorites like crab pretzels, crab mac and cheese, and chicken Chesapeake—a lump crab cake baked atop a chicken breast. The beer list is excellent, with several offerings from local Oliver Brewing Company. L, D daily $

Harbor East

725 Aliceanna St.
This stylish sit-down restaurant, which serves authentic Japanese cuisine in the Four Seasons Hotel on the waterfront, has one of the largest selections of sushi and sake in the region. In its Flame Room, hibachi chefs fire up meat, seafood, vegetables, and rice right in front of you. A live DJ spins in Azumi’s bar and lounge on Friday and Saturday nights. L, D (M–Sat), D (Sun) $$–$$$

1000 Lancaster St.
For a splurge, both calorically and monetarily, Charleston is a great option. Chef Cindy Wolf offers a prix-fixe menu with your choice of three to six courses served in a tasting order. The menu changes frequently based on what’s in season, but it may include anything from grilled octopus with hickory smoked bacon purée to a sea scallop BLT to a Southern cassoulet. Co-owner Tony Foreman masterminded the wine list, which includes more than 600 labels. D daily $$$

822 Lancaster St.
If you are serious about food, restaurateurs Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman (see above) are the people to know, and their Cinghiale (pronounced ching-gyah-lay), a chic Italian spot, is the place to go. The casual, wine bar side of the restaurant—the Enoteca—has a 40-foot marble bar and offers a menu of Italian charcuterie, vegetables, and cheeses. The Osteria is Cinghiale’s formal side, with an impressively imaginative menu of antipasti, pastas (available in whole and half portions), meat, and fish. D (M–Sat) $$–$$$

The Oceanaire
801 Aliceanna St.
Part of a national chain, Oceanaire is a solid staple for fresh seafood in a casual and often bustling environment. Families, couples, and business­­folk flock here for grilled oysters, Maryland softshell crab, and a solid list of prime cuts of steak. D daily $$–$$$

Little Italy

Chiapparelli’s Restaurant
237 S. High St.
In the mood for a pizza or pasta lunch? This Little Italy gem, in business since 1940, is the best deal in town. Try the Godfather pizza for only $15 or Grandma’s ravioli for $12. The restaurant is open for dinner, too, with a full menu of pastas, salads, calzones, lasagna, and sandwiches. L (Tue–Sun), D daily $–$$

901 Fawn St.
Since opening in 1955, Sabatino’s has been a mainstay for traditional Italian dishes. You will feel like you’re at a friend’s home in the old country in this tiny rowhouse in Baltimore’s historic Little Italy. Old-school waiters take care of you, offering such authentic Italian fare as eggplant parmesan, shrimp fra diavolo, calamari, and clams casino. Portions are generous. Don’t skip dessert! L, D daily $–$$

222 Albemarle St.
Holy cannoli! Walking into this traditional Italian pastry shop and café and smelling the sweet cannolis, cream puffs, eclairs, Napoleon puff pastries, cookies, gelato, and espresso is pure heaven. It will be tempting to linger as you gaze longingly into the cases that line the walls of this pasticceria, which opened in 1956, but the Vaccaros want you to decide fast. Besides, the quicker you choose, the quicker you can enjoy. Bene! B, L, D daily $


Blue Hill Tavern
938 S. Conkling St.
Serving tasty American comfort food with some global influences, this trendy neighbor­hood tavern offers everything from brick-oven pizza to Chateaubriand for two, as well as—why not?—surf and turf. The menu includes a signature Tavern burger with crisp-fried onion straws, fried cauliflower, seafood risotto, and Peruvian half-chicken, as well as specialty cocktails. Make sure to check out the sleek second-floor bar and spacious veranda. L (Tue–F), D (Tue–Sat) $$

The Chasseur
3328 Foster Ave.
Downtown professionals love this nautically inspired spot for its rooftop views, happy hour, and weekend brunch. Menu highlights include duck fat–fried tater tots, a spicy chicken sammy, and crab soup. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L (F), D daily $–$$

Gunther & Co.
3650 Toone St.
Married team Nancy and Jerry Trice opened this vast American restaurant in the centuries-old Gunther Boiler Building in 2016. As you walk into the two-level dining room, take in the soaring ceiling, exposed steel beams, old beer bottles, and vintage conveyor belt that evoke the building’s brewery beginnings. The menu is “globally influenced, locally spun,” so you might see anything from a bone-in pork chop with yucca bravas and mojo verde to seared scallops with creamy coconut congee and saffron. The oyster bar is open for shucking Tuesday through Saturday and also for weekend brunch. On Sundays, don’t miss the double-dredged, crisp-fried chicken and house-made mumbo sauce. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L (Th, F), D (Tue–Sun) $$–$$$

Of Love and Regret
1028 S. Conkling St.
Beer lovers, take note. Owned and operated by local Baltimoreans and lifelong friends, this American gastropub takes its motto—“It’s all craft”—seriously. The tap list, which leans heavily on Stillwater artisanal ales, draws a loyal local crowd to its dark and cozy environs, especially at happy hour, which starts at 4 p.m. But its menu offers a good selection of sandwiches, burgers, and full dinner entrées, too. Check the online calendar—some weekends feature a drag brunch. Brunch (Sat, Sun), D (Tue–Sun) $

Fells Point

1629 Thames St.
For one-stop dining and late-night dancing, head to this Mexican-inspired hotspot with great waterfront views. Barcocina’s menu includes fresh, well-prepared guacamoles, salsas, quesos, and salads. More than 10 varieties of tacos dot the menu along with shareable appetizers like tuna tartare tostadas and cheesesteak empanadas. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L, D daily $–$$

Stack of french toast topped with fruit and whipped cream
Cap’n Crunch french toast at Blue Moon Café

Blue Moon Café
1621 Aliceanna St.
Morning people (and, on weekends, all-nighters) need look no further than Blue Moon, which offers breakfast “with a rock ’n roll attitude.” Its famous Cap’n Crunch french toast is reason enough to visit, but the pancakes, omelets, and Benedicts also shine. B, L daily, open 24 hours on weekends $

Kippo Ramen
606 S. Broadway
Good ramen can be a work of art, and Kippo gets it right. Owner Shigehiko “Jacky” Okiebisu opened the restaurant because he missed real ramen from his native Japan. Expect authentic flavors and a casual vibe in this former industrial space. Check out the Hakata tonkotsu ramen, rich miso ramen, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Kippo also offers sushi rolls, sashimi, gyoza, and other non-ramen Japanese bites. L, D (Tue–Sun) $

Peter’s Inn
504 S. Ann St.
A former biker bar, Peter’s Inn used to attract a highly eccentric crowd—filmmaker John Waters once called it his favorite restaurant in Baltimore. Today, it has a different but still quirky vibe. Owned by married couple Karin and Bud Tiffany since 1995, it offers comfort food with a fine dining flair, white tablecloths, and martini ­cocktails served on a silver platter. A handwritten menu with the day’s offerings may include anything from a New York strip steak slathered in butter to an endive salad, lobster pot pie, or tuna tartare. D (Th–Sat) $$–$$$

Rec Pier Chop House
1715 Thames St.
New York restaurateur and Michelin-starred chef Andrew Carmellini quickly became a favorite of die-hard Baltimoreans when he took the helm of this stunning Italian rosticceria in the Sagamore Pendry hotel. Prime steaks and chops are supreme here, but so are the sustainable seafood and pasta dishes. Walk out on the pier after a meal for a perfect view of the Inner Harbor and iconic Domino Sugar factory sign. Brunch (F–Sun), L (M–Th), B, D daily $$–$$$

Federal Hill

Blue Agave Mexican Food
1032 Light St.
Mexico’s vibrant flavors and a festive atmosphere draw locals to this hotspot. Enjoy enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, and tacos every which way, including fillings of rockfish, shrimp, chicken, or pork. Salsas and moles are made in-house daily. Blue Agave is also a tequila bar with more than 130 offerings available. Try the Paloma cocktail, with fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and grapefruit soda, or the prickly pear margarita with salt, the perfect blend of sour and sweet. Brunch (Sat, Sun), D daily $–$$

Cross Street Market
1065 S. Charles St.
This historic area with 19th-century roots has seen many changes over the years, including, most recently, a major redevelop­ment of the 1952 Cross Street Market building in 2019. Now home to a food hall with about 20 different vendors, it is convenient, quick, and offers something for everyone—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Four standouts to consider: Steve’s Lunch, which has been serving breakfast and lunch for more than 50 years; Sobeachy, Baltimore’s first Haitian restaurant; Theo’s Rolls & Bowls, with modern takes on traditional Vietnam­ese banh mi; and Atlas Fish Market, where you’ll find Maryland crab, Scottish salmon, Chesapeake Bay rockfish, Portuguese octopus, Gulf shrimp, and local oysters. B, L, D daily $–$$

Mother’s Federal Hill Grille
1113 S Charles St.
If watching the big game while playing Skee-Ball or pool is your ideal outing, this neighborhood tavern is for you. Specializing in Maryland seafood, this Mother’s (one of three, locally) says more than 95% of its offerings are made from scratch, including the ice cream. Meat lovers won’t want to miss the famous Heart Attack on a Plate, half a pound of beef stuffed with cheddar cheese, then battered and deep fried. More than 100 beers, including 20 on tap, please choosy drinkers. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L, D daily $–$$

The Outpost American Tavern
1032 Riverside Ave.
Grab a seat in this homey neighborhood bar and restaurant—your taste buds will thank you. This corner pub looks like an antique general store from the outside but like the bar from Cheers on the inside, with dark woodwork, red walls, a long wooden bar, and booths. Appealing choices on the seasonal menu may include anything from grilled pork belly bao buns to seared bison strip steak over cauliflower mash. Cocktails are playful: Try the Not So Arnold Palmer, the Lindsay Lohan, or the Pines of Rum, with pineapple juice and a spritz of absinthe. Brunch (Sat, Sun), D daily $–$$

Seafood on the Side

A visit to Baltimore means seafood. Think colossal crab cakes, steamed crabs ready to be cracked and devoured, fresh oysters, garlicky mussels, locally caught rockfish, and buttery clams. Crab season is May to September, but you’ll find excellent seafood year-round, all over town. Here are a few noteworthy spots:

The Choptank 1641 Aliceanna St.; 443-707-3364. In 2019, this upscale fish and crab house moved into the newly restored south shed of the 200-plus-year-old Broadway Market in Fells Point—which had fallen on hard times in recent years, but now buzzes again. Steamed hard-shell blue crabs are available here, along with such other Maryland favorites as Chesapeake rockfish, crab cake sandwiches, Eastern Shore fried chicken, and boardwalk fries. Enjoy live music on the indoor stage while watching the neighborhood bustle outside the giant windows. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L, D daily $–$$

Mama’s on the Half Shell 2901 O’Donnell St.; 410-276-3160. Mama’s takes its oysters seriously. In addition to a full raw bar and a rotating selection of fresh catches, lucky diners will also find oysters Rockefeller, grilled oysters, fried oysters, oyster stew, and a combo steamer pot with, you guessed it, oysters. If oysters aren’t your thing, indulge in the coddies (salt cod and potato cakes), clams casino, crab soup, seafood chowder, seafood bouillabaisse, crab cakes, or Maryland rockfish. Wash it all down with one of the state’s famous Orange Crush cocktails. Brunch (Sat, Sun), L, D daily $–$$$

Locust Point Steamers 1100 E. Fort Ave.; 410-576-9294. Outside of the busiest months for local crab, many crab houses close, but LP Steamers continues to offer hot steamed crabs and other seafood favorites. Never held a crab mallet before? The staff here will happily teach newbies the best crab-picking techniques. A steamed and raw bar is also there for the sampling. Don’t miss this rowhouse restaurant’s impressive views of Inner Harbor. L, D daily $–$$$

Thames Street Oyster House 1728 Thames St.; 443-449-7726. A local institution on the historic waterfront, Thames Street Oyster House is consistently voted one of the best restaurants in town for seafood. Enjoy oysters, octopus, mussels, lobster, and more. The a la carte raw bar usually has at least 10 different kinds of oysters, brought in daily from the East and West Coasts and beyond. L (F–Sun), D daily $$–$$$


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