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Best Baltimore Restaurants

AOL PICK from our Editors

Baltimore’s dining scene, kind of like Baltimore itself, is one of the best-kept secrets in America. The city sits at the culinary fault line between the sophistication and innovation of the Northeast and the down-home richness of the South. Baltimore’s best restaurants source ingredients from the small farms of Pennsylvania and the Eastern Shore, and the wonderful Chesapeake Bay. The food is rich in immigrant influences from Asia, Latin America and Africa. Baltimore’s a town that loves its hedonism, and it embraces Epicureanism with more ease than other American cities. New York and D.C., eat your heart out, because we’re eating just as well here, and for half the price.

Charleston

Neighborhood: Inner Harbor Price: Expensive
If you measure restaurants by how brightly they shine in the foodie firmament, Charleston is the best thing Baltimore has going. And you know what? The foodies aren’t far off. Two-time James Beard nominee chef Cindy Wolf took two of the best cuisines on the planet—French and Carolina Low Country—married them into a polygamous ménage a trois with Chesapeake ingredients and produced a delicious baby. Not convinced? You clearly haven’t had foie gras melted over a perfect corn cake, accented by brilliant bursts of tart blueberry (the menu is seasonal, so this dish may not always be available). If you really want to let yourself go—and why not, you didn’t come here to skimp, right?—opt for individualized wine pairings with your entrees.

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Woodberry Kitchen

Neighborhood: Hampden & North Baltimore Price: Moderate
We could fill out this entire eating section with the awards Woodberry Kitchen has garnered, but let’s keep it simple. Located in an old foundry that’s been renovated into the barnyard dining room of the future, the Woodberry takes everything the Chesapeake region has to offer and turns it into innovative delicious-ness. It only uses organic ingredients sourced from local farms, which occupy a menu where you can pick several small plates (the smoked pecans? Amazing) or a few big suppers (chicken and biscuit in garlic sauce with baby carrots? Oh yeah) or a rotating list of seasonal flatbreads (tasso ham and asiago…mmmm). Book now or you’ll never forgive yourself.

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Miss Shirley's

Neighborhood: Hampden & North Baltimore Price: Moderate

Food Network exposure and a satellite branch haven’t dampened the experience of dining at Miss Shirley’s, one of Baltimore’s great brunch spots. Shirley’s does up cuisine that mixes Southern home style with Maryland ingredients, which makes for food that’s as rich as Scrooge McDuck in a bull market—beef filets topped with lump crabmeat on fried green tomatoes, or chicken with white cheddar and green onion waffles. We love the food here, but seriously, bring some Tums or Rolaids. Peaches and grits never went so well together as when they were introduced to crab. There’s another branch on the Inner Harbor, but the original Roland Park location is our favorite.

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L.P. Steamers

Neighborhood: South Baltimore Price: Moderate

The quintessential Maryland food is blue crabs, with anything else coming out of the Chesapeake Bay coming a close second. Now, LP Steamers may not be, flavor for flavor, the best place in Baltimore to consume the above. But it’s our favorite spot, anyway. This is a South Baltimore institution, where the service is friendly and speaks with a true Balmer accent, the sea life is fresh and fried to tasty perfection, and the general vibe is one of a wise-ass, roll-up-your-sleeves fish bar. Have an oyster sandwich or a dozen steamed Number 1 Jimmies (that’s large male crabs) and enjoy life. This is True Baltimore.

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Joe Squared Pizza and Bar

Neighborhood: Mt Vernon Price: Moderate

Here are some things we like: good pizza, good rum, good art, good music. Can you provide all of the above? Yes? Fantastic. Enter Joe Squared, a dark, cool space which kind of resembles the Bat Cave, and offers all of the above. Joe loves his pizza and serves it square-shaped and delicious, often complimented by the most extensive rum menu we’ve seen anywhere. (The guy likes rum. Who can argue with that?) Concerts, free art shows and all kinds of experimental creative goodness regularly go down here, so when you’re done eating and you’ve slung back a few shots of Barbancourt, you’ve no excuse not to stay, listen to a band and get your groove on.

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b bistro

Neighborhood: Hampden & North Baltimore Price: Moderate

b, also known as Bolton Hill Bistro, knows how to start the organic fresh menu deal off the bat: with cheese. Great, amazing cheese. Oh how we love good cheese, and they have some fine fermented dairy product here, some from as close as Maryland, and some from the caves of Burgundy. The b goes and blows your taste buds away with a geographic marriage of French attention to detail and Tidewater ingredients, like roasted Springfield Farms chicken served in its own jus, or a delightfully creative monkfish bouillabaisse. Dinner and brunches are almost laughably affordable given the quality of fare.

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Papermoon Diner

Neighborhood: Hampden & North Baltimore Price: Budget

You know that place you frequented in your 20s? The cheap diner where you could scrape up the change in your pocket and between the cushions and still get a good meal of honest pizza, burgers and sandwich-style fare? The place decked out with weird art and knick-knacks like, say, a mobile made up of Star Wars fighters? The spot generally looked decorated by someone who was possibly in the same chemically altered state of mind as the folks devouring the deep-fried ravioli at the next table. This is that spot for Baltimoreans, especially Johns Hopkins students. It’s still open late nights on weekends, but sadly, the Papermoon is no longer a 24-hour spot.

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Attman's Deli

Neighborhood: Inner Harbor Price: Budget

Attman’s has been around since 1915, so they’re clearly doing something right, and it’s not just good slogans (“Where the taste of real Jewish hot pastrami makes your mouth water for more.”). That advertising is more than accurate (and a little suggestive). This cornerstone of the Baltimore Jewish scene, staffed by a crew of decidedly un-kosher African Americans, Salvadorans and other “Balmerans,” does up the meanest deli dining in town. The chopped liver alone is reason to move to Lombard Street. This has the best sandwich in town, possibly barring Chap’s (and Attman’s has more variety), so get over here already.

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Vaccaro's

Neighborhood: Inner Harbor Price: Budget

Little Italy is a pretty evocative neighborhood in general, but there are little bits of Little Italy that are a whole lot atmospheric. One good example? Vaccaro’s, the best Italian bakery and café in town. They’ve got nice espresso and Italian sodas and syrups that are molto rinfrescante. But mainly? They’ve got good cannolis. Great cannolis.

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Chap's Pit Beef

Neighborhood: East Baltimore Price: Budget

Betcha didn’t know Baltimore had its own barbecue? Traveler, meet pit beef. Actually, to be fair, this isn’t barbecue, in the sense that it’s grilled rather than slow smoked, but it’s delicious all the same. There are lots of places to get pit beef around Baltimore, but the reliable fallback for the real deal experience—hip-hop blaring in the kitchen, cops at the countertop, picnic table seating and a strip club next door—is Chap’s, located on Pulaski Highway. Give it a go, topped with some raw onions and Tiger Sauce (a blob of creamy horseradish-y goodness).

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