Food took on new importance this year, both the fear of its scarcity and the ravenous enjoyment of eating when so many other forms of entertainment were off-limits. So we really, really appreciated these new items at Baltimore restaurants, including mature twists on kiddie classics and comfort food for the refined palate.
On-premise dining is still banned in Baltimore at the moment as coronavirus cases continue to rise, but many of the following items can be ordered for pickup.
Southern Maryland ham at Magdalena
It’s hard to choose a favorite new dish on the menu at Magdalena, which reopened this year in the Ivy Hotel in a bold new transformation from a French brasserie to a Maryland-focused bistro. But one of the many delightful surprises up executive chef Mark Levy’s sleeve is this take on stuffed ham, that classic holiday tradition of Southern Maryland. Served with pickled beets and mustard aioli, it’s a dazzling introduction to an old staple. While you’re there, check out the newly Baltimore-centric cocktail menu, which includes the “Charm City Cookie,” served with Berger cookies that have been dusted in gold. (In gold!) This grown-up version of milk and cookies can be ordered to-go in portions of two or six.
Pastry chef extraordinaire Pichet Ong is the brilliant mind at work at NiHao, the Canton eatery that opened this year in partnership with famed Peter Chang (and has already won recognition from the likes of Esquire). The menu boasts a range of impressive and creative takes on traditional Chinese dishes, but no matter how many entrees you order, don’t even think about skipping dessert. Ong’s matcha cake is a decadent but not-too-sweet trifle that may just be the best thing you can eat out of a paper pint container.
Comfort food in any language has a way of translating. Such is the case with chef Rey Eugenio’s arroz caldo, a recurring feature on the menu at his new Filipino stall in the renovated Whitehall Marketplace. Hearty and warm, it features thick slices of roasted chicken and tofu in a fragrant rice porridge. The menu changes regularly, so check ahead before ordering.
Never underestimate the power of poultry done right. Top Chef alum Jesse Sandlin calls salt-brined roast chicken a specialty at Sally O’s, her chic and charming new restaurant in Highlandtown. And for good reason. Depending on the season, it comes with sides like risotto-like butternut squash or cheesy cauliflower.
Chef Chad Wells, previously of Alewife, where he was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” has set Howard County ablaze with everything from brick oven pizzas to sandwiches at his new restaurant, Walker’s Tap & Table. But any order needs to start off with some wings, a perennial crowd-pleaser that Wells manages to take to the next level. Meaty and smoky, they come in versions like Old Bay and “flamin hot Cheeto.”
Since it opened this year, Hampden coffee shop Good Neighbor has attracted long lines for its thoughtfully-curated coffee drinks and fancy toasts from chef Durian Neal. After eating my way through much of the menu, the simple “PB&J” remains a favorite, with tahini in place of peanut butter and homemade jam spread on a flaky slice of brioche.
This bakery and cafe took Instagram by storm after opening this year in Canton, and perhaps no dish has been more in-demand than its take on the “tamago sando,” or Japanese egg salad sandwich. We loved the balanced seasonings and yolky soft-boiled egg slices inside crustless bread— delicious and oh-so photogenic.
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Speaking of foods gone viral, if this year proved anything in Baltimore’s food scene, it’s that the crab cake egg roll was an idea whose time had come. More fun than straight-up crab dip, more self-contained than an ordinary crab cake, the egg roll is just right. We love the version from Papi Cuisine, stuffed with so much crab meat it just feels greedy.
Peanut butter and chocolate bar at Cindy Lou’s Fish House
It’s been a year. So indulge in the peanut butter and chocolate bar at Cindy Lou’s Fish House, the new Foreman Wolf restaurant in the Canopy by Hilton. Set a reminder to come in person as soon as on-premise dining is allowed again in Baltimore. Located in Harbor Point — that slice of land wedged between Harbor East and Fells Point — the restaurant has one of the best views around, with fireplaces and a glamorous après ski vibe indoors that make you want to linger. If only you could take ambiance to-go.