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Best of Baltimore

I just moved to Baltimore - I work for a food company called The Chefs' Warehouse which sells specialty and some commodity products to restaurants, hotels, country clubs, etc... I wanted to create a quick TOP 5 of the most important things for me in a city and see what you all can come up with... IN BALTIMORE!

1) Best Cup of Coffee?
2) Best Beer Bar
3) Best Bakery? Any place to get a fresh baguette?
4) Best Pizza (dare I ask coming from NYC)
5) Best Street Food Vendor?

and if you have time to throw in there...

Best Food Neighborhood in Baltimore?

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  1. My reply is Fells Point centered as I spend most of my time there.
    Coffee, Zeke's
    Beer Bar, Max's Taphouse
    Bakery, Bonaparte
    Pizza, don't get that fight started
    Street Vendor, Grilled hot dogs at the plaza on Washington St, on Orioles game days

    1. 1) For now, On the Hill (Bolton Hill). If/when Artifact Coffee (Clipper Mill) reopens, it will be my #1.
      2) Brewer's Art (Mt. Vernon)
      3) Bonaparte (Fells Point), esp. if you want fresh baguettes. Atwater's (Belvedere Sq.) has nice breads and baked sweets.
      4) Iggies (Mt. Vernon)
      5) Don't know much about daily street vendors but the weekly vendors at both the Waverly and JFX farmers' markets have an impressive array of great "street food" (Thai, West Indian, crepes, and much more -- see other threads re: B'mo farmers' markets).

      Best food neighborhood is tough. The gems are kind of scattered, which makes exploring more fun. Neighborhoods with lots of restos such as Mt. Vernon and Federal Hill have lots of meh-to-OK places, but only a handful of good ones.

      1. 1. High Grounds (Highlandtown)
        2. (pass)
        3. Bonaparte for baguettes. Hit and miss offerings at various bakeries around town, but Bonaparte is also where I have had least disappointments.
        4. Pasta Mista (Canton)
        5. Halal Gyro Cart (see my post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/615320


        Food neighborhood is too hard. I'd say there are gems scattered from Little Italy/Harbor East all the way east to Greektown.

        1. Coffee:
          1. Spro coffee in the Towson library.
          2. The bar at Woodberry Kitchen (uses Counter Culture)

          Beer Bar:
          1. Brewer's Art. Great bar downstairs, lounge type bar upstairs. Brews their own Belgium style beers.
          2. Wharf Rat, Fells Point. One of the oldest bars in the city. Focus on British Ales. 344 before 7.
          3. Max's Taphouse. Largest selection of drafts/bottles. Hosts occasional beer event.

          1. Piedigrotta in Little Italy. Not the best if you like crunchy baguettes but everything elst is spot on.
          2. Bonaparte in Fells Point

          1. Matthews on Eastern Ave. You will have to drop your NYC pretentions and allow yourself to fall in love with Baltimore. Love the original pie with grated cheese.
          2. Iggies. Above average Neapolitan style pizza

          Stree Vendor.
          Again, forget your NYC bias here. We don't really do street vendor food. We do public markets. Check out Lexington Market during the week for crab cakes, berger cookies, pollish johnnies and Hollins Market for fried chicken.

          best food neighborhood:
          The one you live in!

          Hope this helps.

          2 Replies
          1. re: KAZ

            I agree with most of what has been said here. Max's is great. Iggies is also a really good pizza. With regard to street food, again, not sure what qualifies in Baltimore. That said, I'll put my vote in for the mushroom lady at the JFX Sunday Farmer's Market. All the things she makes are good. Her mushroom fritters are truly exceptional. They are kind of spendy at $8 for an order, but they are one of the best food items in all of Baltimore. She also makes a mushroom quinoa that is out of this World. I have tried to copy, and come only close but not quite spot. Her mushroom sandwich and chili are also good, but the fritters and quinoa are in my opinion her best. Enjoy.

            1. re: baltymoron

              Also, last year Taharka Bros had at least two ice cream carts. Pretty unique for a street vendor in Baltimore.


          2. 1) Bluebird (sold at Blue Moon, for example)
            2) Max's for the sheer variety
            3) Di Pasquales is not a bakery but has the best bread, including Italian baguettes. Bonaparte for French.
            4) Matthew's. It's not New York style, but it's awesome. There is no good New York style.
            5) Hm, street food....well, whenever there is a Latin festival on Broadway, the MozzArepas guy comes. Those are great.

            If you could somehow count the very walkable Harbor East/Little Italy/Fells Point triangle as a single neighborhood, I'd say that. Otherwise just Fells.

            1. 1) I'm not qualified to answer.
              2) Max's. Great selection. Also check out Brewer's Art.
              3) La Bonaparte in Savage Mill (I think Fells Point also). From a family of french bakers.
              4) Got to go with Iggies. Though I still haven't tried Matthew's.
              5) The Halal cart outside of the PNC bank building by the Arena. Get the combo on rice. With extra hot/red sauce.

              3 Replies
              1. re: bigterp1

                4. Here come the haters, but I would take an Isabella's pie over Iggies any day of the week.

                1. re: Turkeybone

                  Based on one experience with both, I'd agree. But I'd still put Matthew's on top.

                  1. re: Turkeybone

                    Actually, I will take back my Pasta Mista rec and also recommend Isabella's.

                2. 1. I don't drink coffee, so can't help you here, but Zeke had a popular following.

                  2. I'd say Brewer's Art on Charles Street. Decent atmosphere too.

                  3. French-style bakery: easily Patisserie Poupon on Baltimore Street. Bonaparte and Bonjour (on Falls Road in North Baltimore) share the tie for second place. Bread bakery would have to be Atwater's, which has two locations in North Baltimore (Belvedere Square) and Towson at the Kenilworth Bazaar. Excellent soups as well. Atwaters has stands at the farmers' markets.

                  4. You won't find amazing pizza in Baltimore, unless you make your own. Matthew's is a thick dough pizza that has a strong following among some people, but I've dined there twice and found it a mediocre version of Pizza Hut. Iggie's in Mount Vernon, the last I ate there, does thin crust artisanal pizza, but they are on the expensive side. I'd have to confess that the Bertucci's chain in the suburbs probably has the most reliably tasty Neopolitan style pizzas.

                  5. Baltimore is not known for street food. It's too small, and downtown isn't busy enough during the day to support a variety of street vendors as you find in New York or especially Philadelphia. There are vendors at the farmers' markets that sell prepared food and that's your closest bet.

                  As for the Best Food Neighborhood, the city is not a large one, so almost everything is within easy reach. Some of the best ethnic food is found outside the city in Howard County (halfway towards Washington) because the large Asian population has resulted in a number of good Korean, Thai and Indian restaurants, although not Chinese for some reason. The waterfront neighborhoods have several good restaurants and plenty of overpriced mediocre ones. The northern regions of Baltimore has a good selection of well-run eateries in Hampden, Roland Park and near JHU-Homewood. Mount Vernon has a plethora of eateries of varying quality, and given the concentration I would say this is the Best Food Neighborhood, if any place in Baltimore serves that nomiker.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Roland Parker

                    PP is better than Bonaparte... for french macaroons, madelines, chocolate chip cookies, and other items Bonaparte doesn't sell. ;-) I was an avid PP supporter, but eventually I converted to Bonaparte. The tipping point: I had friends order their birthday cake from PP and then watched in horror as no one came close to finishing their slice, let alone go for seconds. Now that my blind loyalty had hurt others, I was forced to accept reality. I feel like some of their items are lacking in flavor, but even those can psychologically taste good because of how pretty everything looks.

                    1. re: bmorecupcake

                      Only partly kidding when I say that if my friends turned up their noses at Patisserie Poupon, I would look for other friends! More seriously, the cakes are just unbeatable, and we should never mistake delicacy of flavor for lack of it. PP also sells bread on occasion, e.g. brioche, and it is uniformly terrific.

                  2. 1. Daily Grind.
                    2. Brewer's Art-for beer, atmosphere, and an eclectic vibe.
                    3. Bonaparte's is alright, but really the best baguette and french bread is at Petit Louis. not a bakery. I know the baker. he uses the best cultures and product. Food is the best french in the city.
                    4. Iggie's is wonderful. Matthew's:too much crust. Hot Tomatoes in Fell's Point is the closest i've founsd to NYC pie.
                    5. No such thing here.
                    6. throw in:
                    for market::JFX, under 83.
                    vietnamese:mekong delta.
                    drinks and debauchery:Pazo
                    for charm city's culinary pride:crabcake-Faidley's in Lexington Market.

                    1. 2. The Brewers Art is definately the best make their own beer brew pub in the city. If you are looking for a selection of various breweries I have to say Mahaffeys in Canton has a great selection:

                      4. Joe Squared on North Avenue is doing Coal Oven pizza, I have heard mixed, I think they are trying to get it right. Iggies is good as is the Dog Pub, Matthew's Pizza is my fav. It is a thicker dough but it is light and airy and delicious.

                      1. 1. Zekes is solid
                        2. Brewer's Art, Max's, and Mahaffey's
                        3. Bonaparte
                        4. Honestly... Pasta Mista and Hot Tomatoes
                        5. Spicy turkey samosa at JFX
                        Crab Cake - Dudas

                        Best Neighborhood - They are all close to eachother, check them all out.

                        1. (1) Daily Grind
                          (2) Mahaffey's
                          (3) Patisserie Poupon
                          (4) Matthews or Iggies
                          (5) Have no idea.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BmoreHound

                            (1) Zekes
                            (2) Mahaffey's!!!
                            (3) DiPasquale's Rustic Baguette is the best!
                            (4) Isabella's
                            (5) Taco Truck in Fells Point

                          2. tkhawkes-

                            One thing to remember about our fair city is that most of the people here are relatively unexperienced with the rest of the world. Baltimore is like a little capsule where its' denizens remain and view everything through rose-colored glasses. What do I mean by this? Mainly that if you're the kind of person who's traveled and tasted a wide variety of what the world has to offer then much of Baltimore's tastes will seem pedestrian to you.

                            And while there are a number of places in Baltimore that are really trying to deliver quality (Patisserie Poupon comes to mind), so many more are just doing average quality.

                            Baguettes in Baltimore are a sad state. Perhaps it's the water but when you compare Bonaparte, Bonjour or even Petit Louis' baguette to say Paris' Stephane Secco then our product regrettably falls flat (but Washington DC's restaurant Central serves an amazing bread).

                            Since you're coming from NYC, I think you'll find pizza in Baltimore to be a waste of time. Not because we don't have a group of places making good pies but rather because if your context. Most people who "love" NYC pizza have a built-in ambivalence about any pizza other than NYC Pizza. Pizza is about context. It's about regionality. The pizza in Baltimore is different than NYC and if you're looking for a "NYC Pizza" you're best off gorging when you visit NYC. However, if you can remain in context, then there are some quite enjoyable pizzas here in Baltimore.

                            I have to disagree with Roland's position that street food here is nonexistent because of population size. Compare the street food scene to Portland, OR (a much smaller city) and we should have a thriving street food scene. Sadly, street food isn't part of Baltimore Culture - in fact, just being on the street isn't part of our culture. Everyone drives or stays at home. We're a very cocooned city and we're also a city with very pedestrian tastes. A street hot dog vendor is about as wild as it gets here.

                            Best food neighborhood? I'm tempted to say North Fells Point or Highlandtown because of the influx of Latinos and their accompanying food joints. Quite a lot of tasty and authentic Latin cuisine in those parts but South Fells Point (Broadway and Thames) is limited mainly to bars, pub grub and the occasional restaurant.

                            Hampden might be a choice since it's got a lively restaurant scene but sadly, nothing too progressive.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: onocoffee

                              "Since you're coming from NYC, I think you'll find pizza in Baltimore to be a waste of time. Not because we don't have a group of places making good pies but rather because if your context. Most people who "love" NYC pizza have a built-in ambivalence about any pizza other than NYC Pizza. Pizza is about context. It's about regionality. The pizza in Baltimore is different than NYC and if you're looking for a "NYC Pizza" you're best off gorging when you visit NYC. However, if you can remain in context, then there are some quite enjoyable pizzas here in Baltimore."

                              Reply #1:
                              To tkhawes, replace "pizza" with "bagel".

                              Reply #2:
                              To ono, the OP's context is that he/she lives in Baltimore now.

                              Reply #3:
                              I only eat Italian food in Italy.

                              Vote for your favorite reply now!

                            2. 1) Best Cup of Coffee?
                              Zeke's at the Farmer's Market
                              2) Best Beer Bar-
                              Hamilton Tavern or Rocket to Venus (3 for 3 happy hour lets you taste the variety)
                              I noticed that Max's had alot of nods, while I can commend their selction I do not think more is better I like a place where the beer is as loveingly choosen as the ingredients for a great meal. Hamilton Tavern and RTV have staples but change their taps intrducing you to new flavors and small breweries. I love their knowledge and enthusiam behind their goods.
                              3) Best Bakery? Any place to get a fresh baguette?
                              Bonjour (Mt.Washington)
                              4) Best Pizza (dare I ask coming from NYC)
                              5) Best Street Food Vendor?
                              Mexican Breakfast esp. the Mexican Eggs at the JFX Farmers Market

                              1. 1. I don't drink coffee so I am not sure of the best coffee house
                                2. Brewers Art! Great beers, I love the Pale Ale and the bar food is excellent
                                3. Patisserie Poupon
                                4. Iggies, Matthews (both grew on me the longer I lived here) and I have heard great things about Isabella's but haven't been there yet.
                                5. Street vendors. The people who have replied must not work near Johns Hopkins Hospital. The best street vendor in the city resides on the corner of Wolfe and Monument Street. It's the Gyro Express man! He makes the best chicken souvlaki's and always has a long line. He is usually here from April-November. Get it while you can, it's seriously the greatest.

                                I don't know the best food neighborhood because I have trouble finding places to eat all the time. I want moreeeee!