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Help 2 Canadian Foodies Fall in Love with Baltimore this Memorial Day Weekend.

Hi Chowhounds,

My boyfriend and I will be visiting Baltimore for the first time this weekend (Fri-Mon) and I'd love to hear about your favourite places to chow. We love French, Italian (NOT Italian-American), and Contemporary American cuisine, but are pretty much open to anything. An ideal lunch for us is a couple of cheese and charcuterie boards washed down with wine; neither of us goes in much for beer. We lived in Paris for 3 years and loved the gastro-bistrot scene there, so anything similar to that (fine-dining quality food, casual/hectic ambiance) we'd love.

We are staying at the Sheraton on Fayette, but are willing to travel (no car) for great food.

We will surely check out Lexington Market on Fri or Sat for some of Faidley's fabled crab-cakes.

From checking out websites/menus, and the discussion around the list, we are thinking about checking out the following:

Salt
B&O Brasserie
Jack's Bistro
Clementines
Crush
Corks
Dogwood ( I love their mission, so I really want to go check it out )
The Wine Market

From this list, which are worth checking out? Or is there somewhere else we shouldn't miss?

Also, how organized do we have to be regarding reservations? We live in NYC now, and usually don't bother going somewhere unless we have a reservation, but we like to be a bit more spontaneous on vacation. Will it be impossible to get seated as walk-ins?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions. We're both super-excited to visit Baltimore.

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  1. Just to add:

    Also thinking about Bluegrass and Black Olive. What are your preferences between the two?

    And: Brewer's Art? Recommended or not?

    5 Replies
    1. re: DaphneDuck

      I would do Bluegrass over Wine Market. Actually I would do it over most places on your list. They've definitely got the best charcuterie in town, and while I personally prefer beer to wine, I hear that their wine director is very good.

      Corks may or may not be closed -- do Black Olive instead.

      I love B&O, and it's just a few steps from your hotel. Brewer's Art is highly recommended, but you really need to like beer to get the full experience of it.

      A lot of people love Salt -- I found it merely ok.

      I have not been to the others on your list.

      -----
      Brewer's Art
      1106 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

      Wine Market
      921 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230

      Black Olive
      814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

      B&O American Brasserie - Hotel Monaco
      2 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

      BlueGrass Tavern
      1500 S Hanover St, Baltimore, MD 21230

      1. re: JonParker

        Thanks.

        Yeah we'll probably hit B&O when we arrive for lunch or Fri dinner.

        I think we will skip Brewer's Art and definitely try to hit Bluegrass for the charcuterie, maybe for a lunch.

        I know Black Olive comes highly recommended, for their whole fish preparations, I am assuming. If we weren't going to have the fish, would you still recommend Black Olive?

        -----
        Brewer's Art
        1106 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

        Black Olive
        814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

        1. re: DaphneDuck

          They have some beef and lamb on the menu, but really, Black Olive is a seafood restaurant. I think you'd have a really good meal there regardless, but if you want it to be a great meal, go for the seafood. Grilled sardines and the octopus salad are must have appetizers, IMO. Other than that let your waiter guide you.

          -----
          Black Olive
          814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

          1. re: JonParker

            I've only gone to Black Olive for lunch, but even though I mean to try something different I always end up getting a whole fish (the Dorade Royale) preceded by the grilled sardines wrapped in grape leaves.

            At lunch they only half a couple of choices for whole fish. At dinner the fish list is very long.

            -----
            Black Olive
            814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

        2. re: JonParker

          I've had stellar things from Salt, and merely good things from Salt, but never anything bad.

      2. I have been to most on your list - not Wine Market & Jacks (though I am still trying to get there). Of those I have been to, B&O and Salt are those I would recommend. B&O's service left something to be desired, but it wasn't what I would call "Bad," just not at all knowledgeable about food in general or the menu. I loved the Lillet appertif. Cool setting.

        Two I think you should add to your list- - Chameleon and Cinghiale, French & Italian, respectively.

        Actually i havent been to Crush - but i think you should go to their restaurant within a restaurant in the basement. The name escapes me at the moment.

        -----
        Cinghiale
        822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

        Wine Market
        921 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230

        8 Replies
        1. re: foster

          foster,

          Thanks for the Chameleon and Cinghiale rec's. The menu at Cinghiale looks fantastic, especially the chocolate tajarin with duck ragu and parmigiano. I think I want to go there just for that, and make my boyfriend order the cuttlefish pappardelle so I can eat from his plate.

          Do you have any specific rec's re: the Cinghiale menu?

          So now Chameleon and Cinghiale are definitely on my list, but Chameleon is only open for dinner and not open Sun or Mon, so we will have to keep that in mind. . .

          Is the basement resto at Crush run by Crush or someone else? There is no mention of it on the website.

          -----
          Cinghiale
          822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

          1. re: DaphneDuck

            I am sorry i didn't think of the distance, but both Crush/Demi & Chameleon and Clementine are on bus lines. I never take the bus either, but either route is a straight shot, no transferring necessary, from your hotel.

            I don't really have any dish recommendations for Cinghiale; it's been almost a year since I've been. I don't think you can go wrong. It is my plan to spend time in the Enoteca next time. The charcuterie was the most memorable part for me. ..

            Woodberry is also a great pick.

            I hope you enjoy your trip!

            1. re: foster

              My experience there is limited, but I'm just not a fan of Cingiale. Nothing I had there rise above the level of ok, with the exception of the drinks.

              1. re: JonParker

                I am a fan of Cinghiale for "non-Italian-American" Italian, but let me also suggest Sotto Sopra, which is actually within walking distance of your hotel (via a scenic walk up Charles Street). Check their menu on their website.

                Also, are you considering taxis to take you to the further places that are being recommended (i.e. Salt, Petit Louis, Crush, Clementines)? If relying solely on public transportation, unfortunately you'd be spending a lot of your limited time (Fri-Mon) just getting to and from your culinary destinations. Baltimore aint NYC metro-wise.

                -----
                Petit Louis
                4800 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21210

                Sotto Sopra Restaurant
                405 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

                Cinghiale
                822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

                1. re: bordeauxfan

                  Of the places recommeded here so far they are within easy walking distance of Lexington Market and B&O. The free Circulator bus line would take them within easy walking distance (defined as no more than four or five blocks) of Black Olive, Pazo, Bluegrass, Sotto Sopra and Brewer's Art. The light rail would take them to Woodberry Kitchen.

                  The others would require hoofing it for a bit or taking a cab.

                  -----
                  Brewer's Art
                  1106 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                  Lexington Market
                  400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                  Sotto Sopra Restaurant
                  405 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

                  Woodberry Kitchen
                  2010 Clipper Park Rd # 126, Baltimore, MD

                  Black Olive
                  814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

                  Pazo Restaurant
                  1425 Aliceanna St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                2. re: JonParker

                  I agree with Jon, my husband and I were completely underwhelmed by the food at Cinghiale. If you are inclined for Italian (not Italian/American), then you may want to consider Sotto Sopra.

                  The Dogwood concept is honorable, but the food doesn't impress me. You'd be better off going to Woodberry Kitchen or the B&O Brasserie.

                  If you are inclined to splurge, then Charleston is one of Baltimore's best restaurants and not half as expensive as the higher-end places in New York. FoiGras

                  -----
                  Sotto Sopra Restaurant
                  405 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

                  Woodberry Kitchen
                  2010 Clipper Park Rd # 126, Baltimore, MD

                  Cinghiale
                  822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

                  1. re: FoiGras

                    The mixed reviews of Cinghiale are interesting.

                    We will do one Italian for sure. The menu looks great at both Cinghiale and Sotto Sopra.

                    So which should we do?

                    For reference, in NYC we have been repeatedly disappointed by Mario Batali's restaurants (although we haven't been to Del Posto) and loved Michael White's Convivio, which has unfortunately closed.

                    -----
                    Sotto Sopra Restaurant
                    405 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

                    Cinghiale
                    822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

                    1. re: DaphneDuck

                      I stand firm with recommending Sotto Sopra. Chef Ricardo is very willing to accommodate any special requests. The wait staff is exceptional. The atmosphere isn't quite as elegant as Cinghiale, but the food rocks.

                      Just stay away from Little Italy as the restaurants therein are predominantly Italian-American red sauce oriented.

                      I'm curious to see if the Chowhounds back me up on suggesting Sotto Sopra.

                      Since JonParker confirmed that Charleston doesn't impose a dress code, then you'd really get a great dinner. Most people do dress up a bit when they dine there. We go at least once or twice a month, and we tend to put on our finery, but now that it's getting hot we go more casually. FoiGras

                      -----
                      Sotto Sopra Restaurant
                      405 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

                      Cinghiale
                      822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

          2. Mr Rain's Funhouse is great fun for dinner or brunch in the American Visionary Museum which is also worth your time. All of your selections are great and would not disappoint.
            Agree with Bluegrass. I find Wine Market to be so so and not the food but the service can be snooty and in Bmore that is just not the way. Brewer's Art is great for Happy Hour - fab beers.

            Pazo does tapas which gets a good amt of press if you like that sort of thing. Same owners as Cinghiale.
            Lebanese Taverna has good small plate options as well.
            The Helmand does fab Afghani food.
            Black Olive is good for seafood- the whole fish.

            Enjoy B-more

            Jack's doesn't take reservations and is great to eat at the bar on a weekend - get there at 5 and enjoy an hour of half off any bottle of wine.
            You should consider Alchemy in Hampden -newish place.
            I think Corks can be hit or miss.

            I think weekend brunch you could also consider:
            Bistro RX
            YellowDog Tavern
            Goldwest Cafe
            Captain Larry's (Fed Hill cash only)

            -----
            Brewer's Art
            1106 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

            Captain Larry's
            601 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

            Cinghiale
            822 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

            Wine Market
            921 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230

            Black Olive
            814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

            Hampden Cafe
            4800 Hampden Ln Ste 103, Bethesda, MD 20814

            Pazo Restaurant
            1425 Aliceanna St, Baltimore, MD 21201

            1. some of these places suggested require a car from where you are staying. or it would be a very expensive cab ride. If you have access to car/cab then for very good charcuterie or brunch I would recommend Clementine on Harford Rd. Also Woodberry Kitchen is another great place for dinner but not walking distance. It's an amazing space w/ farm to table food.
              Places mentioned that you can walk to (or short cab ride) that I def. concur w/ are Bluegrass (although I haven't been since the orig. chef left), Salt, and B&O (again I was there when before the orig. chef left)
              The restaurant in Crush is called Demi. Also very good. but you can't walk there. Sit at the bar if you can for a great view of the kitchen.
              the last place I would suggest for a casual lunch/dinner is Iggie's pizza on Calvert St. (which some people on this board have strong negative feelings about). It's not far from you. I think their Funghi pizza is amazing. ask for it well done if you want an extra crispy crust.
              Enjoy your weekend!

              -----
              Woodberry Kitchen
              2010 Clipper Park Rd # 126, Baltimore, MD

              12 Replies
              1. re: amaebi

                amaebi,

                Thanks for this.

                You bring up a good point about transportation. I had just assumed that most of these places would be accessible by public transportation. Is that not a safe assumption? We are willing to cab it if necessary, but for some reason I had thought it'd be possible to walk/bus it around.

                1. re: DaphneDuck

                  Daphne- I really don't have any experience w/ public transportation in Baltimore other than the free Charm City Circulator which doesn't go to that many places. I probably wouldn't go to either Clementine or Woodberry w/ out a car or cab. Maybe you can rent a zipcar that is now available in Baltimore. That being said, I cannot say enough about Clementine's charcuterie. the chef/owner does it all himself!

                  -----
                  Charm City Cafe
                  Baltimore, MD, Baltimore, MD

                  1. re: amaebi

                    The light rail goes practically to Woodberry Kitchen's front door.

                    -----
                    Woodberry Kitchen
                    2010 Clipper Park Rd # 126, Baltimore, MD

                    1. re: amaebi

                      Other than the Charm City Circulator I would avoid public transportation. This is a car town for sure. The bus is not for tourists. The light rail is marginally better. There's no subway to speak of (there is one but it doesn't go anywhere you want to go.)

                      Luckily you do have a lot of options nearby or a short cab ride away. Bluegrass is DEFINITELY a place for you. B&O is also fabulous. (There have been a couple of unenthusiastic posts about it lately but I don't buy it. Every time I've been there it's been outstanding. The cocktails are tremendous.) Jack's is awesome and has a very quirky menu. Lexington Market is a great place to visit, even though it's not as good as it used to be. Trinacria is a very cool little italian deli near Lexington Market. The Brewer's Art is another very worthy destination.

                      Our one experience at Salt was hit and miss. There was a boar-pasta dish that was a brilliant knockout but there was also a veal cheek dish or something that was really underseasoned. But that pasta dish... Oh mama...

                      -----
                      Brewer's Art
                      1106 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                      Lexington Market
                      400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                      1. re: kukubura

                        Two of the restos discussed here (Crush/Demi and Petit Louis) are easily accessible by bus. Crush is about a 5 minute walk from the #11's stop on Bellona Avenue/Northern Parkway, and Petit Louis is right off the #61 on Roland Avenue. Both lines are safe, easy to figure out (route maps are online) and easy to navigate, at least for an English-speaker. The 61 runs weekdays only.

                        -----
                        Petit Louis
                        4800 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21210

                        1. re: lawhound

                          > The 61 runs weekdays only.

                          And the OP is visiting on a weekend.

                  2. re: amaebi

                    I have also not been to B&O since the original chef left, but the new chef at Blue Grass is a very worthy successor to Patrick Morrow. I live a block away, and Ray Klumm has made it a nearly seamless transition. His lamb tartare (sadly no longer on the menu) was one of the finest dishes I ever had.

                    1. re: amaebi

                      I live in the Canton side of town. I walk to all the places I listed minus anything in Hampden and Woodberry. From Jack's on caton side to Bluegrass on Hanover in Fed Hill you are looking at an 1:15 hours's walk or $15 cab fare restaurant to restaurant 1 way. By staying on Fayette - you are in between fells/canton, federal hill and north Charles/Mt Vernon area. You have cab access to all of these likely looking at $10 far 1 way any directions. Our public transport is awful really. Cabs are easy to get in your hotel area but just are not cheap and many act like they don't take credit.
                      Zipcar is a great option for anything northbound. Can rent by the hour.

                      Walking is great - though I would not walk to Lexington Market as a tourist. We often take the 1 hour stroll in early evening along the water (will add some time) from caton to fed hill - stop along the way grab a drink then walk to dinner location - cab home. That way you earn those showstring fried w/mat vinegar mayo at Bluegrass or the Cold Saison at Ale Mary's or Bacon happy hour at Bad Decisions in Fells. You can always reverse it cab it to dinner early in Canton and walk back to hotel area through Fells and grab a Gelato or Fro Yo there, grab a beer or cocktail in Harbor East then cab to hotel from there- this cuts your cab fare in half.

                      Best of luck

                      -----
                      Lexington Market
                      400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                      Hampden Cafe
                      4800 Hampden Ln Ste 103, Bethesda, MD 20814

                      Ale Marys
                      1939 Fleet St, Baltimore, MD 21231

                      1. re: hammocc

                        Well, at least you can walk off the calories you ingest!!!

                        What is your take on Jack's? It's on my "go to" list, but recently have seen some less then positive reviews.

                        I hesitate venturing into Federal Hill on account of the lack of parking. There are several restaurants therein I'd love to try, but don't want to contend with no parking. Unlike you, I am not within walking distance, despite the fact that I live in Baltimore City--near the County line. Besides, I run over 5 miles a day on a treadmill, and don't need any more exercise then that.

                        Have you tried the "C" Restaurant up on Charles Street in Mount Vernon? It is in the location of where Ixia used to be. And, have you tried Waterstone in the Maryland General Hospital area (it's a nice little grill/pub--very good lamb chops, beet salad and small veal chop at very affordable prices and perhaps somewhat in your walking distance (a stretch though and not favorable neighborhood).

                        Sounds as though you have a great plan with regards to dining and exercise. FoiGras

                        1. re: FoiGras

                          FG: Jack's is great. With as much dining out as you do you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. Everything we've had there was wonderful and some of it had a definitely original twist, like the crispy pork belly with a little dollop of ranch ice cream. The cold, creaminess with the hot, salty crispiness was amazing and not something you'll find elsewhere.

                          1. re: kukubura

                            kukubura--thanks for the heads up re Jack's. Everytime I view their menu on their website I am intrigued. I like to try unusual foods.

                            I've eaten rattlesnake at a restaurant in the Denver area--cockscomb in a L.A. restaurant, frogs legs, rabbit, etc. So, although I'm not as adventuresome as Tony Bourdain, I am very willing to experiment with various foods.

                            Tonight would be a great dining out night as it is way too hot to cook. But, hubby and I ate out Friday, Saturday and Sunday and brought in take-out last night from Snyder's. I may make some shrimp salad subs tonight and maybe try Jack's tomorrow or Thursday.

                            Thanks for your input and stay cool. FoiGras

                        2. re: hammocc

                          The Circulator is fast, free, safe, and has unnaturally friendly and helpful drivers.

                      2. love your choices of Black Olive, Chingale and Lexington Market- while in Faidley's slurp down some oysters on the half shell and a cold bear in addition to the most expensive crab cake choice they have. Go to the Berger Bakery stand and get a box of Berger Chocolate top cookies. Also go to the fresh nut guy and get some warm roasted nuts
                        Someone mentioned The Helmond and I highly rec that for foodies. Afghan very nice restaurant with great food. One other consideration might be Tio Pepe, an iconic Baltimore institution which still can very strongly bring it with their huge selection of Spanish cooked dishes.

                        -----
                        Lexington Market
                        400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                        Black Olive
                        814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dining with doc

                          Thanks for the rec's for the market. This sounds perfect! Will definitely follow your advice and suck back some oysters when we're there.

                          Any other not-to-be-missed stands in the market?

                          1. re: DaphneDuck

                            A large Polish sausage w/sauce from Polock Johnny's. Dark chocolate turtles from Rheb's.