HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Baltimore: Looking for the Grit and Soul of the City

I've done this before in Montreal http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/794211
Philadelphia http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808479
New Orleans http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/829768
and maybe Pittsburgh (can't find the link)...

I'm going for the first time to Baltimore in a couple of weeks and I know next to nothing about it. All I have is a premonition that there is some great, gritty, real food there. I'm coming from NYC, so we have access to lots of great Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and other ethnicities, but what I'm looking for in particular are regional foods that the locals go wild over.

I want to find the soul of the city.

The threads I've seen here seem a little... high brow? No way the words 'splurge' and 'high brow' are going to be on my itinerary....

and if you have any other experiences I should check out, I'm all ears.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: agarnett100

      FAIDLEYS CLOSED LAST SEPT. Or they were supposed to.

      1. re: scharri

        Believe you are thinking of Obryicki's , Faidley's still alive and kickin

        1. re: Hue

          yes obryckis closed not Faidleys in lexington market

      2. re: agarnett100

        I went to Faidleys at Noon this past Monday with my son. Why do they microwave the crab cakes. Actually they were not good, I did like the coddie though.. And to the Market. I love Markets, but I didnt see much that was interesting or woth trying. What did I miss..
        PS. Trincherra was good BUT.. Jakes reallly stood out to us (they could be Ambassadors to your city )

        1. re: Foodandwine

          Lex is waaaaay past its prime, as is Faidley's. Jake's is where it's at! We're going tomorrow!

          1. re: kukubura

            I didn't think Faidley's crab cake was *all that* either. And their crab soup was laughable.

      3. Working class Baltimore is nearly extinct so your quest is probably about 20 years too late. The old generation of Natty Boh beer and cheap crabs has largely died out but you may still find some remnants in Dundalk/Essex and Glen Burnie and there are other posters who can probably recommend "gritty" crabhouses down there.

        Otherwise I don't really think there's much in the way of "gritty" food in Baltimore. The city and region are still fairly segregated places, both racially and socially, so there's little city-wide homegrown cuisine other than crabs and crabcakes. Fried lake trout is popular among working class black Baltimoreans but is rare in the "white" parts of town. Pit Beef is mostly found out in the white working class suburbs. If you're going to be based in the downtown vicinity without a car it may be difficult to access both without being intrepid. There's a pit beef stand at the downtown farmer's market on Sundays that may be your best bet.

        Faidley's probably comes closest to what you're looking for. A true survivor. Jimmy's restaurant in Fells' Point does greasy breakfasts that are very popular but the clientele is predominately yuppies although the joint has been around for ages. If you're not opposed to hipsters there's a few restaurants in and around Mount Vernon that have the hipster vibe.

        1. As a follower of your NOLA thread I'm definitely looking forward to how this pans out. You do have your work cut out for you. Baltimore doesn't "go crazy" for food the way Philly or NOLA do. And the result is a lot of bland, unimaginative, underseasoned, overcooked food. Also the "soul" of the city (like a lot of dying blue collar cities) is probably more in the immigrant communities than anything else. Still, there are some good choices.

          Lexington Market/Faidley's is definitely for you, as is Trinacria (Italian market) a couple of blocks north.

          If anyone has a good lake trout rec, this is the thread for it. Once upon a time I would have sent you to The Roost but the owner died and I've read bad things about the new ownership since the re-opening. Maybe you'd like to try it out. The only lake trout I've had lately was at Corner Carryout on York Road and it was ok, but nothing to travel for. Plus the grit factor may actually be too high.

          My pit beef rec is Jake's up on Falls Road. It's in a lovely semi-rural area instead of in the parking lot of a strip club, but it's freaking fantastic: http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/balt...

          You'll probably want to hit the Sunday farmers market downtown, although it's gotten annoying lately. It doesn't get more soulful than Ollie and the "Greatest Fish on Planet Earth" http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/balt...

          I would avoid the pit beef at the farmers market. Bland and overcooked. Also, there are a lot of underwhelming prepared foods at the farmers market. For me it's all about the fish stand and the mexican stand (and maybe a lamb sausage from the lamb guy if they're hot.

          Search Chowhound for Grace Garden, maybe the best restaurant in the state: A stunning Chinese restaurant in a pretty dingy strip mall across the street from Fort Meade. There's a thread that's been running for years. Many dishes need to be ordered 1-4 days in advance. I know you're coming from NYC but this place might be special to the point that it's worth your time. The steamed whole duck over sticky rice is unique (and if you're traveling by yourself I'm sure some CHers will be happy to share it with you!


          There's also a lot of Latin American food being cooked up east of Fells Point on to Highlandtown. Taqueria CInco de Mayo out on South Highland ave has some very nice tacos: http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/balt...

          There's also a taqueria in a gas station in Elkridge (R&R Taqueria) which is pretty great. At both I thought the chorizo was the standout.

          Sip & Bite used to be my favorite 24 hour diner but it's undergone some changes. Still, could be a good greasy spoon choice. Not sure it's fully 24 hours anymore but it's open late. Another classic blue collar joint that I used to like (and that changed owners in the last few years) is Swallow at the Hollow. Old school Bmore. Cold beer, crab cakes, gruff servers, the whole thing. Near the Senator theater, our grand crumbling movie palace.

          Otherwise, there's a lot of steering people towards expensive restaurants that will serve you the same food you can get elsewhere or can make at home. I think there are plenty of places with local color that make better choices on a short visit. And for god's sake don't go to Cafe Hon, which will TELL you that it's the soul of Baltimore, but it's purely soulless.

          Thought of a couple of spots in Waverly: Darker Than Blue: http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/balt...

          Also, Pete's Grill, a countertop breakfast/brunch place that is far preferable over Miss Shirley's mediocre kitschfest. Pete's will actually be navigable now that schools out and the JHU students aren't swamping it on Sundays. I used to go there constantly when I lived in the neighborhood.

          41 Replies
          1. re: kukubura

            Thanks so much. I am looking for "ethnic" stuff too, but you must keep in mind that I'm coming from the "ethnic" capital of the world. We don't have that much soul food... at all, in NYC though. I didn't even realized baltimore was considered the South until a couple of days ago.

            1. re: Jeffsayyes

              If there is a great soul food restaurant in Baltimore, it's extremely well-hidden. Whether Baltimore is still a southern city is something I'd question. When I first came to Baltimore for college in 1978, having also heard how "Southern" Baltimore was, I expected to find great barbecue with ease and was sorely disappointed.

              I applaud your efforts, but Baltimore is not really a food-lovers destination. Obviously you can eat well in Balto, but it's not a place, like NOLA, or Charleston, or Memphis, or Portland ME, or Providence (to name some smaller cities, never mind much bigger ones like Chicago) where I'd plan a trip around food, certainly not at the gritty levels you're looking for.

              If you're expecting to find a place like NOLA's Willie Mae's Scotch House in a similar neighborhood in Baltimore, I wish you the best of luck.

              Now, if you really want grit, and want to try lake trout, get in your car and drive up Reisterstown Road. Just look for a sign that says lake trout. I've never had enough of a yen for lake trout to try this, and apparently not many if any other CHers have either, so you can be the trailblazer for us all.

              1. re: Bob W

                That's where The Roost is. That place used to be amazing. My old roommate and I would drive there in his 68 Buick (that was as big as a boat) get lake trout, greens and mac n cheese, and sit in the car and eat like crazy. If it's still good then that would be a hell of a place to get to the heart of a side of Baltimore eating that is rarely discussed on Chowhound. And I think you might be the guy to do it. (If you like giant slabs of fried fish full of tiny bones)

                1. re: kukubura

                  When I was in college in Balto I hit a barbecue joint in a really, really bad part of town called Leon's Pig Pen. This was the kind of place where you'd have the driver stay in the car, with the motor running, while someone else ran in and got the food. Leon was a bad man and the place eventually got shut down.

                  Then there was another bbq joint out on Northern Parkway we used to hit. It had great sides. Also got shut down.

                  One other place that is also now gone out on Reisterstown Rd was Miller's Deli, which hung on for years after the Jewish residents of the neighborhood (think Barry Levinson movies) moved out to the county. Quite interesting to get your chicken soup and have a young black woman ask, "You want lokshen [yiddish for noodles] in that?" 8>D

                  I saw that you mentioned Swallow in the Hollow. We drove by there recently and noticed that Jerry's Belvedere Tavern is also still there, right across the street. Two landmarks!

                  1. re: Bob W

                    We used to get wings at Wild Bill's Patent Medicine shop on York Road that were amazing. It's been all boarded up for years. Sad. I wonder what happened to Wild Bill and his handlebar mustache.

                    1. re: kukubura

                      This isn't Wild Bill Hagy, right? That Wild Bill is deceased.

                      1. re: Bob W

                        Nah, he was an older african american gentleman, although I'm sure he's passed too. This was the place: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2004...

                        Of course the sign is still there because nothing ever went in instead so you can drive past it.

                    2. re: Bob W

                      "One other place that is also now gone out on Reisterstown Rd was Miller's Deli, which hung on for years after the Jewish residents of the neighborhood (think Barry Levinson movies) moved out to the county. Quite interesting to get your chicken soup and have a young black woman ask, "You want lokshen [yiddish for noodles] in that?" 8>D"

                      Miller's Deli is still in business, they moved about a mile away to the Greenspring shopping center on Smith Avenue.

                      For another take on Jewish cuisine, try the Kosher Bite on Reisterstown Road. They have the usual fast food stuff, only super-duper glatt kosher for the most religious, but they also have a range of Israeli items (felafel, schwarma, etc.) I usually get the schwarma in a laffa (kind of like a large flour tortilla) loaded up with various slads, sauces, a combination I call an "Israeli burrito." They also have good fried chicken.

                      1. re: ConsApi

                        Thanks for the update on Miller's! Does it still have the old ambience? Sometimes when places like that move, the food may stay the same, but they get sorta sterile.

                        Have you ever tried the felafel at Max's in Wheaton? It's incredible. Would like to know how this place compares. Max's has schwarma too, but I go with the felafel. Still need to try their fried chicken.

                        1. re: Bob W

                          As for the ambiance, I think it's pretty similar, although I don't rememeber the old location all that well, as it was over 20 years ago that they moved. When it was on Reisterstown road it was in a strip shopping center, now it's in a shopping center with a little bigger parking lot. For a while they had a sit-down location out towards Owings Mills, but they cut that back some years ago, The characters still hang out there on a Sunday morning. One thing that's recently changed is that they've expanded their liquor department, so the deli counter is now on the same side as where you order meals to eat in or carry out. Oh, and they have the kind of license that allows them to sell booze on Sundays. It's convenient if you need something, but their liquor and wine prices are a bit high.

                          As for Max's, I ate there once, and it was pretty good, but I think the Kosher Bite has a bit more of the "gritty" atmosphere. Certainly the crowd seems more ultra-Orthodox. Another feature of Kosher Bite is that they sell liquor. (And you all thought Jews didn't drink.) They've got more kinds of kosher wne than you ever thought existed, plus stuff like kosher-certified tequila.

                        2. re: ConsApi

                          Laffa in Baltimore!? You really do learn something new every day!

                        3. re: Bob W

                          Bob W: are you sure the the question wasn't "you want lokshen with that Hon?"

                        4. re: kukubura

                          How do you know me so well already? It sounds awesome. Not sure if I can make all of these outer stops happen b/c I'm not bringing my car down. I'll probably stay 4 days or so... just figuring out the dates now.

                          (just read your NOLA trip... good stuff)

                          1. re: Jeffsayyes

                            No car? Errr that's gonna be a problem. Might want to reconsider.

                            1. re: kukubura

                              To expand on this: You are exactly the sort of person who should explore the Baltimore eating world, but you should do it in a car. Public transportation here is terrible (I don't want to say more about that since I'll get deleted and people will insinuate bad things about me. It's hard to have an honest conversation about Baltimore on Chowhound because people who don't live here or used to live here jump to conclusions.) and it won't get you to the many unique places people are talking about. If you want to eat chain food and "new american/interncontinental/farm-to-table blah" then you'll be fine hoofing it from the hotel. Otherwise it's a car town. I mean, one of the places I referred to is literally located INSIDE a gas station! (There's also a really good Greek place inside a gas station further west that CH hipped me to.)

                              Another place that's really good (and that you definitely need a car to get to) is a Nigerian restaurant called Peju's: http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/balt...

                              1. re: kukubura

                                Yes. I don't want to discourage Jeff from visiting B'more and spending some of his hard-earned money, but to eat the kind of food he wants, in the kinds of places he wants to try, he has got to get out of downtown.

                                1. re: Bob W

                                  you're being a bit discouraging, but I think for the 3 days I am there, I will be able to have a good time. I can have a good time practically anywhere new. I'll be meeting up with people, who have transportation, so that should remedy that part of the equation. When I don't have transport, I will stay local, go to the Visionary Arts Museum, stuff like that.

                                  1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                    You can definitely have a good time in B'more, just think you might want to recalibrate your target!

                                2. re: kukubura

                                  What is the Greek place in a gas station? Are you talking about the Uruguayan place in a gas station in DC? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760019

                                  (For the record, I hope you aren't since I'd really love to find a gas station Greek place!)

                          2. re: Bob W

                            I bet I can find a week's worth.
                            when I say soul, I don't necessarily mean southern food. I mean food that is real and accessible and which people are passionate to make and eat.
                            And by grit, I mean the food for the workers. Cheap, messy, and regional. I barely drink, so just going to a dive bar doesn't get me excited anymore. I love snarky waitresses, but surly drunks is a short-term thrill.

                            1. re: Jeffsayyes

                              without a car? Looking forward to your trip report.

                              1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                "Food that is real and accessible and which people are passionate to make and eat."


                                "By grit, I mean food for the workers. Cheap, messy, and regional."

                                Are not one and the same. A lot of "peasant" working class food is bland and unimaginative as the quest is the maximum calorie (carbs and portion sizes) for the minimum money. My few forays into Baltimore's burgeoning Hispanic community pretty much proved this point: most of the restaurants serving the immigrants from Central America served bland and utterly unremarkable food even though the setting is probably what attracts you: a working class clientele in a gritty part of town.

                                There is plenty of good food in Baltimore made by people committed to making good food. Writing off a place that serves excellent food because it isn't "gritty" is missing the point, which should simply to find and enjoy good food. If you go to Baltimore with this rather narrow minded quest you may very well end up disappointed.

                                Anyway, I second Kuku's Swallow at the Hollow if you're looking for ambiance. I used to go there frequently back in the 1980s and 1990s with school friends and the clientele was always an odd mix of working class long timers, local prep school kids and old WASP Baltimoreans who could probably buy out the restaurant, lock, stock and barrel, every single night if they chose to. Food was never brilliant or noteworthy but it served good burgers and onion rings. I stopped going when the smoke was simply too much for me to tolerate anymore, but now that it should be smoke free I should make a point of going there the next time I'm in town.

                                Another local delicacy you may want to try looking for is pan-fried scrapple. Few places seem to serve it these days but Miss Shirley's does (I have to disagree with Kuku on this one, it's not mediocre. Bright and popular, yes, and it does actually serve scrapple!). I'm sure Pete's Grill does too.

                                1. re: Roland Parker

                                  Good post. I've been trying to figure out a nice way to say that the OP is trying to fit the square peg of Baltimore into the round hole of other cities he has visited.

                                  I like Miss Shirley's too, but when we were in Balto a few weeks back for my college reunion, we drove by the "Alonsoviille" (LOL) location and there was literally a mob of people on the sidewalk. There are very few restaurants worth waiting over an hour for, and I don't think Miss Shirley's makes the cut.

                                  My in-laws live in the blue-collar Hamilton neighborhood, and the best food up there, by most accounts, is found at the decidedly non-gritty Clementine. If we could get my in-laws to skip Pappas for once, we'd actually get to try it ourselves.

                                  When I was much, much younger, I used to think that gritty = good food. As you note, that is certainly not the case.

                                  1. re: Roland Parker

                                    Miss Shirley's is way too expensive for scrapple. Jimmy's or Sip and Bite will be good, cheaper, and you won't have to wait in line for hours.

                                    1. re: Roland Parker

                                      So does Jimmy's in Fells Point. The scrapple and egg sandwich is a mainstay. Chick and Ruth's deli in Annapolis makes their own scrapple, which is pretty good.

                                      1. re: Roland Parker

                                        Try Telara. Fresh, great service etc. Owner from France. Owns a few restaurants in other states. He is a wonderful chef. And writing off a place because it isn't "gritty" enough is really over zealous attempt at being kewel. Just snobbish. I lived in the southwest for 7 years. Santa Fe has nice restaurants however the mex here isn't too bad. Golden West Saloon to get some good NM grown Hatch green chiles! It has a sister rest. in ABQ.

                                        1. re: scharri

                                          No need to be insulting.
                                          Seems to me that the OP is very experienced in the kind of places being sought. It's the kind of specific request that gets the most effective responses.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            I like regional food without pretense. I like food that's been passed on for a couple of generations in one place. I like soul food, but not in the southern sense. I tend to find this in the gritty places. You can find great tasting food nearly anywhere in the city, but I look for something that can only exist in that place - whether it be from the mix of cultures immigrating to the area, or the resources available.

                                            Talara looks interesting, and I'd be down to go if I lived in Baltimore. But for my 3 days there, I definitely prefer the markets and other stuff. The question that gets down to the bottom of it is: Could this exist anywhere? And is this Baltimore, through and through?

                                  2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                    In and around Baltimore you can find Lake Trout. Unlike a few alwaysmentioned cities, Baltimore does not put on airs about its restaurants. Its gritty restaurants are just that and not celebrated as such. We had to one time order pizza on Monday for a visit on Fri/Sat to Philly. Its was just okay. Pat's is not the best cheesesteak. NY pizza is sometimes lacking character. As are many pizzas in MD. So, if you just flat out don't like chains, don't go. I've traveled all over the place and lived... providence, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, NM and now back in Baltimore. NY Chinese is okay but New England Chinese is my fave. I like the seafood at Bo Brooks and Sunset. Barbeque at Mission BBQ in Glen Burnie. And my fave is Jennings in Catonsville who else has braunswiger on the menu?

                                    1. re: scharri

                                      FYI - Lake Trout served in Baltimore is actually whiting which is widely available almost every where. Also Pat's in Philly only tourist eat there

                                      1. re: agarnett100

                                        As I believe someone said earlier, fish fry is available at so many places around the country - usually associated with churches. It's a true comfort food to me, because I always get it on trips to more rural areas. I have no idea, however, if there is much variation in them. That would be a really interesting article. Maybe the condiments are different, but I've only seen tartar and cocktail sauce.

                                      2. re: scharri

                                        I am not a philly native, but I from what I gather, forget the cheesesteak and grab the hoagie. Paesano's was my favorite. they are perfect.

                                        and yes, many NY pizzerias suck. it's a problem. I don't like it when tourists come here and just eat at any stupid pizza shop and think it's the real NY stuff. I try to help travelers with stuff like that on my various outlets.

                                    2. re: kukubura

                                      Kudos to kukubura for one of the most thoughtful and useful threads I've read on this board in a long time.

                                      1. re: kukubura

                                        Sounds great. I'm traveling by myself - So YES i would love to do a Grace Garden or any other adventures with Chowhounders. How do we set this up?

                                        - I love Mexican food. I eat it about 3x a week here, but I still like to see what other cities got. There's so much variety in Mexican food, that it's never boring for me. Plus, we mostly have Pueblans in NYC, so it's fun to see other regions. those tamales look good in that article.

                                        Thanks for all these tips. Keep them coming!
                                        Here's my map I'm working on http://goo.gl/maps/R4cY

                                        I also need to check out what is pizza there

                                        1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                          You're from NYC? Don't waste a meal on pizza in Baltimore! But if you insist, I'd try a place like BOP, in Fells Point.

                                          1. re: Bob W

                                            Yeah, scratch all pizza. For real.

                                            1. re: kukubura

                                              i would have recommended a place like A-1 Crab Haven, but I think it's closed. Still, I'm sure there are some good crabs to be had out in Dundalk-Essex-Middle River. But not without a car!

                                              1. re: kukubura

                                                I liked BOP a long time ago, but no longer. I think Johnny Rad's is some good pie though.

                                            2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                              Email once you have dates with potential times and places, and I'm sure you will have a few people willing to join you, especially for GG. Alternatively, email me at kelbell46@yahoo.com and I can email the group.

                                              1. re: Kelbell

                                                Consider adding a place or two in Greektown - starting with Samos. For arranging outings with fellow chowhounds in Baltimore, here's another tip: join Charm City Chowhounds on Facebook and post there.

                                          2. Pioneer Pit Beef definitely. Literally a shack under the highway. Closed Sundays.

                                            Bill's Terrace Inn for crabs.. You should get there when they first open or be prepared to wait. Locals only. This is pure Baltimore.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Steve

                                              Bills Terrace Inn is a great suggestion for crabs. Just be aware that the crabs (local ones, anyhow) are ony so-so in terms of weight this time of year. But it's out there -- need a car for sure.

                                            2. Would like to put in another vote for Trinacria. Amazing Italian deli and the smell is exactly like my Italian grandmother's house used to smell. Check the hours, though...I think it's closed on Sunday.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: isabellacat

                                                Trinacria is closed Sundays and yes, it's great and caught in a time warp -- prices included.

                                              2. What about like Jimmy's in Fells Point for breakfast, stand in line, share a table, greasy spoon spot. I would think Nacho Mama's might be something to check out too, especially if you like Elvis in velvet.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: ktmoomau

                                                  Big no to all the hipster "Mexican" places: Nacho Mamas, Loco Hombre, Holy Frijoles. Not for a visitor from out of town. And HUGE no to Blue Agave and Little Havana (not that it's Mexican). Awful.

                                                  1. re: kukubura

                                                    I guess I have been going to Nacho Mamas since way before there was such a thing as a hipster and it was more about the Natty Boh and the hot sauce, so I don't really consider it hipster.

                                                2. Crazy Johns, located in what is left of Baltimore's red-light district, The Block, has tasty soups and some good, old-fasioned daily specials and is about as gritty as it gets...diners range from strippers to politicos and anywhere in between


                                                  1. Have you seen the Baltimore episode of No Reservations? Bourdain eats put beef, lake trout (and I think other seafood) and hangs out with some of the cast from The Wire. I don't remember where he went, but they might be the kinds of places you're looking for.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: 4X4

                                                      Bourdain hangout with Felicia (Snoop) Pearson and Jay Landsman from the Wire

                                                      The Roost
                                                      Tony and Zamir enjoy one of Baltimore's specialties, lake trout. But there's a catch -- it's not trout, and it's not from a lake.

                                                      5275 Reisterstown Rd., Baltimore, MD 21215
                                                      Chaps Pit Beef
                                                      Tony eats pit beef with The Wire's Jay Landsman.

                                                      5801 Pulaski Hwy., Baltimore, MD 21205

                                                      Mo's Seafood
                                                      Tony eats here with Felicia (Snoop) Pearson from The Wire. This is one of her favorite restaurants.

                                                      502 Albemarle St., Baltimore, MD 21202

                                                      1. re: agarnett100

                                                        Did anyone else have a hard time believing "Snoop" frequents a place between Little Italy and Harbor East?

                                                        1. re: gregb

                                                          Why exactly is it so hard to believe people have to eat?

                                                          1. re: agarnett100

                                                            I think Tony was the only one eating!

                                                            1. re: gregb

                                                              Maybe you should watch the clip again both Snoop and Tony are clearly eating well - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QHCK4...

                                                              1. re: agarnett100

                                                                You've taken both of these posts too seriously!

                                                    2. 1. Lexington market.....Faidley's for raw bat with a cold beer, the premium crab cake, crab soup and a fried fish sandwich, the fried chicken stand for fried chicken wings and fried chicken liver, Berger cookies for chocolate top cookies, the outdoor roasted nut stand for hot roasted fresh peanuts
                                                      2. the outdoor Sunday farmers market. Need to get there early since it is done by Noon. Great grazing op
                                                      3. Ikaros or Samos in greektown. Hop in a cab for a 10 min drive and eat some pretty good and cheap Greek food
                                                      4. Thames street oyster house, in fells point the home of John waters, slurp some oysters, go bar hopping, go to Bertha's for some mussels, Brick Oven Pizza is pretty good but not as good as new York pizza. Lots of interesting people to see. You can take a water taxi from the inner harbor to fels point making it an adventure
                                                      5. the Helmond moderately priced Afghan Restaurant with really interesting delicious dishes. If your careful u can eat inexpensively. Check out their website.
                                                      6. Grace garden. Not in Baltimore but food is worth the 30 min drive. Crummy but fantastic BYOB Chinese. Go to grace garden Chinese and check out the menu. Many of the dishes require advanced notice. Blog on chow has over 200 hits

                                                      9 Replies
                                                      1. re: dining with doc

                                                        I think John Waters is from Towson, but I second Thames Street Oyster House.

                                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                          John Waters is from timonium (Calvert Hall, I believe) and his neighbor, Divine, was also (THS '63)

                                                          1. re: tartuffe

                                                            But didn't he hang out in fells point during the time he became famous?

                                                            1. re: dining with doc

                                                              The Baltimore of classic Waters is mostly gone - and so is he. He's in NYC most of the time. I used to see him just walking around the Rotunda Giant for no reason. That's gone too.

                                                              1. re: kukubura

                                                                Saw him at Eddies around Christmas.

                                                                1. re: kukubura

                                                                  I think I've heard he still has a place in central Baltimore, unlisted, and a bar somewhere near the Cross-Street Market collects his fan mail.

                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                    His fan mail goes to Atomic Books in Hampden.

                                                                2. re: dining with doc

                                                                  Didn't everyone hang out in Fells Point?

                                                            2. Jeff,
                                                              You're definately going to need to get an Egg Custard snowball with marshmallow (ask them to put it in the middle). Doesn't get much more "Baltimore" than that. Second choice for flavor would be "Skylight". I'm not going to recommend a snowball stand, though. If Baltimoreans argue about anything as much as who makes the best crabcake, it's where to get the best snowball.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: Vespa1

                                                                Haven't heard about this. Thanks!

                                                                1. re: Vespa1

                                                                  Yes, snoballs are big in Baltimore like they are in New Orleans. No place in Balto like Hansen's Sno-Bliz, but lots of neighborhood stands.

                                                                  1. re: Vespa1

                                                                    Here's some stuff you might like to read:

                                                                    I seem to remember someone trying to make a google map of all the snowballs stands in the Baltimore area but I can't find it now. If you're on facebook do a search on "snowballs" as a bunch of places now have facebook pages.

                                                                    1. re: Vespa1

                                                                      I have seen maps posted at snowballs stands around.... It COULD be this one. http://citypaper.com/special/sizzlins...

                                                                      1. re: foster

                                                                        Yes, that's it! It's by no means a complete map of all the snowball stands but it shows plenty of them. Thanks for finding it!

                                                                    2. Had lunch up at Jake's today. Tender, rare pit beer slathered with horseradish and raw onions, smokey chicken, spicy sausage, and excellent mac n cheese and coleslaw... Damn I love that place!

                                                                      1. No one has mentioned dessert!

                                                                        Go to Hoehn's Bakery in Highlandtown for real old school bakery items, including great marshmallow doughnuts. It probably won't be in season, but they've amazing peach cake. The best, IMO, of all the old school Baltimore bakeries. (It's close to Cinco de Mayo which is good rec for tacos.)

                                                                        In general, I think the "soul of the city" can be found in our public markets.

                                                                        At Broadway Market (Fells Point, not terribly far from Hightlandtown) go to Sophia's for home cooked Polish food along the lines of a tongue sandwich on pumpernickel.

                                                                        Go to the west side and get fried chicken from Chuckie's at Hollins Market. (Downsides: no place to sit & eat & somewhat of a rough neighborhood.)

                                                                        The recs for the JFX Sunday Farmers Market are spot on. No way that you should miss it.

                                                                        If you time it right at Cross Street Market you can slurp raw oysters with working class folks at the end of their day. Time it wrong & you'll be surrounded by frat boys & their ilk. Steve's Lunch, at the other end of the market, has great, inexpensive crab soup.

                                                                        Of course, there are the Lexington Market recs. It is a place I think that no visitor to this city, foodie or not, should miss. (Although there are strong disagreements on this board.)

                                                                        And, while people tell you to avoid pizza here, Matthew's Pizza is an institution, and well worth trying.

                                                                        24 Replies
                                                                        1. re: baltoellen

                                                                          Second the Hoehn's rec, great spot! The honey dipped are fantastic.

                                                                          I also agree on Matthews. It certainly won't change your life, but it's very Baltimore. And, if you're there at closing time on a weekend, you may be asked downstairs for a drink that you should not pass up.

                                                                          1. re: baltoellen

                                                                            Thank you! Essentially what I'm looking for is what IS Baltimore food. Great recommendations!

                                                                            1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                              Here's a great article about regional Baltimore stuff, specifically Snoballs http://www2.citypaper.com/bob/story.a...

                                                                            2. re: baltoellen

                                                                              Never been to Hoehn's, but Mrs W. brought me back a smearcase from Fenwick Bakery and it is as good as ever. Looking forward to peach cake season!!

                                                                              Fenwick's marshmallow donuts are so popular people call to reserve them on the weekends. Not my thing, but Mrs. W is a huge fan.

                                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                                I think there needs to be a Fenwick versus Hoehn's peach cake & marshmallow doughnut taste off. I actually have no doubt who would win, but the ensuing sugar coma should be big fun!

                                                                                And, while we're on sugar, I also don't think that Jeffsayyes should miss snowballs. (I forgot to mention when I posted earlier.) While not my favorite (I'm a fan of the crunchy ice over the shaved ice and this place has shaved ice) Icy Delights on Fleet St in Highlandtown is easy enough to get to via public transit. The skylight flavor is beautiful and delicious. And, yes, I agree with the poster above on the upgrading with marshmallow.

                                                                                  1. re: hon

                                                                                    It is the best! I like it because it's not really sweet, like most cakes. Just peachy goodness! Also, it's gotta be eaten right away. I've seen peach cakes at the Giant that were already moldy.

                                                                                  2. re: baltoellen

                                                                                    I guess you'd have to throw Woodlea into the taste-off too. I've never tried that one either since my wife and in-laws are Fenwick adherents but I know it has legions of fans. For Jeff and others, these are all old-time German bakeries.

                                                                                    Regarding snowballs, the stand right in the Hamilton commercial district (Hamilton Ave just east of Harford Rd) is very popular, and there is another stand on Walther Ave (that also functions as a nursery) that my wife likes a lot too.

                                                                                    1. re: Bob W

                                                                                      Walter Blvd stand has been there" since Hector was a pup!", a long time.
                                                                                      Egg Custard has been mentioned but also try a Blood Orange..with marshmallow of course!!!

                                                                                    2. re: baltoellen

                                                                                      Is a Snoball a shaved ice? Is there something that it IS in Baltimore, in particular? is it the flavors?

                                                                                      1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                        The Baltimore thing about the snowball/snoball, as opposed to, say, Italian ice and sno-cones, is both the flavors of the syrup and the texture of the ice. The Baltimore form is generally served in an environmentally unfriendly styrofoam cup as opposed to a paper cone as is a sno-cone or a tiny little cup like Italian ice. I prefer (as I've said earlier) the crunchy/chunky ice that was the snoball of my youth, but people have different tastes. (I also have a harder time finding crunchy/chunky ice so its rarity makes it extra special. ;-)) I've only had one NOLA snoball in my life, in fact just a few weeks ago. I found the ice to be even finer than the shaved ice here. I also think that in NOLA people use some form of condensed milk as topping, and we use marshmallow. (And, they call skylite blue raspberry, so we score points merely on being poetic!) /jk

                                                                                        If you're not a fan of ice desserts it's easy enough to skip, but in Baltimore's hazy, hot, and humid summers, it's a wonderful, very local treat. And, if you are a fan, the rec for the place at the Walther Blvd nursery is a very good one. I'm pretty sure they make their own flavors and have crunchy ice. It might be the best ever, in fact.

                                                                                        1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                          Ok. I thought of something else for you. Oddly snoballs reminded me of.

                                                                                          You should go to Attman's not because there aren't enough delis in NYC (although I'd put their corned beef up against anyone's) but because you can try two only in Baltimore (AFAIK) foods. The first is the coddie, or codfish cake. Second is the kosher hot dog wrapped in grilled bologna and IIRC on a very yellow challah bun.

                                                                                          Also very much a local institution. You'll see all kinds of people there at lunch, and the counter staff is colorful, to say the least.

                                                                                          1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                            You've convinced me to visit attman's.

                                                                                            I have 3 days full of eating, sites and a ballgame planned for the next 3 days. Not exactly sure what I will hit, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.

                                                                                            1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                              Used to love Attman's. Not sure how I feel about a New Yorker spending a meal there. I mean, a hot dog wrapped in bologna is exactly what it sounds like.

                                                                                              Any chance you're going to hit Jake's?! It's slightly out of the way, but in a good way. And I put it up there as one of the best truly, truly local places to eat.

                                                                                              1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                I might just go in and out of Attman's. I have a feeling Trinacria will be the same way. They are on the way to other things, so I might as well.

                                                                                                I'd love to go to Jakes, but I have no way of getting there. I'm mostly keeping it in the city, with one exception with Grace Garden.

                                                                                                1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                  Well, that's a hell of an exception. Enjoy!

                                                                                                  btw, are you pre-ordering anything at GG?

                                                                                                  1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                    Check out my posts on the grace garden blog. It is a summary of what I ordered and we had 2 unbelievable feasts

                                                                                            2. re: baltoellen

                                                                                              baltoellen- One thing I've noticed about snoball ice over the years is that snoball stands have been slowly converting to a different type of ice machine; the dreaded horizontal model (this abomination: http://www.snowballcone.com/SnoWizard...) This puppy is the one that made good ice (http://www.snowballcone.com/Koldkiss-...). But after just reading the product description for this machine, I'm worried about the future of snoballs; "We have changed the shaving blades for a finer ice shave." d:^ (

                                                                                              1. re: Vespa1

                                                                                                Interesting that the second link touts the machine as being bulletproof! The Koldkiss site is fascinating in its way.

                                                                                                Now that it's summer (sort of) I think we need a thread dedicated to the Baltimore snowball. (And, I'm impressed by your expertise!)

                                                                                                1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                  Yes, just the thought of a skylite vs egg custard smackdown makes me smile (not to mention the shaved vs chunky ice)

                                                                                                2. re: Vespa1

                                                                                                  Way back "in the day" when sno-balls were sold out of folks basements in the city, there were no "ice machines". The ice was created by running a special hand held blade over a 25# block of ice, so the ice was very fine , almost like the ice coming off a skaters blades on a sudden stop. There was even a unique boat shaped paper container that help the sno ball..no cups and for sure no marshmallow

                                                                                                  1. re: Hue

                                                                                                    Oh dear one--you missed the best of what snowballs in Baltimore were all about. The ice crushing machines that were popular when I was young created crushed ice (not shaved)--the skyblue--egg custard--chocolate--rootbeer flavors were the best. Marshmellow toping--always--chocolate toppings on vanilla flavored snowballs. The snowcones were rather rare. We always had the paper cups. I suspect it was a regional thing with regards to crushed ice versus shaved-versus cups/cones.

                                                                                                    Does anyone remember that there was an icecream shop on Main Street Annapolis that had BLUE icecream. It was something I had as a kid and was enchanted with the color--don't even remember the flavor. FoiGras

                                                                                                    1. re: FoiGras

                                                                                                      It was around the 4th. Red, white and blueberry icecream. And one of the snowball places in Catonsville kept their block ice for snowballs in a kids pool on their porch. Many times the kids that lived there had their feet on the ice that was being ground up. People lined up anyway. I liked the spearmint and lime not key lime, lime.

                                                                                              2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                Slightly OT but:
                                                                                                For future travels or visits to places that might have them:

                                                                                                One used to get snowballs/iceballs from hawker stalls (or itinerant vendor carts) sprinkled all over in SE Asia which were literally shaved ice** that the vendor shaped with his hands into a big fist-sized ball/sphere over which he drizzled the syrup of one's choice, usually just on the top hemisphere (so you would have a chance to escape having a completely sticky hand rather than just a wet hand after you were done). You literally held it in your hand and sucked and nibbled on it. :-)

                                                                                                ** A block of ice is pierced and held by a spiked metal pad attached to a vertical "screw" driven by a large hand-cranked "flywheel" with a handle bearing a wooden slipcover (that freely rotated over the handle). The ice block in turn rested on and was forced onto a horizontal blade fitting. Cranking the flywheel rotated the ice block on the blade assembly and that generated shaved ice from under the blade. Frequently the vendor would just cup his hands underneath the blade and gather the ice in his plam while he cranked the flywheel with his other hand, then shape the ice with both hands. Here's a pic of an old machine: http://www.flickr.com/photos/siethua/... :-)

                                                                                                Have a look at these too:
                                                                                                http://pingmag.jp/2006/08/09/my-local... (read the comments as well)

                                                                                        2. Has this happened yet? Just curious.

                                                                                          24 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: kukubura

                                                                                            Hey, I went last week! It was awesome. I reallllly liked Baltimore. It just feels right to me. It's going to take me a while, and even wehn I post it it would probably be deleted, but here are my pictures from the trip:


                                                                                            Highlights were AVAM, Lexington Market (the whole thing), riding around the area of Hollins Market, Camden Yards, Hoehn's Bakery, Eastern Takeout, Matthew's Pizza, Broadway Market, Grace Garden, and Cinco de Mayo. ohh, and bean pies.

                                                                                            There is just something about the city which I really liked. Not too elitist, not too urban, not too suburban. It was very easy to ride my bicycle around, and for grace garden, I was lucky enough to get a ride out there.

                                                                                            I see a lot of potential for a chowhound in Baltimore. All the Spanish language stuff sprouting up. I think it boils down to areas being "off limits". These are the places I relish the most in "discovering" (like christopher columbus does). I did have one pit beef - from a laundromat! the food was just okay, but the experience was wild!

                                                                                            I'm going to get a membership to AVAM just so I have an excuse to come back to the city 3x a year. Thanks for all the recommendations!

                                                                                            1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                              Great Photos! Thanks for sharing.. Im coming in August and you gave me some tips! Thanks

                                                                                              1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                Love it! Seeing your own city in the eyes of a visitor is great! The things that stood out for you are sometimes amusing, as you can imagine. Look! It's a Greenwood towing sign! Bruce Lee Wings! Whiteys! haha The idea of photographing the soggy, greasy underside of the Matthew's "crust" is kind of hilarious to me too.

                                                                                                But looks like you really got around. And looks like Grace Garden was a big hit... Many great dishes on there. How amazing is that place? I haven't had an NOI bean pie in years. Those things are damn good, although the ingredients are terrible. Glad you found Falls Road. My favorite drive through the city and I use it often.

                                                                                                I did forget one place that you would like: Krakus polish deli in Fells Point. The elder shop owner (his son fills in sometimes) is a real character and he smokes his own meats. You can just get a hunk of something or some fantastic kielbasa and just gnaw on it. Next time! And next time... Jake's! For real, other than Grace Garden that's my favorite place to take people. Looking forward to the write-up.

                                                                                                1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                  Yes - the Towing signs were so pretty! I knew it was something that residents probably wouldn't recognize, but that is like the classiest towing signs I've sen.

                                                                                                  As for the underside of the crust.... I'm kinda a pizza documentarian. It's just something I do (along with some other pizzaheads).

                                                                                                  Also, the DO NOT SIT stencils were really interesting to me - because they were on so many stoops. Can I buy that stencil at a store normally?

                                                                                                  I didn't even realize the polish influence til I got to the city. very interesting stuff.

                                                                                                2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                  What a nice photoset.

                                                                                                  This thread has also been very useful to me (as an occasional visitor to Baltimore) as someone else who likes the place. Thanks for starting it, and to the CHers who have posted on it!

                                                                                                  Some comments:
                                                                                                  • Hmm, you did seem to like Mt Vernon/Washington Monument. So do I. Did you go into the Peabody Library (Peabody Institute)? If you did not, you missed a GREAT and wonderful soaring architectural gem inside. I don’t know if you wanted to go into the United Methodist Church there (you certainly took pics of it) but the last time I was there I scrounged a peek inside by begging the folks in the church office on the right side of the church. ☺ Did any of the food places up and down Charles tempt you? Or the area around W Read/Emmanuel Episcopal Church with the mix of neighborhood eateries and shops? (I found the area just slightly droll)
                                                                                                  • Great view of the Inner Harbor from Federal Hill Park, isn’t it.
                                                                                                  • Who was “Enzo”, resting in his Green Room?
                                                                                                  • You took pics of several murals on various walls; did you note the trompe l’oeil mural of a house & garden on the north-facing wall of the block at the SW corner of Cathedral & Centre on your rambling around Mt. Vernon? Or the “Believe” trompe l’oeil of a row of terrace houses with folks sitting on the steps and walking around on the north side of the block at N Liberty & Clay? (Both are just west of Charles/Mt Vernon) Little pockets of neighborhood shops and eateries at both places too, wonder if any Baltimore hounds have found any of them (or the W Read neighborhood) worthwhile in their opinion… ☺
                                                                                                  • What’s that big ship in slides 99 & 100? (Other posters feel free to explain too!)
                                                                                                  • Love that “Drains to the Chesapeake Bay” street grate.
                                                                                                  • It looks like you went by and into Lexington Market several times and ate there more than once? Fascinating array of food and stalls, yes – and, um, the “character” of the place and surrounding area too. Not clear if you actually tried Faidley’s, though…
                                                                                                  • The pit beef you got doesn’t look sufficiently “rare”. You need to try it somewhere else next time. (Were you passing by the H.L. Mencken house nearby when you dropped by this place on W Baltimore St.?)
                                                                                                  • The food at Grace Garden looks good. How many of you were there?

                                                                                                  psst…I’ve tried to keep it on-topic by also asking about food-related stuff…

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    Yes, that Washington Monument is great. What's the significance of that in it's similarity to William Penn in Philly? At one point in my trip, I heard the debate as to which is the REAL Washington Monument. I haven't been to the DC one, but this one was waayy cool. As for the church, I loved the colors of it. I don't think I'll ever get in it though... I think my upbringing had a lasting effect, ignorant as it may be, on me staying out of churches.

                                                                                                    -which was enzo in the green room?

                                                                                                    - I don't really know the specifics of the ships. just thought they were interesting looking.

                                                                                                    - I went to the Lexington Market 2x. I loved it. I didn't try Faidley's though I did walk around it. I had a crab cake from another place in lexington marke tthough, near the entrance. It was quite good! I got a little turned off to faidley's b/c of all the tourists, and how it seemed like there were two separate crowds Faidley's vs the rest of the market - but that's just me. I generally like to go for the underdog.

                                                                                                    -yaeh I knew the pit beef wasn't that good. But it was in a laundromat, and came at a point in my trip where I thought I wouldn't get it. It was the right moment, so I took the swing. Besides, eating in a laundromat was just an experience I had to have. No idea what the Mencken house is, should I check it out next time?

                                                                                                    - we had about 9 people at Grace Garden. Great stuff.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                      If you like oysters, try Faidley's raw bar next time you're at the market. You stand at the bar and eat freshly shucked oysters and clams. You should try to check out the market on a Saturday afternoon when there's a band playing. You'll see some very unique dancing going on there.

                                                                                                      1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                        -which was enzo in the green room?

                                                                                                        - I don't really know the specifics of the ships. just thought they were interesting looking.


                                                                                                        No, I meant this enzo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/orlick/7... :-)

                                                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                                                        How about the bust of Frank Zappa atop a 20 ft. pole in front of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Highlandtown? It was a gift of Lithuania. That is pure Baltimore.

                                                                                                            1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                              Interesting article, but perhaps this is better situated as an adjunct to agarnett100's post further up about lake trout=whiting: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8517...

                                                                                                        1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                          Thanks for reporting back and happy you liked it here. (I, too, think it's a great city and a good food town.) I'm actually jealous that you made it to Eastern Carryout since I pass it often, think I want to eat there, and it's closed. I'm delighted that you made it to three of our municipal markets. You'll have to stop by Northeast Market (near Hopkins hospital) the next time, and if you're up for a bus ride, to Schultz's, an old school, knotty pine, nautically decorated seafood place.

                                                                                                          And, my burning question: Where was the laundromat pit beef?!

                                                                                                          1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                            1518 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD.
                                                                                                            Baltimore Street Laundry/L&J's Convenience Store/Lonnies Bar-B-Q Ribs Pit Beef.

                                                                                                            1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                              Thanks for the tips! The lady, she refers to herself as "Mama", said she is only there 3 times a week, and I think morning and early afternoon. She is a total trip. Her husband is sick so it's just her running the shop. The place is 96 percent regulars, I bet if you told her that a New Yorker told you to come there, she'd know it was me.

                                                                                                              okay, the Laundromat is at 1518 W Baltimore Street - I think. I saw this sign on a gate with some smokers or grills inside http://www.flickr.com/photos/orlick/7... , and I did some snooping around and met the owner and he told me it was through the laundromat. It was tough meat, I wish it was fresher. Unfortunately, he's probably not that busy.

                                                                                                              I think I found that laundromat just rolling around after the Hollins Market. I know a lot of people are going to be real cautious about that area, but I was treated just fine.

                                                                                                            2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                              Dang, wish I knew you were on a bike. Could have shown you some of the routes through the city.

                                                                                                              1. re: zebcook

                                                                                                                I actually found Baltimore Very bikeable. Much moreso than New York. The hills aren't terrible, and the traffic wasn't crazy or too fast. The bike lanes, however, are not the best - at one point ( I think near Federal Hill) , the bike lane turned around a blind curve - I couldn't believe how dangerous that was to have bike lane directions for. Bike lanes are trusted by neo-bikers, so if they aren't safe, they are really dangerous. I much prefer not to create a sense of security for bikers or cars, and just have people look out for each other at all times.

                                                                                                                If I was in a car, I wouldn't have gone to half the places or taken half the pictures I did. Bolt Bus, 27 dollars round trip, and you can take your bike for free.

                                                                                                              2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                                I've only been to Baltimore once, and didn't try pizza while there, but how was the pizza at Matthew's? I've heard a number here tout it as the best, but from the picture it doesn't look very good (looks like a pizza you'd get at a ballpark).

                                                                                                                1. re: mdpilam

                                                                                                                  I loved it! Yes, it was definitely middle america pizza. Done in a pan, with supposedly lard in the dough. Some people think it's an abomination, but I dug it. The sausage was reaaalllly good on it. Due to a mixup, I tried the white pie too (I wasn't as much of a fan at all). It's not the best in the US, but it's definitely really good -- in my opinion.

                                                                                                                  I like a lot of different pizza styles. I'm pretty open. I guess it can be a little too fatty for some people.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                                    I'm not really sure what "middle America pizza" is, despite having lived and traveled in quite a few places in various parts of the Midwest.

                                                                                                                    I always thought Matthew's was some sort of Baltimore invention, that is, until I read this:


                                                                                                                    In any event, glad you loved it.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                                      Yes, I'm curious too about what you have in mind when you say "middle america" pizza. Do you mean something like "Mid-Western Pizza" (which need not be done in a pan) or one of the Chicago styles, which can be done in a pan, or ?

                                                                                                                  2. re: Jeffsayyes

                                                                                                                    Thanks for the link to the picks. I lived in Baltimore for several years and they reminded me of how much I enjoyed it. Living nearby and no having a car, Lexington Market was my grocery store, as well as cheap lunch spot - prices seem to have risen a bit. (My loft was almost equidistant to the Yards and the Market).

                                                                                                                    Seeing the Peirpoint sign was also fun - had my graduation dinner there in '96!

                                                                                                                2. At the northeast corner of St. Paul Street and 25th is a place called M&J's Soul Food. I stop there from time to time and the food is very soul, downhome, rustic, plentiful and affordable. The meatloaf, fried chicken and pork chops are my faves.

                                                                                                                  There's also a place run by middle easterners serving the black communities running locations callee Hip Hop Fish & Chicken. The service is efficient and quick and the chicken is pretty tasty. You literally can get piles of chicken for cheap.

                                                                                                                  Baltimore is known for its crabs and Faidley's is famous for its crabcakes. So too is G&M Restaurant - but if you want something approximating the soul and blue collar old days of Baltimore's history, Bill's Terrace Inn is a spot to check out.

                                                                                                                  Despite the fancy places that now operate in Baltimore, it's history is strictly working-class blue collar. As such the food is simple and filling. Places like cheesesteaks from Captain Harvey's in Dundalk aren't necessarily the same as Philly but they're massive for dock or assembly line workers who need filling meals that they'll burn off through their labors.

                                                                                                                  Another place that I've liked over the years is The Chicken Box inside the Cross Street Market in Federal Hill. Again, simple fare, bountiful and at cheap prices. The raw bar usually has good deals on oysters and beer for an afternoon happy hour of slurping and chugging.

                                                                                                                  Somehow my direction here has focused in on fried chicken places, but maybe that's the simplest of fares and the most accessible for most people. While all of the above give a glimpse of what Baltimore food was like in times past, a lot of modern day working class people get their fried chicken from Royal Farms convenience stores. They're all over the place and while I don't know if I would make a date out of a visit to one, it certainly is my "go to" place for fried chicken.

                                                                                                                  32 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: onocoffee

                                                                                                                    Royal Farms? On Chowhound? Really??

                                                                                                                    1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                      Have you had their fried chicken?

                                                                                                                      1. re: gregb

                                                                                                                        Hear! Hear!

                                                                                                                        And, their Western fries are hard to beat!

                                                                                                                        1. re: gregb

                                                                                                                          I have and I'm even a regular consumer of their wraps but I can't imagine sending someone from out of town there. The day that someone posts that they didn't make it up to Jake's because they chose Royal Frickin Farms instead is the day that Chowhound makes me cry.

                                                                                                                          1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                            BTW, on your (repeated) recommendation, I went to Jake's on Tuesday since I was more or less in the area. Like you, I found it quirky and likeable. Their pit beef was good. I would rank it as better than Pioneer's but not nearly as good as Beefalo Bob's. Their take on mac & cheese was interesting, but too smokey to eat more than a bite or two. (Actually, they threw in a side since I it was my first time there. Nice touch.)

                                                                                                                            That said, I think it's a great stop if you're in the area. However, it's not some place I'd go far out of my way for or bother to recommend to someone visiting Baltimore City.

                                                                                                                            1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                                              Fair enough. I haven't had Beefalo Bob's so I can't comment. I just dig it as a very local, very honest place that, if I were visiting, I'd be talking about for a long time since it's a guy and his buddy cooking family recipes in an old garage. Not going to find a doppelganger elsewhere. Royal Farms isn't the worst thing ever but it's pretty much a glorified 7-11 and it's a huge chain staffed by people who couldn't care less about their product.

                                                                                                                              If you find yourself at Jake's again and they have ribs or wings get them. For real... omg

                                                                                                                              1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                If you go to Beefalo Bob's, make sure you go to their Mountain Road location which is carry-out only and NOT their Ft Smallwood Road one. (And, yes, Mountain Road is a haul from almost anywhere in Baltimore.)

                                                                                                                                And, while I'd prefer to buy from a small outfit and from the owner (like Jake's) and have no real interest in promoting Royal Farms, it's a fairly small regional chain and not some international monster like 7-11. Royal Farms is no Wawa, but good for what it is.

                                                                                                                                1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                                                  Like I said, I eat there too. But again, people are coming to our town with only 3 - 5 opportunities to eat local stuff. As ambassadors for our town we owe it to them give them places that they won't find anywhere else.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                    Absolutely! Making sure people have non-tourist trap options is what we're all about. But I'm wondering:

                                                                                                                                    Is it right for people who live in the vicinity of the In-n-Out Burger chain to recommend it to visitors to the area? (If you think the answer is yes--I do and have no idea if you also agree--isn't it the same as sending someone to Royal Farms for a chicken box?)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                                                      Do you have a bug in my car? ;) I literally just used In-n-Out burger as an example of the alternate point of view when discussing this thread with my wife tonight! I have never been and I don't want to make a definitive statement but every rule has its exceptions and, as far as I can tell, there is a genuine cult-like love for In-n-Out that translates into sending people there as tourists. Is it warranted? I can't say. But there is no cult-like fandom built around Royal Farms. It's just a solid regional 7-11ish chain that Marylanders grab a quick lunch at on the way to do other things.

                                                                                                                                      For me, if someone posts a thread that says "I just started working in XYZ area and am looking for a rotation of cheap, quick lunches. Where should I go?" then "There's a Royal around the corner" is a legit response. But when someone says "I've never been to Baltimore before and I'm looking for the SOUL and GRIT of the local flavor of your city" then that's among the last places I'd send them. Is In-n-Out the exception to that rule? It just might be.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                        Does 7-11 even sell fried chicken?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                            hi kukubura ( like your blog.. )I will be in your city in August with my son and this talk about Royal Farms Fried Chicken got me thinking. So I used the power of Google:


                                                                                                                                            I assume is like a Wawa in Jersey and their followers of hoagies. In any event. I do live in California and I would point people to In and Out.. Its actually good. Is it great thats up to you to compare. But, I am seeking spots for food in Baltimore and en route to Toms River once we depart. We will be staying in the Inner Harbor at the Hyatt, going to Camden Yards for a Ball game and not much yet planned. I grew up in NYC, so I thought a morning walk to Lexington Market for some breakfast may be in order and would like some hounish finds for a Lunch, Dinner and snacks when we are in your city. My son is 15 and a foodie as well. Thanks to all in advance..

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Foodandwine

                                                                                                                                              Now Lexington Market is local and soulful. It's also a mess but what are ya gonna do. Cross Street Market south of the harbor might be a little easier to deal with.

                                                                                                                                              You guys might enjoy some places in Fells Point: Kooper's, Duda's, Tortilleria Sinaloa. Another good Mexican place is Cinco de Mayo Taqueris on S Highland ave and Eastern. The downtown farmer's market on Sunday morning is probably our best food destination and the fried fish stand is my favorite part of it.

                                                                                                                                              On the way to Tom's River? I defer to others but Jake's could be sort of on the way since it's not far from where 83 and 695 connect.

                                                                                                                                              Despite my speahifying in here I am not the authority on regional eating! Have a great visit.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                                Best in Greektown and Italian area for two on a somewhat budget next week? Thanks

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Foodandwine

                                                                                                                                                  Samos in Greektown, it's also BYOB

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Foodandwine

                                                                                                                                                    definitely Samos check to make sure it is open. they close for 2 weeks at end of July early august to vacation. Do not go to Ikaros. Was an old fav of mine but went last week after seeing closed sign at Samos and food was terrible.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                                Ha! No bug, but just the obvious analogy. And, I think our job here is the cut though all the "cult-like following" crap, anyway. (And I say that as someone who adores, ok loves, In-n-Out Burgers.)

                                                                                                                                                And, thinking about this further, it occurred to me that I have gone out of my way to eat at local/regional chains when traveling. Made my friends laugh when I wanted a Burgerville burger in Oregon, and spent a meal in New Mexico (a place with particularly good food) on Blake's Lottaburger (and loved it!). If imagine that a case could be made for sending someone to Gino's, although I think the current locations are probably more about nostalgia than they are about burgers, shakes, and fries. I remember making a point of eating at Pollo Campero in Guatemala just because I knew how beloved it was. (And, little did I know that they had locations in Maryland!)

                                                                                                                                                If I had only one meal to spend in a place would I pick a chain? Probably not. But I definitely do not discount it as a way to gain insight into a place and perhaps have a good meal.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                                                                  as an aside, for someone whom traveled to GUA for 15 years. I love the Pollo Campero in Zone 10. The locations in the USA have no game compared to them..

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Foodandwine

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for that. (I felt silly when I got back and learned that there was one maybe a 40 minutes drive from my house!) It's definitely not cheap and it seemed so important to local culture that people save up their quetzales just to have a family meal there.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                                                                      I don't know any of the places you mentioned, so I can't say. I also think that the fact that In-n-Out is the first place that we both thought of as an example of a situation where I might be wrong tells you that there's something unique about it.

                                                                                                                                                      There are local places that have multiple locations and there are regional chains. Royal Farms, to me, is a soulless chain of massively factory farmed food and not anything local to our area. I can't find how many there are but just a look at the "under construction" locations shows that it's spreading like locust: http://www.royalfarms.com/locations.asp

                                                                                                                                                      Heck, the old Burke's restaurant, an old time downtown Baltimore space, is now a Royal Farms, as if there was never anything else there.

                                                                                                                                                      As an aside, I was looking for pictures of Royal Farms interiors to post so people not from here could see what sort of place we're talking about and almost all the pics were of robberies in progress from security cameras. I don't want to post that or else CH will take down this entire discussion!! (I'm attaching the best one I could find.)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                                        RF claimed that they would be keeping the Burke's onion rings as a menu item...I'm a little disappointed they lied about that, but Burke's was nothing more than a dust filled piece of nostalgia!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                                          I was royally (no pun intended) bummed when Burke's turned into a Royal Farms.

                                                                                                                                                          Burke's had character, something greatly lacking in a lot of places nowadays. If you knew how to order, you could do quite well at Burke's. And there's something to be said about a place where the bar is open at breakfast time.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                          That's a fair point, but if someone is looking for fried chicken...Royal Frickin Farms it is!

                                                                                                                                          Jake's is on my short list. I was there probably 5 years when it was called Shorty's and they were only serving pit beef.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: gregb

                                                                                                                                            If Royal is the best fried chicken in Baltimore (which I doubt) then I'd recommend that someone visiting save their fried chicken appetite for another city. Again, Royal might be good but why would you want such a homogenized non-local experience when visiting a new place?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                              I can't say anything, I love Popeyes ;)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hon

                                                                                                                                                Yep. The Popeyes on the Florida Turnpike at the Canoe Creek plaza--best fried chicken anywhere.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                  what I really love is English's Fried Chicken, mmmmmmm

                                                                                                                                                2. re: hon

                                                                                                                                                  I loved Popeyes (and Churches) decades ago when I encountered them in Louisiana. The Baltimore area outlets I've been to in more recent times are underwhelming.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: kukubura

                                                                                                                                          Yes, Royal Farms. Really. On Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                          Or are you suggesting that Chowhound is more about pretense than actual places to eat?

                                                                                                                                          And I'm surprised that so many of you seem to have failed on the fact that Royals Farms is a local company based on The Avenue in Hampden.

                                                                                                                                      2. I lived in Baltimore from 1974 through 2001. Here are a list of what would have been typical local places during that period. It always seemed to me that tradition and brand loyalty was big in Baltimore, and not really local/regional emphasis, except for blue crabs. If you asked this question 25 years ago, this would have been my reply:

                                                                                                                                        - Prep school kids liked to escape to Morgan & Millard's at lunch time (Roland Ave.)
                                                                                                                                        - Homewood Deli on St. Paul after church
                                                                                                                                        - Stealing change from dad's money jar and getting a Harleyburger and fries at Harley's (St. Paul in Homewood or on Falls)
                                                                                                                                        - Tuna fish sandwiches made only from Bumblebee brand tuna, with buttered bread
                                                                                                                                        - Country Club Ginger Ale (dry and HOT), eaten with above tuna fish
                                                                                                                                        - Chesapeake Restaurant down Charles Street for special occasions
                                                                                                                                        - Mom & Dad going to Haussner's, leaving us at home to fend for ourselves
                                                                                                                                        - Alonso's Tavern on Coldspring
                                                                                                                                        - Frazier's in Hampden, sitting at the outside tables on warm nights, annoying the neighbors with our noise
                                                                                                                                        - Siccora Italian (sp?) restaurant near 33rd and Greenmount
                                                                                                                                        - The egg rolls at Golden Dragon near 33rd and Greenmount
                                                                                                                                        - Mencken's Cultured Pearl when I moved to Pigtown in the mid-80s.
                                                                                                                                        - The Szechuan Restaurant in Federal Hill for the best Kung Pao Chicken around, back when none of us really knew what good Szechuan was like -- except for those who knew that "secret upstairs" chinese restaurant on Mulberry or other cross street north of Mulberry -- I went there once.
                                                                                                                                        - House of Welsh steak house when my Dad would visit B'more on business later on, and treat me to a ribeye
                                                                                                                                        - Any Little Italy establishment (pre-1990) with my boyfriend/partner, back when a glass of Lambrusco was so very adult for us 20-somethings.
                                                                                                                                        - The Bratwurst House in Towson with the cast after summer theater rehearsals

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: MartinDC

                                                                                                                                          Lol- Frazier's in Hampden, sitting at the outside tables on warm nights, annoying the neighbors with our noise - things are still the same there

                                                                                                                                        2. Thanks for the tips, everyone. Baltimore was awesome. I really loved the city and definitely want to come back - it's now one of 3 cities that I'd actually live in (Queens and now LA are the others).

                                                                                                                                          I rode and walked around most of the time, and was lucky enough to have a great host to eat with.

                                                                                                                                          Some of my highlights were the markets (all of them), bean pies, AVAM, Grace Garden, Camden Yards.

                                                                                                                                          Here's the post with pictures:

                                                                                                                                          Thanks! Looking forward to my return trip...