The Best Restaurants In Baltimore

Where to grab a bite, drink, and eat lots of crab in Charm City.
The Best Restaurants In Baltimore image

photo credit: Becca Maffett

Hiya Hon, welcome to Small-timore. This is the type of city where you can sit down for blue crabs dredged in Old Bay, crack open a Natty Boh, and have everybody around you ask for your life story. The restaurants here have the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay to work with, which means incredible crabs at old-school seafood counters along with modern places creating things like scrapple musubi and portobello crab imperial. You’ll also find plenty of breweries and old American history in neighborhoods like Hampden and waterside Fell’s Point, which has the region’s best Mexican spots and plenty of Edgar Allen Poe ghost stories to tell while you down plates of barbacoa.

Additionally, many of our restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries act as important hubs for mutual aid, marketplaces, and community events. And for good reason—Baltimore is all about the people: our strange accents, our love of food and a good time, and our weird affinity for flamingos.


photo credit: Becca Maffett


Old Goucher

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For an introduction to Baltimore’s food scene, there’s no better place to start than Clavel—it’s the city’s buzziest restaurant and Maryland’s first mezcaleria. Tortillas are nixtamalized on site, with corn from small producers in Oaxaca and Puebla, and they’re best experienced by ordering the tamales loaded with elote and queso chihuahua, hongos con huitlacoche, and barbacoa de borrego tacos. This spot is always busy, so come early for a better chance at securing a wooden stool at Happy Hour for margaritas and queso fundido. The team behind Clavel also runs the speakeasy W.C. Harlan and wine bar Faddensonnen—both are located nearby on West 23rd Street in Old Goucher.

photo credit: Becca Maffett



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The first few times we tried Le Comptoir Du Vin, we kept missing the front door—walking up the stairs and into a tiny foyer, you’re not sure if you’re about to enter a restaurant or someone’s apartment. But once inside, you’ll find a low-lit French restaurant that’s good for a special occasion or just a weeknight dinner of small plates with a date. The chalkboard menu changes regularly, and one of our favorite pastimes is checking the restaurant’s Instagram story for their daily updates. (Also, is it possible to fall in love with someone through their handwriting? Asking for a friend.) For dinner, order anything with the focaccia—we consistently dream of the jamon buerre—and save room for dessert.

Alma Cocina Latina feels like part restaurant, part Chesapeake Bay zen garden—there’s monstera everywhere, light pours in, the staff is calm and friendly, and everything smells so damn good. This was one of the first Venezuelan spots in Baltimore, but their dishes go far beyond the classics: there’s latin gyoza, pescado frito, and a hamachi tiradito with brushes of squid ink and pops of salmon roe that could get an impressionist hyped. Bring a date, a group of friends, or your favorite plant daddy to hang out in the jungle vibes and share the Cacao 7 dessert. It’s so rich with chocolate sorbet, fudge, mousse, and glaze, it might as well have a Swiss bank account.

If you’re talking Maryland, you’re talking crab cakes—specifically the ones from Faidley’s, a seafood stand located in Downtown’s Lexington Market. They literally invented the jumbo lump version in the early ‘90s (before, it was made with a mix of crab meat, lowering the cost but lessening the flavor). These consist of huge chunks of jumbo lump, a dash of crushed saltines, dry mustard, Old Bay, and secret sauce that makes for something not too salty, not too Old Bay-y, and almost all crab. Order one at the counter for lunch, then check out the market’s new building next door.

Whether it’s debating the best dive bars or arguing about what to do with the Inner Harbor, it seems like nobody in Baltimore can agree on anything. That is, besides how good the Asian fusion food is at Ekiben. While they’re known for the extremely good Neighborhood Bird Bun, a giant slab of fried chicken tucked inside a pillowy steamed bun, the menu also has solid vegetarian options, like tofu nuggets and tempura broccoli. Swing by for a casual lunch when it’s less crowded and you’ll be greeted by a blast of hip-hop, friendly staff, and the glorious smell of fried chicken. They have three locations, but we prefer their spot in Hampden because there’s way more seating and plenty of parking.

You know that kid from high school who always went by Tim but then suddenly insisted that their name is Timothy? That’s kind of like what The Tavern at Woodberry Kitchen did after 15 years of being known just as Woodberry Kitchen. The rebrand knocked their huge dining room down to a high-ceiling and intimate space that seats 30, making the restaurant feel like even more of a special occasion spot. They were one of the first restaurants to really focus on farm-to-table food in Maryland, and that’s still what you can expect from the dishes today. If the crab service appetizer, which does the crustacean three ways (chilled, baked, and fried), is on the menu, get it, and definitely order anything that riffs off a state classic like scrapple musubi or Southern Maryland stuffed ham.

This Fell’s Point restaurant has been buzzy since it opened in June 2022. Step inside and you’ll immediately understand why—if the smell of fresh baked pizza doesn’t clue you in, the charm of the wooden dressers and lace curtains will. Inspired by the chef’s Yugoslavian grandmother, the small menu features pierogies and kielbasa alongside a list of tavern pizzas. It truly feels like a baba’s dining room, and you half expect Little Donna herself to come out of the kitchen wearing an apron dusted with flour, ask you about your dating life, and pinch your cheeks. In her absence, you’ll instead be greeted by an extremely friendly staff happy to recommend one of their amusingly named cocktails—get the Dad’s Beer on Ice, featuring Zadie’s lager from local Union Craft Brewing. Come with a small group of friends and work your way through the whole menu.

After catching the latest A24 movie at The Charles, walk next door to discuss the trajectory of Greta Gerwig’s career over a meal at Foraged. The whole description of this “hyper-seasonal eatery,” inspired by the chef’s foraging expeditions in the woods, sounds like a Portlandia sketch, but this place always delivers. Their menu has dishes like the “last of the season tomatoes,” wild Maryland catfish, and grilled beef short rib on a carrot and celery root puree that’s seasoned and cooked perfectly. The Maryland-style “crab cakes” made with lion’s mane mushrooms could fool even a local, and Drew’s sourdough focaccia is served warm with a seasonally appropriate butter. The snug space in Station North is perfect for small groups but often fills up fast, so definitely make a reservation.

Sometimes you just need a restaurant that checks all the boxes for everyone—a spot that’s cozy but classy, nice enough for the parents, but casual enough for your Uncle Nick who always wears a Ravens jersey to dinner. That’s Petit Louis Bistro, a north Baltimore French institution known for its “Civilized Lunch” (a steal at $35 for three courses) and impeccable service. Snag a seat by the window, eavesdrop on Hopkins professors over a glass of red wine and a croque monsieur, and take a stroll through the tree-lined neighborhood afterward.

The best place to eat oysters in Baltimore is at Dylan’s, where you can watch the shucker work behind the bar or take a seat in one of their snug booths and admire the tiny restaurant’s controlled chaos from afar. The menu usually has at least one Maryland option, like wellfleets, but you can also try some briny and sweet bivalves from Virginia and New Brunswick. They also do great seasonal hits like the mayo-slathered soft shell crab sandwich. For dessert, the basque cheesecake is so good that when it pops up on their dessert menu, locals in Dylan’s neighborhood Facebook group sound the alarm.

Walk through the marble-floored lobby of Hotel Ulysses in Mount Vernon and head past the dim reception desk to the left. That’s where you'll find the total sensory overload that is Ash—Bar. The amber, velvet-soaked interior will make you second guess if you’re actually in Baltimore or somehow landed in the dining room of a Transatlantic passenger ship. The menu is all seasonal American stuff, like a plate of crisp 24-hour pressed potatoes and a revitalizing caesar salad, but really, this place is all about the ambiance. So come, pretend you’re in a Wes Anderson movie, and sip a martini under the dim lighting.

The story of Blacksauce is a pretty typical one here in Baltimore: they started as a vendor at the farmers market, people consistently lined up, and they finally opened a brick-and-mortar location. In Blacksauce’s case, they settled in Remington and still make their weekly market appearances under I-83. The storefront has extremely limited hours, so Saturday breakfast is the ideal time to go and try their handmade biscuit sandwiches, with a melty goodness that will power you through the day. The menu changes slightly throughout the year, but the brisket on a gruyere biscuit is a classic, along with plenty of options for vegetarians. Grab your sandwich to go and then take a stroll to the nearby Greedy Reads bookstore, buy some vintage at Get Shredded, and enable your houseplant addiction at B.Willow.

NiHao in Canton cranks out dishes at a speed that one could only describe as “manic,” which makes for a chaotically fun meal of excellent Sichuan dishes. Expect to reach over your friends with chopsticks to grab bites of eggplant with garlic sauce, popcorn chicken, and a satisfyingly crackly-skinned Peking Duck. It all happens in a renovated townhouse with a back patio that’s perfect for big parties if you make a reservation in advance. Come for lunch or dinner, and head to the Canton waterfront after for a walk along the harbor—depending on the time of year, you might spot menhaden, jellyfish, or a resident great blue heron.

This Baltimore institution whips up the area’s best pit beef sandwiches, made of thinly sliced rare roast beef that’s been cooked quickly at a high temperature. According to the owner, the key to good pit beef is serving up a lot of it, so that the slices never have time to dry. Sandwiches come with just meat, on a soft and squishy bun, and you should dress them up with an array of sauces (go with the classic tiger sauce, a horseradish/mayo combo), sliced onions, and pickles. This is a great spot for lunch, but be prepared to wait in line.

The way The Helmand, an Afghan spot in Mount Vernon, squeezes so much flavor into their dishes should be studied by a special task force (and one that we’d like to be a part of). See this phenomenon for yourself by ordering the leek aushak dumplings with yogurt and mint, tender pumpkin kaddo borwani in garlic and yogurt, and the onion-beef mantwo swimming in meat sauce. The restaurant is located in a 100-year-old carriage house that works for a first date when sharing some dumplings sounds fun, or a special occasion meal after a visit to the Walters Art Museum, when everybody wants their own big plate of rice and meat.

A few blocks away from the northern edge of Patterson Park, La Barrita is all about rare-cooked meats, incredible pasta, and servers who moonlight as wild soccer fans. Come with a few friends for the Parrillada X2, a mixed grill platter with tender steaks, chimichurri, and sides, and some handmade pasta like the fettuccine with a creamy mushroom sauce. In addition to being an ideal spot for special occasions and dates, this is one of the best places in the city to watch a soccer match at the bar, especially if an Argentinian team is playing.

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