Dining and nightlife

Best Asian fusion: Ekiben

What started as a cooking hobby for three college friends evolved into a stint at the Fells Point Farmers’ Market and the opening of a restaurant in 2016. The friendly, counter-service eatery with about a dozen seats serves delicious Asian comfort food, such as Thai chicken meatball steamed buns...

  • Best burger: Chef Rod’s Outrageous Burgers

    Best burger: Chef Rod’s Outrageous Burgers

    When we first devoured Chef Rod’s decadent, juicy, inspiring burgers last year, we were sitting in a former food mart at an Elkridge gas station. Recently, owner-chef Rod Albarran relocated the burger operation inside his nearby R&R Taqueria, where the Mexican and American foods happily co-exist....

  • Best candy: Pure Chocolate by Jinji

    Best candy: Pure Chocolate by Jinji

    Jinji Fraser is not just a chocolatier. She is a storyteller. Her raw chocolates, made with cacao from a small farmer in Ecuador, express her memories, dreams and feelings. For instance, for Valentine’s Day, Fraser, 33, created a chocolate that reflected her experience with lost love, using flavor...

  • Best comfort-food spot: Water for Chocolate

    Best comfort-food spot: Water for Chocolate

    Chef Sean Guy traded in life as a corporate chef to open Water for Chocolate, named after the Laura Esquivel novel — a favorite — and to be more in touch with the diners he feeds. With only 20 seats, that’s not hard for him to do. He serves his sophisticated, Southern-influenced cuisine for breakfast,...

  • Best restaurant concept: Modern Cook Shop

    Best restaurant concept: Modern Cook Shop

    Owners Andy Gruver and Jason Sanchez were inspired by Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York to open a similar, smaller venue. Their space combines a New American restaurant, bar, coffee shop and market in a contemporary space. There are three eating stations, where customers can enjoy a latte, dig...

  • Best restaurant decor: Citron

    Best restaurant decor: Citron

    With its gorgeous contemporary design, Citron may be the area’s most beautiful dining setting. Kudos to Jay Jenkins of Jenkins Baer Associates for his plan and Martha Macks-Kahn of Goya Contemporary for her selection of artwork. Citron, owned by longtime caterer Charles Levine and his wife, Susan,...

  • Best dessert: Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant

    Best dessert: Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant

    After devouring more than 100 desserts in the past year, we kept coming back to a ray of sweet sunshine: Tersiguel’s tart lemon curd with a fluff of chantilly cream and a cascade of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries and, another rendition, a passion-fruit curd with coconut-lemongrass creme...

  • Best doughnuts: Center Cut Doughnuts

    Best doughnuts: Center Cut Doughnuts

    Owner Josh Kowitz, who introduced his creative pastries at the Hampden Farmers’ Market in 2015, now has a roof over his head with his first brick-and-mortar location. His gooey, decadent orbs include favorites like brown butter, black and white, and glazed. But Kowitz is an innovator with flavors...

  • Best food-hall stall: The Local Oyster

    Best food-hall stall: The Local Oyster

    One of the things we like most about this stand in Mount Vernon Marketplace is that you can perch on a bright-red stool and talk to the shuckers as they make quick work of opening the bivalves. On a recent visit, we slurped an assortment of half shells from Maryland, Rhode Island and Massachusetts,...

  • Best ice cream: Taharka Brothers

    Best ice cream: Taharka Brothers

    The socially conscious company not only produces delicious small-batch ice cream and sorbets in a Clipper Mill factory, but it also strives to promote leadership skills among urban men. Taharka products can be found at restaurants, shops and its seasonal truck, which can be spotted at area events....

  • Best Mediterranean-inspired cuisine: Gnocco

    Best Mediterranean-inspired cuisine: Gnocco

    Chef Brian Lavin’s food is inspired by his travels to Spain, Italy and other countries. After stints at Salt and Fork & Wrench, Lavin launched Gnocco last year, lavishing attention on a changing menu of mostly small plates and pastas attuned to the seasons. Recently, grilled Spanish octopus and...

  • Best restaurant to take kids: Silver Queen Cafe

    Best restaurant to take kids: Silver Queen Cafe

    The cozy BYOB cafe welcomes kids with their own menu and a nook with books, games and puzzles. Families are usually placed near the play area. Chef-owner-dad Jason Daniloski prepares freshly made meals like a burger slider made with local Roseda Farm beef; fried chicken with mashed potatoes and...

  • Best ramen: Mi & Yu Noodle Bar

    Best ramen: Mi & Yu Noodle Bar

    Classically trained chef Edward Kim puts his own spin on ramen by giving diners a choice, from the broth and protein to the noodle for their bowls. For instance, a pleasing collaboration is the meltingly tender short ribs, thick udon noodles and roast-duck broth. If the beef dashi broth is available,...

  • Best soup: Atwater’s

    Best soup: Atwater’s

    When we were sick recently, we craved soup — but not just any warm bouillon. We wanted Atwater’s soup. (Thank you, OrderUp). The hot (and sometimes chilled) elixirs are made with locally sourced, fresh ingredients that are captivating, soothing and nurturing. The Baltimore-based food maker, with...

  • Best wine cafe: Vin 909

    Best wine cafe: Vin 909

    Set in a vintage Sears Roebuck home, Vin 909 has an eclectic wine list (and beer selection) to accompany its seasonal small plates and brick-oven pizza menu. Wines are divided into price points with subtitles like “value is not a dirty word.” The American food with Mediterranean, Californian and...

  • Best bar program: La Cuchara

    Best bar program: La Cuchara

    Local bons vivants know there are few better places to indulge than this fine restaurant in the Jones Falls Area. Led by Jake Lefenfeld, the bar program promotes delicious exploration, from imaginative cocktails (try the Sangre del Toro) to a range of wines. On a warm day, sit on the patio and...

  • Best beer: Heavy Seas Beer & Union Craft Brewing’s Olde Ale

    Best beer: Heavy Seas Beer & Union Craft Brewing’s Olde Ale

    Two of Baltimore’s most prominent breweries came together for an unexpected collaboration, and the result is excellent. Old Ale is Union and Heavy Seas’ ode to England’s historic dark, malt-forward brew. Made with Domino sugar as a nod to the breweries’ shared home, the Old Ale pushes its rich...

  • Best brewery: Burley Oak Brewing Co.

    Best brewery: Burley Oak Brewing Co.

    When Bryan Brushmiller lost his job in 2009, he got more serious about his homebrewing. The hobby — now known as Burley Oak Brewing Co. — is churning out some of the state’s best beer in the small town of Berlin. You can find Burley Oak at a beer haven like Max’s Taphouse, but we recommend traveling...

  • Best cocktail: Woodberry Kitchen’s 2nd Amendment

    Best cocktail: Woodberry Kitchen’s 2nd Amendment

    The crown of Woodberry Kitchen’s cocktail list is the 2nd Amendment ($13), a smooth drink made with organic rye whiskey by Catoctin Creek, nocino walnut liqueur, maple vinegar and smoked maple syrup. The caramel-like woody notes of the whiskey and walnut liqueur marry wonderfully with the sweetness...

  • Best cocktail bar: Rye

    Best cocktail bar: Rye

    When Rye moved into the former home of Leadbetters, eyebrows lifted. Could Rye’s intimate feel be re-created in a space that was previously a Baltimore dive-bar legend? In a word: yes. Rye feels refreshed, and the main reason is Perez Klebahn, a managing partner and steward of the European-influenced...

  • Best distillery: Lyon Distilling

    Best distillery: Lyon Distilling

    Located in St. Michaels, Lyon Distilling has bold whiskeys in a variety of styles (corn, rye and malt), but you’ll have to claim them fast, given their limited run. If you miss out, there’s Lyon’s flagship line of big-flavored rums. The products are found at Baltimore stores like Wells Discount...

  • Best happy hour: Papi's Taco Joint

    Best happy hour: Papi's Taco Joint

    Walk by Papi’s in Fells Point during the week between 4 and 7 p.m., and you’ll likely see a bar with few open seats. It’s worth squeezing in, though, because Papi’s’ happy hour is tough to top. It’s known as 3-4-5 Hour because of its specials: $3 (draft beers, Corralejo blanco tequila shots), $4...

  • Best jukebox: Club Charles

    Best jukebox: Club Charles

    With more bars installing digital streaming jukeboxes, it’s worth appreciating this brightly lit Rock-Ola machine. Like a cranky record store manager, it has better taste than you, but the machine won’t make you feel bad. On a recent visit, the 100-disc player featured full-length albums by David...

  • Best neighborhood bar: O'Donnell's Pub

    Best neighborhood bar: O'Donnell's Pub

    Opened in the summer of 1987, this Canton corner bar has maintained its approachable vibes, friendly atmosphere and cheap specials. It has the familiarity we look for in neighborhood hangouts — neon lighting, sports on the flatscreen TVs and a shuffleboard — but it’s the camaraderie that makes...

  • Best new bar: Wet City

    Best new bar: Wet City

    Opened in July, Wet City quickly established itself as bold. From its minimalist design inspired by Scandinavian bars to its take-it-or-leave-it approach to craft-beer selection, the brainchild of brothers PJ and Josh Sullivan is a reflection of their own tastes. The confidence works, and is backed...

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