Where to Eat in Baltimore Right Now
Enjoy seafood on the water, heaping bowls of pho, or a brasserie courtyard.
To name the best Baltimore restaurants is sort of a complicated task. We’re used to being told we’re a stopover city, a place to pass through on the way from DC to New York. And, sometimes, we relish that. We have so many well-kept secrets here that, often, it’s nice to enjoy them for ourselves. But, like a good pot of steamed crabs, we can no longer keep a lid on the great restaurants and bars Baltimore has to offer. We have James Beard-nominated chefs and cocktail programs, tons of innovative restaurants, and, yes, bushels of local seafood to sample.
What is also incredibly impressive, of course, is how these restaurants have been navigating the rollercoaster that has been COVID-19. Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa recently announced that the city is lifting restrictions on restaurants and bars, but that the indoor mask mandate will remain in place until 65% of the city population receives at least one dose of the vaccine. Luckily, with warmer temps upon us, sidewalk and patio seating is abundant. So whether you’re dining in or out, or ordering to-go, check out the newest hot spots or keep scrolling to find some of the best places that have persevered over the last five-ish years.
Cindy Lou’s Fish House
The gist: The latest Foreman Wolf restaurant inside the Canopy hotel that has a seafood-centric menu and sweeping patio views of the Harbor.
The food: The name says it all, as James Beard-nominated Chef Cindy Wolf oversees a Southern-style menu incorporating local seafood. Highlights include melt-in-your-mouth wild halibut bites with Old Bay aioli and hush puppies, oysters on the half shell accompanied by apple cider mignonette, and a seafood perlau of Carolina gold rice, shrimp, clams, crab, and andouille sausage. If you like bitter gin cocktails, the Burns & Russel is for you.
The cost: Apps are $12-17, mains are $17-42, cocktails are $15, and wine and beer range from $7-21 per glass.
True Chesapeake Oyster Co.
The gist: The dream team of Chef Zack Mills (formerly of Four Seasons Baltimore), Nick Schauman (everyone’s favorite Local Oyster stall), and Patrick Hudson (of True Chesapeake Oyster Farm in St. Mary’s County) opened a seafood restaurant in Whitehall Mill.
The food: Be sure to order Chesapeake classics including spaghetti and middle neck clams, roasted oysters, a farmhouse salad with seasonal veggies, crab dip mac and cheese, and whatever preparation Mills has thought up for the rockfish.
The cost: Apps are $12-19, entrees are $14-25, cocktails, beers, and bottles of wine are $10-35.
Duck Duck Goose Baltimore
The gist: A historical Fells Point building that houses a brasserie-style restaurant, chic bar, a romantic back courtyard, and plenty of sidewalk tables.
The food: On the heels of his success with Bethesda restaurants, Chef Asish Alfred opened this Baltimore concept in 2018. The menu is specific and Parisian with various cheeses, patés, vegetables complementing classic mains like duck confit and a côte de boeuf for two. For something a bit less fancy, brunch is a great time to visit for shrimp & grits and avocado toast. Of note are thoughtful zero-proof cocktails, a nod to Alfred’s personal journey with sobriety.
The cost: Charcuterie is $6-21, shareable sides are $13-16, mains are $18-38.
Mona’s Super Noodle
The gist: After a few iterations, a corner spot on The Avenue finds its happy place with a quirky spot for Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine.
The food: After years of working in the food industry and making amazing Southeast Asian dishes in her home kitchen, Mona Kettavhong opened up her own spot serving spring rolls, curry, pho, and fried rice with super fresh ingredients. Be sure to order her riff on a Baltimore chicken box with Laotian-style fried chicken, sticky rice, and a sweet dipping sauce.
The cost: Starters and salads are $8.50-$11.95, mains are $12.95-$16.95.
How to order: Walk up for indoor or outdoor seating or order takeout online
The gist: Joining an already packed roster at Mount Vernon Marketplace, Fishnet was opened by Turkish-born restaurateur Ferhat Yalcin and Baltimore native Keyia Yalcin.
The food: This scratch kitchen uses every part of its fresh fish, like non-filet cuts for salmon croquettes and bones for stocks, but mainstays include a towering crispy catfish sandwich and street food-inspired Baltimore Bomber that proves seafood and cheese do mix. If soft shell crab is in season, get the sandwich. Trust us.
The cost: Sides (including drool-worthy mac and cheese) are $4 and mains are $9-15.
How to order: Walk in or order takeout via Toast
The gist: Husband-and-wife duo Kevin and Elizabeth Irish (of The Local Fry fame) open a fast-casual Korean taco and ssam bar.
The food: This new Rotuna spot has flavors as bold as its bright blush walls—offering the gems of Korean BBQ in the accessible vehicles of tacos and bowls. Don’t miss “tako” options like spicy pork belly, short ribs, and king oyster mushrooms and countless ban chan, or side, options like corn cheese, fried fish, and kimchis.
The cost: Takos and ssam are 3 for $13, doshi bowls are $14, meal kits are $25-28, and sides are $3-8.
How to order: Order takeout via Toast.
H3irloom Food Group
The gist: After showcasing their talents at Herb & Soul and Ida B’s Table, David and Tonya Thomas start a new culinary venture for private dinners, events, and takeout.
The food: As a three-time undefeated champ on Food Network’s Chopped and decades of experience, David draws on African cultures and traditions to create dishes like deviled crab soup, jollof risotto, sous-vide jerk lamb, and grilled tilefish. Rumor has it that the team is about to launch a bottled sauce line and is building a farm to further cement its commitment to locally sourced ingredients.
The cost: Private event rates vary and holiday meals range from $135-210.
Alma Cocina Latina
The gist: Airy, plant-filled space for Venezuelan cuisine that moved from Canton into an expanded space in Station North. What’s more, Alma partnered with Mera Kitchen Collective and World Central Kitchen to cook nearly 100,000 free meals for the community in 2020.
The food: Alma introduced Baltimore to the arepa, or cornmeal cake stuffed with cheese, pulled chicken, pork, beef, eggplant, or tofu—depending on your preference. But that’s just the tip of the international iceberg, as you can expect bright flavors in the gazpacho salad, yuca fries, seafood paella, and plantains with melao. That same transformative feeling comes through in colorful pisco and daiquiri cocktails.
The cost: Starters are $7-12, arepas are $3-15, entrees hover around $30, and drinks are $3-12.
The gist: Former Top Chef contestant Jesse Sandlin livens up a corner block, former home of the beloved Laughing Pint, with a vibrant and tropical ode to Baltimore kitsch and bar food.
The food: Go here for messy and satisfying comfort food, all made with fresh and mindfully sourced ingredients. The watermelon and feta salad bursts with fragrant mint, basil, and pickled onions and the mac and cheese oozes with bechamel. But the star is the Highlandtown Smashburger—two generous patties of short rib-brisket-chuck blend, shredded iceberg, American cheese, fried onions, pickles, and spicy sauce on a potato roll. The Big Mac wishes.
The cost: Starters are $9-14, entrees are $12-45, and drinks and desserts range from $3-8.
How to order: Reserve outdoor sidewalk seating on OpenTable or get carryout through Toast.
The gist: The latest venture from Peter Chang—known for his multitude of Sichuan restaurants through DC and Maryland—is helmed by his daughter Lydia and chef Pichet Ong, inside a beautiful and ornate corner building in Southeast Baltimore.
The food: Traditional Chinese dishes, innovatively made to work as takeout kits for the time being, include Peking duck with sweet and savory sauces and brown rice buns, addictive shrimp dumplings with chili oil and crushed cashews, and chicken chow mein with heat that sneaks up on you. Don’t overlook the tofu—both the fiery mapo version with mushrooms and the chilled iteration served with a century egg that Ong remembers eating as an after-school snack.
The cost: Lunch special is $15, starters are $3-13, mains are $19-35, desserts are $6-15, and the Peking duck kit is $68.
How to order: Book a table via Tock or order takeout from its website
The gist: An 18th-century mill has been transformed into a mixed-use market and event space with retail, cafes, bars, and restaurants.
The food: You could spend a whole day shopping for baked goods from Crust By Mack, hot and cold drinks from Wight Tea Co., prepared foods and kitchen goodies from Gundalow Gourmet, caffeinated boosts from Ceremony Coffee, everything for your charcuterie board from Firefly Farms Market, gifts from Homebody General Store, modern Filipino food and drinks from Heritage by Chef Rey Eugeino, and burgers from The Urban Burger Bar.
The cost: Prices vary by vendor.
How to order: Walk in
Café Dear Leon
The gist: On a square known more for its night owls than early birds comes a coffee and pastry spot named after co-owner Min Kim’s son.
The food: All of the items are made from scratch daily, including drool-worthy ham and cheese croissants, glistening egg tarts, and fluffy and decadent banana pudding. The minimalist shop also features Ceremony Coffee bags for sale and a full coffee and tea menu. Just be sure to get to the shop early as a lot of the popular items, including its famed traditional Japanese egg sandwich, tend to sell out.
The cost: Pastries and sandwiches are $3-8, drinks are $2-5, and desserts are $2-8.
How to order: Open from 6am-4pm, the cafe is available for walk-up service.
Le Comptoir du Vin
The gist: Le Comptoir du Vin is located in this cozy Maryland Avenue space with charm and chalkboard menus out the wazoo, but it’s what co-owners Will Mester and Rosemary Liss have created out of seemingly simple concepts that’s made it last.
The food: The bowl of French lentils (with curry and labneh) is a revelation. The house sourdough bread (credit sous Kelsey Martin) and delicate chicken liver pate with red wine shallots is addictive. And the steak tartare tossed in anchovy sauce alongside potatoes fried in duck fat is last meal kind of stuff.
The cost: Charcuterie is $7-35, starters and pantry items are $5-12, sandwiches are $10-12, and bottles of wine are $19-32.
How to order: Order online for contactless takeout.
Dylan's Oyster Cellar
The gist: Oyster expert Dylan Salmon (yes, that’s his real name) originally tested his concept in a Mt. Vernon basement and it worked so well that he opened his own brick and mortar on a corner in Hampden.
The food: Dylan’s features an expanded menu beyond just oysters and cocktails—though you shouldn’t leave without sampling both—and shows what its team can do with an entire kitchen. Try traditional Maryland coddies (fish cakes served with yellow mustard and Saltines), seasonal salads, a fried oyster sandwich, or even a could-have-fooled-us green chili cheeseburger that tastes just like the Southwest.
The cost: Snacks and salads are $4-13, sandwiches are $14-27, entrees are $14-26, and cocktails are $10-12.
How to order: Make a reservation by calling 443-759-6595 or order takeout through ChowNow
The gist: This Fells Point institution spruced itself up after many years of abandon and revitalized business in the surrounding area.
The food: Make sure to patronize long-time market stalwarts Sal and Son’s Seafood for fried shrimp or grilled rockfish, Sophia’s Place for pierogies and cheese babka, and Vikki’s Deli for all your sandwich needs. But new vendors—like Thai Street, Old Boy, Fat Tiger, The Verandah, Connie’s Chicken and Waffles, and Taharka Bros—provide exciting reasons to stop in.
The cost: Prices vary by vendor.
How to order: Outside seating is available and the vendors are also open for takeout and delivery.
The gist: Union Craft Brewing moved its beer operation and tasting room to a massive old warehouse that allows for triple the brewing capacity and also houses an adjacent makerspace and marketplace for local startups.
The food: One visit to Union Collective and you can grab a pint of first-rate beer like Double Duckpin, sample ice cream at The Charmery, sip homegrown whiskey at Baltimore Spirits Company, get a jolt from Vent Coffee Roasters, eat a slice at Well Crafted Kitchen, try wine and small plates from The Wine Collective, and even scale a rock wall at Earth Treks.
The cost: Prices vary by vendor.
How to order: Curbside pickup and takeout available for most vendors.
The gist: A few years back, Steve Chu and Ephram Abebe began selling steamed bun sandwiches, rice bowls, and out-of-the-box side dishes from a hot dog cart at the Fells Point Farmers’ Market. Now, they’ve got two brick-and-mortar spots and we couldn’t be happier.
The food: Asian-influenced dishes with unabashedly fun twists, including giant and pillowy steamed buns. Thai chicken meatballs, the Neighborhood Bird, and tempura broccoli have become staples in the Baltimore vocabulary, thanks to these enterprising guys. If soft-shell crab anything is on special, get it.
The cost: Bun sandwiches are $10-12, bowls are $14-16, sides are $2-6. You can also buy a hospital or healthcare worker a bun for $10.
How to order: Order takeout through ChowNow.
The gist: Argentinian steakhouse from the James Beard-nominated Chef Cindy Wolf and co-owner Tony Foreman in a soaring, lush hall.
The food: A departure from Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group’s cuisine, which has focused on Lowcountry and Italian classics, Bar Vasquez celebrates everything Argentine. Executive chef Mario Cano Catalán puts the focus on the protein: wood-fired duck breast, crispy chicken ala plancha, poached and seared Spanish octopus, or caballero steak with a side of spicy chimichurri. Don’t miss out on the grilled veggie sides or bursting housemade empanadas.
The cost: Tapas and starters are $9-16, mains are $33-88, sides are $9-14, and wines by the glass are $7-24.
How to order: Make dine-in or patio reservations through Resy (read the health and safety guidelines before you go) or order takeout by calling 410-534-7296.
The gist: There’s a joke around town that whatever restaurateur Lane Harlan touches turns to gold. While that may be a bit hyperbolic, one look at Clavel during a sun-drenched happy hour and you’d be convinced. Plus, the spot is known for its constant fundraising efforts.
The food: Thanks to copious amounts of research in Oaxaca, Mexico, Harlan and her team have been able to recreate Sinaloan cuisine without it being overwrought or flashy. Upon first visit, it’s best to zone in on a few things—the bubbling queso fundido, acidic aguachile, massive burritos, or selection of tacos where the protein and handmade tortillas are the stars. Be sure to order a spicy mezcalita (and thank Dre) for something a little different from your typical margarita.
The cost: Starters are $4-12, tacos are $3-5, mains are $5-16, and cocktails are $10-14.
How to order: Walk up for outdoor seating or order curbside pickup online
The gist: Basque became a household term in Baltimore once the Lefenfeld family opened La Cuchara in Woodberry.
The food: The menu focuses on snacks, in this case “pintxos,” like a mini eggplant sandwich or cod croquettes with orange blossom aioli. But don't ignore the crispy patatas bravas and blistered shishito peppers, or a stellar main event dish like flaky rainbow trout served with authentic Serrano ham and haricot verts. Peruse the extensive wine list that boasts the best of both countries, too, and stop in during the incredibly affordable happy hour.
The cost: Starters and tapas are $3-18, mains are $24-34, and drinks are $7-15.
Hersh's Pizza & Drinks
The gist: The minimalist aesthetic and funny-but-not-cutesy menu details immediately make guests feel welcome at Hersh’s, but it’s the thoughtful play on Italian fare that makes them stay.
The food: Chef Josh Hershovitz finds beauty in the ordinary, making mundane green beans, corn, and peas sing with housemade aiolis, oils, and focaccia on the appetizer menu. Move on to toothy pasta like basil ravioli or squid ink tagliolini and Naples-inspired pies with kale and pistachio. Even the salads, which tend to be an afterthought at other places, stand out here.
The cost: Snacks and salads are $10-14, pizza is $15-18, pasta and entrees are $24-26, drinks are $6-12.