Eating out in Baltimore was, for a long time, a mostly predictable and provincial enterprise: Local seafood and a handful of regional specialties like soft crabs, crab soup, and crab cakes, plus tried-and-true riffs on continental cuisine, were the best the city had to offer, save for Charm City's excellent ethnic restaurants.
These days, Baltimore is still known for its increasingly dear and hard-to-come-by seafood delicacies, as it should be. But in the last decade or so, the city, thanks to the local-food movement, has evolved into quite the regional food (and drink) destination. Nearby farms, seafood purveyors, and local butchers and brewers inspire Baltimore chefs and cooks to take the city to new culinary levels on a daily basis—using sustainable ingredients that come from close to home. And we're all a lot better off for it.
The following listings are by no means exhaustive and are organized by city neighborhood. Venture out and discover Baltimore's local flavors, old and new, familiar and surprising, for yourself. ($ = most entrees are $10 and under, $$ = $10-$15, $$$ = $15-$25, $$$$ = $25 and above)
Adjacent to the Charles Theater and expanding, Baltimore's leader in small plates, owned by the Karzai family (as are b bistro, The Helmand, and the new Pen & Quill), brings international flavors to the city's tapas scene.
Located in a Mount Vernon townhouse, the Brewer's Art was among the first restaurants in Baltimore to brew its own beer. Sampling Brewer's Art house beers (Resurrection, Beazly, and Birdhouse) with its rosemary garlic fries is a seminal Baltimore casual dining experience.
Don't let this Italian market's sort-of sketchy locale dissuade you from a visit. Get a prosciutto or soppressata sandwich on foccacia (or maybe a classic meatball sub) and some good-cheap wine to take home. Or visit Trinacria's new café on West Centre Street.
Modern Italian from the team of Foreman and Wolf. Sit at Cinghiale's (the name means wild boar) 40-foot marble bar and enjoy a selection from their salumeria or one of the fixed-priced menus (the rustic La Cucina della Nonna or the more formal Prezzo Fisso), or order a la carte.
Seasonal American dishes with a Chesapeake and Southern influence. Sustainability is the watchword here. To be considered for Ten Ten's menu, seafood must fall within the "good" or "good alternative" categories of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sustainable Seafood Watch.
A Fell's Point institution known for its independent spirit, reliably excellent food, and an ever-evolving menu, Peter's is one of the restaurants that comes to mind when you think of what Baltimore restaurants do best.
The former Moonshine Tavern rechristened itself with a new name in 2014, but not much else has changed: The jambalaya is still top-notch, and there's no better place to sample multiple flavors of white lightning.
Innovative pizza toppings (kale and pistachio), infused cocktails, and homemade pasta, just a few blocks from Riverside Park. Its pizzas are among the best Neapolitan-style pies in the city, definitely worth the walk from the Inner Harbor.
Hampden's sweet spot serves up odd, appealing, and exotic ice cream flavors, such as Old Bay caramel, sesame & sunflower, or kulfi (rose water, cardamom, and pistachio), and refreshing sodas, such as a mint-lime rickey.
Known for its innovation, charm, charcuterie, and homemade cakes. You can buy Clementine's sausages, bresaola, and other treats that make Charm City carnivores drool at Green Onion Market, the restaurant's fresh food market just down the street.
Owned by Tom Creegan, a co-owner of Brewer's Art, the bar's pedigree is evident in its beer and burger selection. Hamilton's Crosstown Burger is a perennial contender in Baltimore's best burger competitions.