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Help a poor Los Angeles hound visiting Baltimore and DC

Hello 'hounds

Staying in DC and Baltimore (near convention center) without a car.

I'm looking for superlative examples of food not well represented in LA. Here's the rundown-- in LA we have much of Asia covered, and covered well. So while I'm interested to visit your Chinatowns, they will not be a food destination. Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan are all superlatively represented. Less so are Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore/Malaysia, Philippines. Of course our Mexican and Central American foods are legendary.

Having said this, what can I get my hands on in Baltimore and DC that is a superlative representation, and not well represented in LA? And without a car?

I know in DC you have those half-smokes-- gotta try those. Also, Maryland is of course famous for your crab. I know there is a much larger African population here than in LA. Having said that, I'm fine with eating great examples of regional American cooking as well. This doesn't have to be a "cuisines of the world" trip.

We've got a economic preference for budget eating, though I am not bound to this rule. And while in Baltimore, my sister might be visiting with her 3 year old so we'd be looking for a kid friendly place to eat some superlative crab. She may be driving, so it's possible we may have a car in Baltimore, though I can tell you that she will not want to drive very far.

Thanks in advance for all your help

Mr Taster
of the Los Angeles Chowhounds

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  1. In Baltimore you might want to get some cabs to get to some places away from the inner harbor, which is pretty lame and rather expensive.

    Matthew's Pizza in Baltimore is kind of legendary. I also really like Blue Grass Tavern for Southern food. You can find crabcakes and right now soft-shells in a variety of places. Faidley's is kind of a Baltimore institution. Mr. Rain's has a nice lunch and patio if you are at the Visionary Arts Museum. In that area my Mom really also likes Little Havana and the Wine Market. If you want to wander a fun neighborhood with lots of restaurants Hampden is really a cute area, but definitely a bit out of the harbor. (Most places are fairly kid friendly up there too) You might read the thread on the Food Lover's Guide to Baltimore. I am only up there from time to time to visit friends.

    In DC you definitely should get some Ethiopian food, try Ethiopic. Where are you staying in DC or sightseeing? Palena Cafe can be a bargain depending on what you order and the food is great.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      Thank you for these tips. Can you talk a bit about Matthew's Pizza? Is this a style of pizza unique to MD? I grew up in New Jersey eating that style of pizza, but I've spent enough time around the country (and the world) to know that the definition of pizza can get pretty hazy around the edges. I'm curious to know what makes Matthew's special.

      We're not afraid to leave the waterfront, but I do need to be mindful of my little niece's crankiness level. Faidley's looks great. Good god, I'd love a crab cake right about now.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        Without a car, getting to Matthew's Pizza may be difficult and while quaint, is just okay. Go to Faidley's and have a crab cake.

        1. re: ChewFun

          Matthew's is nothing. Don't bother.

    2. At the moment, most of the crab (hard shell or crab cakes) you will find are not using Maryland crab. The season has just opened and the local crabs are still small. However, soft-shell crabs ("busters") are in season now. They are a true regional delicacy. The entire crab, minus the gills and eyes, is dredged in flour and then fried.

      I haven't lived in Baltimore for years, so can't help with specific places to eat; I am guessing that most places near the Convention Center and Inner Harbor are not worthwhile and mostly for tourists, but again, I don't really know. Since Baltimore has little in the way of public transportation, you might need to take cabs. The nearest place to downtown I can recommend is Bo Brooks in Canton. Bo Brooks is considered a tourist trap by some, but that's because of the location on the water and the day-core, if you will. It was an old-time bar/crab-house up in a blue-collar part of Baltimore for many years. They moved down to Canton and I have been there a couple of times since I moved. The food seemed the same; atmosphere, not so much. Not the old Natty Bo joint I knew and loved since college. But the crabs and the onion rings were still great. Again, crabs won't be local, but that will be true almost everywhere.

      Point being that the cost of getting to DC could take you out of the budget category before you sit down to order.

      So aside from all that, it sounds like LA is deficient in the foods of West and Central Africa, and here we've got you covered. The U Street corridor is known as Little Ethiopia. Well-known places are Dukem, Etete, Little Ethiopia, Abiti, Queen Makeda. You would be able to take the Metro from Union Station.

      You don't say how long you will be here, but getting down to DC might not be worthwhile if it is for just a few days. MARC's Penn Line and Amtrak both run from Penn Station in Baltimore (a long walk from the Convention Center) to Union Station. MARC is basically a commuter train and there are only three trains back to Baltimore after 6 p.m. (7:40, 9, and 10:30). But cheap - $7 one-way. Amtrak prices vary by schedule but can be as high as $66 round-trip. So be careful about choosing your trains if you do Amtrak. Be sure to check prices. However, on Amtrak, you've got at least one train per hour.

      15 Replies
      1. re: Just Visiting

        Thank you for this.

        OK, first the boring details.

        We will not be commuting back and forth between DC and Baltimore.

        Details of the trip are still developing, but what is set is that we will be arriving at BWI on the evening of June 5 and going directly up to DC. We may be staying with a friend, but I'm not certain yet. Not sure what area he lives in, but he does live in a transit friendly area.

        We will be staying exclusively in DC from June 5-8. Evening of June 8th we will go to our hotel (Inner Harbor) in Baltimore so we can be near the convention center for the weekend, which is the official reason for this trip. We fly home from BWI around 5pm on Sunday, June 10. My sis and 3 year old niece, if they decide to come, will be with us on Saturday and Sunday in Baltimore only.

        With that in mind, on to the food!

        LA does in fact have a very small "Little Ethiopia" strip. The main commercial district is the one block between Olympic and Whitworth:


        Having said that, if there is a superlative representation of the cuisine, or perhaps a localized or regional style of Ethiopian cooking that is not the standard doro wot/tibbs, etc. which one finds at "standard" Ethiopian restaurants, then I'd love to give it a shot. And the U street corridor looks like a great destination.

        As for the crab, what will the season be like during the time we're in town? (June 8-10)

        Thanks for all your advice.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          I thought I'd explained about the crabs but maybe not enough? Local crabs are really not abundant or large until August, so the crabs you get will not be local. Soft shell crabs will be in season even in early June.

          Given that LA has everything that DC has, based on your description, then I can't think of another cuisine that is a speciality here that you couldn't get at home, except maybe southern fried chicken. That can be really hard to find. Personally I think half-smokes are all-hype and I've never thought much of Ben's Chili Bowl. It's an institution, but you don't go there for great food.

          We have lots of great restaurants in DC so if you specify your preferences I'm sure people can give you lots of specific recs.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            Local picked crab is easily available. I had crab cakes two weeks ago at brunch that were 10% Maryland and were great. The soft shells right now can be from the Chesapeake or from parts further south but this season, the crabs have been large and very sweet. Better than last year. There is this guy from Maryland department of fisheries, Steve Vilnet who has a newsletter you can sign up for to get the facts on local fish.

            1. re: wineo1957

              Right - picked crab for crab cakes. But hard shells are still very light at this time of year. I agree that this is the time of year for busters, but not everyone will eat them. It looks like giant fried spider on a bun and that takes some getting used to.

              1. re: Just Visiting

                Assuming a "buster" is a deep fried soft shell crab on a bun? Please explain. Remember, I'm not from your parts. Google is not being terribly helpful.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  Yes, as I said above: "However, soft-shell crabs ("busters") are in season now. They are a true regional delicacy. The entire crab, minus the gills and eyes, is dredged in flour and then fried."

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    dive in among the fried soft shell Mr. Taster. dive in.

                    think of it as a 'spider roll' maki in a bun. and yeah different flavor accents

            2. re: Mr Taster

              Can anyone chime in about how regionally specific the menus are at the U street Ethiopian restaurants? Or do the menus tend to reflect the standard wat/tibbs/kitfo rotation that is on most Ethiopian diaspora menus, but are just cooked to different levels of excellence depending on the restaurant?

              I'm asking this question out of total ignorance. I've never been to East Africa (but am planning a trip for next summer). One of the most interesting things to me when I travel is seeing how the food and people gradually change from region to region as I travel. In some countries, you find dishes are specific to a particular village, and that's the only place you can find it. (In Viernam for example, people in a neighboring village had never even heard of the dish we had just a few miles away)

              I'm not suggesting that sort of intense specialization exists outside of Ethiopia (it doesn't in LA), but I would be very curious to know if there's a difference, for example, between cooking in the north vs. the south, for example, much in the same way cooking from the northern Issan region of Thailand has been showing up on menus in LA for many years now.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Not about Ethiopian, but your regional comment reminded me that it might be worth your while to go to Rasika. It's one of DC's best restaurants (Indian) and has a lot of dishes that you won't find at most Indian restaurants (even in Artesia) - especially if you eat fish/seafood.

                1. re: mdpilam

                  Although we do have rather broad regional Indian cooking (Northern Punjabi, southern vegetarian, Hyderabadi) it really isn't one of LA's specialties- at least not in the same way Korean, Chinese, Thai or Mexican would be. That sounds great. Thanks!

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I concur with mdpilam about Rasika - good call. It's a great restaurant and would be a great choice for you. It's not too hard on the wallet if you stick to their excellent vegetarian choices. Don't fail to order the palak chaat. Uhockey did a nice write-up on it here:


                    They now have two locations.


                2. re: Mr Taster

                  You will not find regional specificity in the Ethiopian restaurants in DC. There are some Eritrean places, but the one I go to for lunch near work doesn't have much of a menu.

                  If you want to go to a 'real' Ethiopian place, consider this one in the Northern Virginia suburbs that specializes in tere sega:


                  PS - they have expanded their menu since this article.

                  1. re: Steve

                    Wonderful!! We just may need to take the 26G bus by the Pentagon to have lunch there, and visit Arlingon while we're at it.

                    Thanks so much for this spectacular recommendation.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      It's in the Build America Shopping Center, which is a polyglot collection of mostly Middle Eastern and North African bars and restaurants. What's especially intriguing about this center is that it is double-sided. There is a side that faces the street and is more popular, and then there is a hidden back side, just as big, that only the the locals and more intrepid know about. That's where you will find the Yemeni restaurant, Al Jazera. My favorite spot is a rather swank Ethiopian sports bar, Eyo. Very high quality. Almost surely better than what you have on Fairfax.

              2. re: Just Visiting

                I don't think Queen Makeda is in business anymore (as a restaurant at least, wasn't there a post that it is now strictly a nighclub?).

              3. In DC Ethiopian is a must. I haven't tried Ethiopic yet, but I like Etete best of the ones I've tried.

                For very unexceptional half smokes, the famous place to go is Ben's Chili Bowl. For great ones, go to the Eastern Market and get one from the meat market inside about half way down. I like the "hot half smoke in natural casing". You eat standing up and apply condiments yourself. It costs $2.

                For a soul food hole in the wall, check out Oohs and Aahs on U St. Another soul food place that is said to be good though I haven't been yet, is Levi's Port Cafe, near Eastern Market.

                4 Replies
                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  Wonderful recs. I'm a big fan of public markets and will definitely have to check out Eastern Market. I read about Oohs and Aahs on another thread recommending Carolina BBQ and I may need to check it out (even though Raleigh is 5.5 hours away... but still closer than Los Angeles!)

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Mr. Taster.
                    You can purchase crabs by the dozen or bushel at the Maine St Wharf in DC from Captain Whites. Crab season started April 1st . I also second woodleyparkhound recommendation for Levi Port Cafe and Eastern Market. U St has a good deal of good restaurants I like Marvin and have heard good things about Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

                    Also there is really no reason to visit Chinatown in DC its more like Disneylands version of Chinatown and can't really compare to NY, San Fran or LA

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Yeah, no. See Oohs and Ahs is on U St. in DC. There may be another place in Raleigh by the same name, but woodleyparkhound is sending you to a place right here in DC.

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        You can get equally good Ethiopian in L.A., so I don't know if it's worth bothering with, but Oohs and Aahs is definitely worth visiting.

                    2. Wrt Baltimore only, we don't have a ton of food that is both indisputably tasty AND unique to Baltimore, with the execption of crabs, discussed in other responses.

                      Here are some suggestions in/near the Harbor that are good/unusual. Thousand Kabobs, on Liberty Street (5 minute walk from the Harbor), has excellent Pakistani food, especially biryanis but virtually everything is good. (There are some stools at a counter, but best to take out.) Lexington Market, home of Faidleys described elsewhere, also has a decent deli (Mary Mervis) and is near a great, throwback Italian deli, Trinacria (no place to eat at Trinacria, but you could take out their excellent muffalatta and eat it elsewhere). Also close to the Hrabor, maybe 10 mins walk, is Little Italy, home to Cafe Isabella (porchetta sandwich and great pizza) and Max's Empanadas (I'm sure there is a reason they're in Little Italy, but don't know what it is). A slightly longer walk (15 mins?) south of the Harbor would take you to Cross Street Market -- same city market idea as Lexington Market, with a good raw bar and poss fried soft-shells. There's plenty of fine dining, but only one restaurant in Baltimore that can really set itself out from the pack -- Woodberry Kitchen, about 4 miles north of downtown. (Accessible by light rail, but a cab is probably a better choice for a visitor.) And there's an excellent, reasonably priced restaurant-ina-a-bar called Peters Inn, about a mile east of downtown.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: lawhound

                        Spot on, lawhound. I agree with everything- Cafe Isabella, Trinacria and Woodberry Kitchen are 3 of my favorite places in Baltimore.

                        This may not be an option if you have children in tow, but a great local brewery is Clipper City (brewers of Heavy Seas beers)- located on the outskirts of Baltimore. They offer brewery tours that are great. If possible try to get one with the founder, Hugh Sisson http://www.hsbeer.com/

                        1. re: kdhickey

                          I wonder what someone from LA would think of Woodberry. The've cornered the market on hype and can deliver solid food, but are expensive (for Baltimore) and in a bigger city would just be one of many similar solid restaurants, probably not top tier.

                          Jack's Bistro is more interesting, in my opinion.

                          1. re: kukubura

                            You might be right (though the prices won't look out of line to someone outside Baltimore), but the point is that the surroundings are cool, the cocktails and wine are excellent, and they really do buy, prepare and sell local food. If you're from LA and looking for what we do here in baltimore, that's not a bad way to get some perspective. Shouldn't be the only way, but it's something you should def try.

                            1. re: kukubura

                              As a former Baltimorean, I really enjoy Woodbery K when I return. It doesn't serve the quintessential Maryland cuisine of my youth (think Crab Imperial), but its commitment to local sourcing means that much of what is served is distinctly local -- e.g., when we were last there, the seafood offerings were centered on rockfish and oysters because that is what was in season. And, the atmosphere and service are excellent. The challenge for the OP is that it's not easily accessible from his lodgings in the Inner Harbor, without a car.

                              1. re: masha

                                According to Google Maps transit, it looks like the 200 train (light rail?) goes right to the door.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  See comments below regarding safety issues. As I don't currently live in Balto, I am unsure about the light rail but might hesitate to use it later than the evening rush hour. I'd think it would be fine during the day.

                        2. Check out DC’s eclectic food truck scene for a variety of cuisine for the budget conscious. Truckeroo is a monthly festival showcasing over 20 food trucks from the DC area – the next event is taking place on June 8 when you are in town. It's located at the corner of Half St. and M St., SE (Navy Yard Metro station) and the trucks serve lunch through late night dinner.

                          Truckeroo website:


                          Local DC Food Truck Tracker:


                          4 Replies
                          1. re: jenchows

                            I went to one of these events once. I love the concept of it, but the execution is a different matter. All the trucks I was interested in had massive lines - at least 50 people in each line - and the lines weren't moving all that quickly. I gave up and left. This may not be practical for an out-of-town visitor - especially for one from a place where food trucks aren't a novelty.

                            1. re: jenchows

                              LA is where the food truck scene started, and finally jumped shark (before it even reached DC), so I doubt he needs to experience it.

                              1. re: mdpilam

                                Well put :)

                                The real food trucks (loncheros) are hardly a new thing in LA. But trendy hipsters and white collar workers eating at trucks is a new thing, and started in earnest with the Kogi truck several years back.

                                In fact, there's a crew of the new wave FancyTrucks™ that park a block away from my office. They used to park directly in front of the office, until this happened a few years ago:


                                2012 Update: The management of Museum Square is still parking the crew of junk cars across the street, even though the un-official Museum Square FancyTruck™ row is now firmly established a block away.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  I guess the novelty of the food trucks hasn’t worm off on me, yet. Anyway, I still think they are your best bet for variety on a frugal budget – especially for lunch in DC. Skip Truckeroo if you don’t need to “experience” a food truck festival but don’t overlook the trucks for a tasty and inexpensive lunch option. They tend to congregate round Metro stations which also makes them easily accessible to public transit.

                            2. Half smokes are nothing special. Sure, they're local, but they are underwhelming.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ChewFun

                                There is nothing quite like a half-smoke, although the best way to eat one is to buy them from Eastern Market and blacken them in a skillet yourself.

                                1. re: ChewFun

                                  And Ben's is a like an Eastern cousin of Pink's. It's a fun place to go just to visit, but if you've had Pink's, you really only should go if you're in the area and just for the fun of it.

                                2. A Baltimorean friend just recommended crab cakes at John Stevens and pizza at Brick Oven Pizza in Fells Point.


                                  Mr Taster

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    Bill's Terrace Inn for crabs. Nothing like it outside of Bawlmer. Also, there is an Uzbek place with some very good food:


                                    1. re: Steve

                                      Silk Road (Uzbek) was . . . interesting. I would say 2/3 of the dishes I've had there were tasty and 1/3 just fell flat -- dried out, no flavor.

                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                      There is no pizza in Baltimore that I would recommend someone from out of town eat. I like some of the joints here but wouldn't waste a meal if I were visiting.

                                      If you have a car and want a picnic table casual, nice weather lunch then drive up Falls Road to Jake's, just past Padonia rd. Place is seriously off the charts:

                                      The best restaurant in the state (in my not-at-all-comprehensive opinion) is Grace Garden in Odenton. You say you can Chinese food covered back home, but check out the years-running thread on Chowhound about it and decide if you want to try it out. Some dishes need to be ordered 1-4 days in advance...

                                      1. re: kukubura

                                        But they won't have a car. For chain's you don't have, try Nando's Peri Peri and BGR Joiint and Taylor Gourmet all in DC.

                                        1. re: ChewFun

                                          How about oyster happy hour at Ryleigh's. Usually a few for a dollar each and a respectable selection from around the country for a $2 each. 3 to 7 PM near the Cross Street market.

                                          The light rail may be a fun way to travel to Woodberry Kitchen. Catch it at the convention Center and get off at Woodberry. Better have reservations. I think it is a little over hyped. Do you really care that the ketchup is homemade?

                                          I agree with Mr Bills for crabs. I think he has told me twice so far that they just ran out of crabs when I have gone in to give him my name;)

                                          While you have ethnic covered I cannot help but mention Zorba's (cab ride to Greektown). Great Grilled fish - eat downstairs. Call for a reservation although when you get there you could be the only one in the dining room. You never know. (others will chime in with their preference for Black Olive- good as well in Fells Point.)

                                          I like bustle and atmosphere and I think Ryleigh's (I only eat oysters there someone else may know about other menu items) and Zorba's can each give you a dose
                                          of Baltimore flavor.

                                          B & O American Brasserie has received favorable mention. I have yet to try it. Short walk from the Conv Ctr.

                                          1. re: baltimorejim

                                            B&O has an AMAZING cocktail program. Urbanite just put out an article on it in yesterday's food/drink ezine: http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/balt...

                                            The food is very good also, although it's sort of new American so not unique for a visitor. But very good.

                                            1. re: baltimorejim

                                              >> While you have ethnic covered

                                              I would never, ever say that "I have ethnic covered"! That's such a broad generalization, and "ethnic" is such a non-specific term.

                                              I was very specific in listing the regional/cultural cuisines that are well represented in LA. Greek is actually a very good suggestion. We really have only one notable Greek Deli/Restaurant (called Papa Cristos/C&K Importing-- http://www.papacristos.com/ -- so Greektown sounds like it could be a great option. Also it appears the 10 bus goes right from Inner Harbor to Greektown, so no cab necessary :) Thanks for the suggestions.

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                Greektown is an interesting place to visit, though I was not happy going out of my way for the food, and it pales in comparison to Astoria in Queens.

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  Steve, I'm coming from Jackson Heights. What did you love in baltimore?

                                            2. re: ChewFun

                                              Oh I thought they said they may have a car in Baltimore. Without a car I'd say you're screwed in Bmore. There's no real public transportation to speak of (that you'd want to ride) other than the light rail which is very limited. All of my recs in Bmore will require a car. Frankly for some of them I'd rent a car, they're that good.

                                              1. re: ChewFun

                                                I would not send an LA CHer to BGR or Taylor. Nando's maybe for something quick and not really available (S.African/Portuguese chicken), but I would still much prefer Dino's chicken to Nando's (and it's much cheaper).

                                                1. re: mdpilam

                                                  S. African/Portugese chicken sounds really interesting.... I have no idea what those flavors would be. Dino's marinade is a quasi Greek/Mexican-y fusion chicken served on top of those fries, but is also rather mysterious in its providence :)

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    It's more about their sauces, which are made with piri-piri, a South African pepper.

                                                    (FYI, for those reading, the Dino's I'm referring to is the Dino's Burgers in LA, not Dino's in DC)

                                                    1. re: mdpilam

                                                      Piri piri is made with bird's eye pepper, which originally came from Asia. It is hot and the sauce on Nando's chicken is great. Would recommend the regular hot and not the extra hot if it is your first time. The sides are great, too. I am addicted to Nando's.

                                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                                      Nando's (chicken in a red pepper sauce) is very good, but like most chains not as good as when they first opened. Get the quarter-dark chicken spicy, and ask them to cook it very well. Too little time on the grill and it doesn't get the right char.

                                                  2. re: ChewFun

                                                    Taylor Gourmet, YES! There's nothing like it anywhere I've been, nor in all my years living in L.A. (that I know of - although I've yet to try Langer's).

                                                    1. re: biscuit

                                                      Langer's is a Jewish deli - completely different than Taylor Gourmet. Langer's is the spot where you'll have one of - if not - the best sandwich (#19) of your life.

                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                  Nix to BOP. Best pizza is at Iggies and Joe Squared (think Mozza but not quite as good). Agree with Kukubura's comments on pizza below.

                                                3. not food, but transit logistics questions have arisen. during the week (and not too late at night) MARC has fast and really cheap trains btw Balto and DC. I've known people to use it on a daily basis,

                                                  you could easily pop in for lunch and back and faster than driving.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    If you are staying around the Inner Harbor, you could easily walk to Federal Hill, Lexington Market, Little Italy, and Fells Point (a longer walk but not out of the question - I've done it a few times). The MARC train is really good, though it doesn't operate on the weekends. It will take you to Union Station in DC.

                                                    1. In Baltimore, do yourself a favor and go to Mama's on the Half Shell in the Canton neighborhood. All kinds of fresh fish, seafood, oysters. Mac & cheese to DIE for. Seriously good food. The orange and grapefruit crushes rock.

                                                      Also, near Greektown is a place called MIchaels. The place is a throwback and hasn't been redecorated for years, but you can't beat the food or prices. Fabulouse steaks, crabcakes are delicious and HUGE! Stuffed oysters were wonderful! Where else on earth are you going to get a 40 oz porterhouse for $20?? Enjoy!!

                                                      1. Although I'm totally annoyed with Mo's in Baltimore, it can't be beat for crab cakes, just plain period. My last experience there with my husband sent me on a tailspin to the manage swearing I'd never go back, but nothing to do with their redunculous crab cakes. Plus Mo's sends a van shuttle to pick up diners and delivers them back to their hotel. The Blue Room for breakfast if you're starved. Home made everything.
                                                        Chaps for sandwiches as per GF... I took the city bus there, quite an adventure but the hot full of meat sandwiches and their fries are a worthy treck.
                                                        DC, two weeks ago it was Rays for a burger. Heard of it forever, but only if you want a good burger.

                                                        1. I just moved back to the DC area after living in LA for 7 years, and I'm having a hard time coming up with anything other than the blue crabs that you can't get better in LA. So I'd just aim for well-regarded DC establishments. Ben's Chili Bowl is one (though admittedly I've never eaten there).

                                                          I know you mentioned Asia already, but Falls Church, VA has a large Vietnamese population with a lot of well-regarded restaurants. I'd consider Four Sisters, Present, or Rice Paper, though I'm sure there are lots of other ones worth recommending, too. You can get to them with a combo of Metro and bus.

                                                          I know Jose Andres has a restaurant in LA, but Jaleo leans more toward his Spanish roots and is a longtime local establishment with a couple of locations.

                                                          If you want to splurge I definitely second Rasika. It's on a whole different level than your typical Indian fare.

                                                          For something budget-friendly but tasty, Dupont Circle has ShopHouse Asian Kitchen - the flagship (well, only) location of Chipotle's asian experiment.

                                                          Dupont Circle also has Little Serow, which has gotten a lot of buzz. Not cheap ($45/pp) I think. Northern Thai Issan cuisine. I desperately want to try it but fear it's too spicy for me.

                                                          1. If you're car-less, the Charm City Circulator might be the answer to your getting around problems: http://www.charmcitycirculator.com. It covers the Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Little Italy/Jonestown, and Federal Hill areas, and there are hundreds of places to eat in those areas alone. And...the Circulator is FREE. If you want to travel to Canton or Fells Point, there's the MTA (mta.maryland.gov for routes and scheduling). The #20 goes to Canton, and the #10 goes to Fells Point, and both are accessible at the transit stop in front of the First Mariner Arena on Baltimore and Howard Streets.

                                                            As for food, as many have noted, we're really only known for Crabs and crab cakes. Faidley's, in the Lexington Market, has decent ones, and are probably the location closest to you (walking distance, but the neighborhood isn't the best in the world). There's plenty of crab in Fells Point, though, at Riptide by the Bay (which serves steamed crabs), and any number of places that serve crab cakes, like John Steven, Ltd., and Pierpoint (which has some of the finest in town, IMHO).

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: theminx

                                                              The Charm City Circulator also goes to Fells Point nowadays.

                                                            2. Why has nobody up until this point mentioned coddies? (The traditional Baltimore Jewish immigrant equivalent to the crabcake)

                                                              I've just begun reading about them (thanks to Chowhound) and now I've got to try one.

                                                              I'm fascinated by how intensely regional these things are. I grew up in New Jersey (left in 1992) and never knew they existed until now. Aside from Faidley's, where would you go for a superlative example of these Ashkenazi concoctions?

                                                              Any other only-in-Baltimore must-eats?

                                                              Mr Taster

                                                              17 Replies
                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                Lake trout is purely Baltimore, although how "must eat" it is I don't know, especially since I don't know who makes the best right now. And without a car...

                                                                1. re: kukubura

                                                                  FYI-Lake trout - its actually not trout its fried whiting which can be find at any church fish fry

                                                                  1. re: kukubura

                                                                    What about "pit beef"?

                                                                    Come on, Baltimore hounds! Why are you making me dig so hard for your "only-in-Baltimore" specialties?


                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      Neither Chap or Pioneer Pit Beef are near the Inner Harbor you will need a car to visit either location

                                                                      1. re: agarnett100

                                                                        How about the pit beef guy at the Sunday farmer's market under the expressway at Holliday and Saratoga? The more I dig...

                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                          I can't really comment I have never tried the pit beef its worth a try. Usually on Sunday I don't venture to far my home

                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                            Definitely check out the farmer's market...skip the beef though, it's not very tender and pretty tasteless. Their sausages are very good, however.

                                                                          2. re: agarnett100

                                                                            Chaps is quite an experience. Really far out of downtown by some very upstanding establishments, but I like the food, which is good since you smell like it until you shower :)

                                                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        Not sure where you'd get a coddie that is reasonably accessible to the Inner Harbor. The Jewish population is largely in the NW suburbs of the County. The only Jewish deli of note downtown is Attman's, but I've no idea if they serve coddies.

                                                                        1. re: masha

                                                                          > Not sure where you'd get a coddie that is reasonably accessible to the Inner Harbor.

                                                                          See original post re: no car and subsequent responses re: personal safety.

                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                            you mean there is a place to read those comments 8)

                                                                            I suspect Attman's still has coddies. (I searched and found a 2010 article that referenced them.) I love their corned beef sandwiches but have never been a big fan of coddies. It's not too far from Little Italy on Lombard Street and I think 99.9% of us are foolish enough to make it to Lombard Street. I go anywhere I please (with some exceptions) and like to think I am cautious.

                                                                            Always grateful for the butcher who grabbed me in a bear hug in the Lexington Market to keep me from being dragged outside by two guys who had taken money from an old man many years ago. I'll try not to get into a situation like that again.

                                                                            1. re: baltimorejim

                                                                              The remains of Corned Beef Row on Lombard St (where Attman's is ) is not a dangerous neighborhood.

                                                                              1. re: baltimorejim

                                                                                Coddies are (or at least were) poor people's food. Fish cut with potatoes to stretch it out and keep the cost down. I like them, but I like a lot of poor people's food.

                                                                                It's hard to believe nowadays, but crabcakes used to be inexpensive throwaway food, that would be sold cheap in bars to encourage drinking. That was a long, long, time ago.

                                                                                1. re: Hal Laurent

                                                                                  Lobster up until sometime in the 1800s, though, lobster was literally low-class food, eaten only by the poor and institutionalized. Even in the harsh penal environment of early America, some colonies had laws against feeding lobsters to inmates more than once a week because it was thought to be cruel and unusual, like making people eat rats. One reason for their low status was how plentiful lobsters were in old New England.

                                                                                  1. re: Hal Laurent

                                                                                    Coddies may have originated as poor people's food, but in the Baltimore of my youth, they were a snack food of the Jewish middle class, especially those who kept Kosher and did not eat crab cakes -- served on saltines, with mustard. To me they evoke the fragrance of suntan lotion as I don't think I ever ate one other than at the swim club.
                                                                                    I do agree that the taste is pretty bland. If the OP is expecting a faux crab cake flavor, he will be disappointed.

                                                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  Attman's evidently does still have caddies based on their online menu, which I just checked (thought I'd copied the link to paste here but evidently did not). They are listed under appetizers.

                                                                                3. re: masha

                                                                                  Weiss Deli, down the street from Attman's, serves coddies.

                                                                              2. Go to Central. Michel Richard started in L.A., but blew up here. Central is amazing and more affordable than his flagship Citronelle.

                                                                                Maybe a good tactic is dining at places here based on chefs not easily found elsewhere, like City Zen, Komi, Central, etc (although none of those aren't all very "economic")

                                                                                1. Trip report!

                                                                                  OK, let's see if I can recreate the days eating. First of all, DC was an incredibly interesting place. There was so much to do, and barely enough time to do any of it (particularly because of the long commutes to and from the city on public transport that we were doing).

                                                                                  The first place we hit up was Eastern Market, on a Wednesday. We were not going to be in DC over the weekend, so we figured this was as good a time as any to check out our first half smoke. There were half a dozen different meat vendors there, and only one had cooked half smokes, and he was unfortunately a rather grumpy dude. Grumpy I can live with, though, as long as the food is good-- and unfortunately, this wasn't. Now don't get me wrong-- the sausage had great potential. It was wonderfully coarse ground, with some great flavor (we tried the spicy half smoke in natural casing). Sadly, the sausages had been sitting on the hot dog rollers for far too long, and the one served to me had a tough, rubbery casing instead of the beautiful fresh pop-n-snap that's the hallmark of a great natural casing sausage. The condiments were also in a sad state.... diced onions, dried out from disuse. Old relish. Sad, sad.

                                                                                  We got a midday snack of churros and hot chocolate at Churreria Madrid. This was also disappointing. A cute, homey little place that took its time to deliver the churros and hot chocolate-- we appreciated that they seemed to be making everything fresh. The churros themselves were fine-- a bit too oily, but with a nice crunch. The hot chocolate was the real disappointment-- it tasted as if it had been thickened with corn starch or some other flavorless thickener, rather than with chocolate. Also, it was served lukewarm.

                                                                                  Thankfully, dinner was a great treat, as DC Chowhound Steve arranged for a meet & greet with Chowhound Airon at Abay Market in Falls Church for the (in)famous teba sega, raw cubed beef. We also ordered kitfo and a mild lamb stew (yebeg alicha?) when we were told that there were no vegetables available. Vegetables were not available, which we assumed was because of our late arrival at 8:30. But for what it's worth, Yelp reviews indicate that vegetable must be ordered days in advance, and that this really is a destination for one thing only-- raw beef.

                                                                                  The service was outrageously friendly and welcoming, and although we asked for a half order of the raw beef, we were given so much that four of us couldn't finish it. The injera it was served with was fine, but the spicy dipping sauce was spectacular (it's the one with a little Coca Cola). I'm having trouble remembering the flavors... maybe Steve could chime in. Beautifully spicy with a hint of sweetness, and layers of complexity not unlike a good Mexican mole (different flavors entirely, but it's the unfolding layers of complexity I'm trying to describe). The meat was fine- not as chewy as I expected it to be. Certainly nowhere near as tender as a well marbled Kobe would be, but also nowhere near as tough as you would expect. But essentially the beef and injera served as a flavor and texture delivery vehicle for that delicious sauce. The kitfo was quite good, and I felt the lamb was just ok, on par with what one can find in LA. Steve really didn't like it at all, and it made me wonder just how good DC Ethiopian could be. But our host, the owner of the restaurant, was extraordinarily gracious with his time and opinions, and he is clearly a genuinely nice person with kind eyes. He answered my questions about regional specialties in Ethiopian cooking. Apparently in the south they use a sort of fermented mash of "false banana" to scoop up the stews with-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensete -- but he says this is not to most people's taste. However, if we return, he said he will acquire some for us and make it as a special request.

                                                                                  We took Steve's enthusiastic rec for Oohhs and Aahhs (as well as ignoring his rec to avoid the chili half smoke at Ben's!) and went for lunch at U Street the next day. Quick stop into Ben's to try a real chili half smoke (to wash out the memory of Eastern Market) and, well what can I say? It was a chili dog. Pre-blackened on the grill, reheated to order, and smothered with chili and onions. The texture of the Ben's sausage was much smoother than the one at Eastern, but it was hard to discern a difference of flavor since Ben's was covered with chili (and I was forced to eat my eastern sausage more or less unadorned). It was fine. Glad I did it.

                                                                                  Appetizer out of the way, we headed down to Oohhs and Aahhs. We were hardly prepared fort the size of the portions. We ordered 10 lemon pepper chicken wings and the blackened shrimp with peppers and onions. The shrimp was spectacular-- the best thing we had eaten so far. Wonderfully flavorful, a little spicy, shrimp perfectly cooked. The peppers and onions a perfect compliment. The lemon pepper wings had an interesting sweet and sour flavor, but we think they were oversauced to the point where too much of the crispiness was lost. We should have ordered the six wing appetizer instead. The sides (greens and mac and cheese) were utterly forgettable, although I did like the mashed sweet potatoes in the free mini sampler the waiter brought up to us.

                                                                                  That evening we would up at First Thursdays at the Phillips Gallery for appetizers (forgettable) and afterwards for watered down margaritas and beer at some low rent margarita mill nearby in a neighborhood adorned with LGBT rainbow flags and ribbons. (I was outvoted). Overpriced drinks and a tiny bit of expensive guacamole, and chips out of a Tostitos bag. Bleh.

                                                                                  The next morning, I broke one of my own rules. A Vietnamese friend of ours met us in Eden Center for lunch, and although excellent Vietnamese food in LA is bountiful, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to have some with our friend. We didn't know where to go, but another friend suggested Rice Paper. We walked inside and I was immediately scared.... lots of non-Vietnamese clientele, and a sleek polish to the place. Nightmares of watery pho and rubbery nem nuong danced through my head. However, a quick search through chowhound revealed a couple of great suggestions. We ordered the crispy rice with minced clams, the clay pot fish, the tamarand/pineapple soup, and banh xeo. Excellent executions of all-- the rice with clams was particularly spectacular, with incredibly crisped rice like you find in the best Korean dolsot bibimbap. I'd come back for that dish alone. The banh xeo was also particularly spectacular, fresh and flavorful. I don't know why I don't order that more often here in LA.

                                                                                  Our last meal in DC was the spectacular Uruguayan chivito from the gas station at W and 14th near U Street. Outstanding, albeit messy, train food which sustained us for the ride to Baltimore.

                                                                                  We weren't prepared for the onslaught of Phillies/Orioles fans (we had no idea there was a game that weekend, and there were hordes of fully outfitted baseball fans stumbling up and down the Harborside). We wound up heading to Duda's Tavern for some very good lump crabcakes, and Pitango for some really nice, stretchy, chewy gelato. We tried to make it to Vaccaro's for the cannoli (there's a major lack of good cannoli on the west coast-- even in San Francisco's North Beach, it's hard to find a superlative one) but the lines were too much to deal with.

                                                                                  We headed instead to Attman's to try the coddies, and wound up also trying the "Jewish hot dog" with the inexplicable slice of fried bologna on the top.

                                                                                  OK, first things first. Coddies-- why didn't anyone identify them as a fish knish? That's essentially what they are (at least at Attman's-- we didn't try them anywhere else). They were fine, rather extraordinary, but glad I tried them. The "Jewish hot dog" also was sort of strange. Soft bun, soft dog, soft bologna. No snap, no texture, aside from the relish. Kind of bland. I did ask for a sample of the corned beef, and that was pretty spectacular. Warm, melt in your mouth. I should have gotten that instead.

                                                                                  I did try to get to Faidley's, and was about 4 blocks east of the market, but the bus never arrived to take me over. With all the warnings about the rough area the market was in, I didn't want to walk over there. Having said that, I had no problems wandering through the city or riding public transport and found the dire warnings here to be rather overblown.

                                                                                  Thanks again to everyone for all the support and advice. I look forward to coming back one day soon. We barely scratched the surface.

                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                    had no problems wandering through the city or riding public transport and found the dire warnings here to be rather overblown. -- anyone comfortable with the Mission District in SF would be okay with that area.

                                                                                    Mr Taster - I have fond memories of North Beach Pizza from way back in the day

                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                      Thanks so much for the lengthy report! It's so great to hear back from people.

                                                                                      I'm really sorry to hear about your bad experience with the half-smokes at Eastern Market. I have never encountered what you described - perhaps because the only time I've ever been there to eat those has been on a Sat. about noonish. I'm thinking that due to the throngs attracted to Eastern Market on weekends, there is a high turnover of half-smokes and toppings, so everything is fresh.

                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                        Glad to hear back! Was a pleasure dining with you and that was certainly an interesting experience with the tere sega. I'm glad I did it and appreciate that a restaurant serves up this specialty dish, but my personal preference goes to vegetarian Ethiopian fare. You'll have to try out Etete next time.

                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                          A few random notes:

                                                                                          Nowadays I buy the uncooked half-smokes and char them at home. Once I started doing that, I never went back to eating them out... so it's good to get the perspective of a traveler for whom that option is unlikely.

                                                                                          Ten of those wings at Oohs and Aahs is a lot!

                                                                                          Coddies should not be like a fish knish, but more like a mashed potato & fish hush puppy.

                                                                                          No reason to be scared of Lexington Market. Lots of tourists make it out of there alive.

                                                                                          It's good to know that Rice Paper at Eden Center did not embarrass us Virginians. I've had many good meals at a number of places in Eden Center, so I'm glad that my satisfaction has some basis when compared to (hushed moment of reverence) .....Orange County, California.

                                                                                          I am hoping for a tour of the dumpling parlors in the SGV next time I'm in LA.

                                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                                            Oh, but there's so much more than just dumplings..... why would you impose such an artificial limit on yourself? :)

                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                          2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                            "a rather grumpy dude" at the Eastern Market - thin-set white haired guy with glasses? he's always grumpy.

                                                                                            on a slow day you might do better at a 'dirty-water cart'

                                                                                            Balto ain't perfect, but looks scarier than it really is. oh it has problems don't get me wrong. then I'm someone who used to hang out in East St. Louis and SF's Tenderloin and Mission back when.

                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                              Hey Mr. Taster, nice to hear the tales of a Los Angeles Hound in Baltimore. Did you have the Pit Beef. I know your love of BBQ so it was a natural. Im going in August with mini Foodandwine and we are looking to tour the city both with our eyes, ears and stomachs :) Thanks for the report.

                                                                                            2. Mr Taster, Sorry you had to wade through & pull teeth to get some Baltimore info. Somehow, I didn't see your thread until now. Regardless, it does appear you got to some worthwhile places!

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: foster

                                                                                                I know-- it did get under my skin, and I apologize if I came across as ungrateful. But I can tell you that if someone asked me a pointed, direct question about unique Baltimore foodstuffs, based on my experience here and exploring your city, it's a no-brainer:

                                                                                                - Crabcakes
                                                                                                - Coddies
                                                                                                - Pit Beef
                                                                                                - "Jewish" hot dogs

                                                                                                Done and done.

                                                                                                Mr Taster