Following a long-awaited renovation, Federal Hill’s Cross Street Market has reopened, with more than a dozen stalls finally serving customers this fall.
Like Fells Point’s Broadway Market, Cross Street has gone from being a slightly grungy spot to pick up groceries to a gleaming food hall with abundant seating, natural lighting and modern fixtures.
A handful of previous tenants are still in place: Steve’s Lunch, the Sweet Shoppe and Fenwick’s Choice Meats. Together with newcomers like Annoula’s Kitchen and Sobeachy, they offer some compelling reasons to leave the office for lunch.
Shortrib melt at Annoula’s Kitchen
“How is it?” A cook at Annoula’s kitchen asked me as I polished off the shortrib melt ($13) at the counter. She didn’t have to ask — the expression on my face was one of sublime appreciation. The sandwich layers on umami with meat topped with carmelized onions, black garlic mayo and cheddar cheese on a toasted hoagie roll. It easily wins a spot on my personal “top 10 sandwiches in Baltimore” list. The stall comes from Anna Leventis of SoBo Cafe and SoBo Market.
Sobeachy, which calls itself Baltimore’s only Haitian restaurant, was one of the last arrivals to the market, opening in late September. Let it be said, then, that this is one restaurant that doesn’t rush the cooking process; flavors are given time to reach their fullest expression. For $14, order a combo of two popular dishes, chicken and Haitian ground beef chili. The latter is richly seasoned with what can only be described as a magical elixir of herbs, and balanced out with special sauce and perfectly fried plantains. Wash it down with gwa, a refreshing fruit punch decorated with an umbrella. Sobeachy!
Alyssa’s jumbo lump crab dip pizza at Pizza di Joey’s
Before you order the crab dip pizza from Pizza di Joey’s, you will want to prepare yourself for the fact that you are about to pay $11 for a single slice of pizza. (Jumbo sized slices of cheese are also available $6.) For what it’s worth, shop owner Joseph Salek-Nejad, a Navy veteran known professionally as Joey Vanoni, seems to have figured out the magic formula for the ultimate crust. (He learned at Sciortino’s in New Jersey, one of the country’s oldest pizzerias.) It’s not so thick that you’ll lose a filling biting into it, nor so thin that it can’t hold the weight of the topping. We devoured the crab dip pizza, which includes gorgeous lump crab meat and is named for Vanoni’s wife, who can sometimes be seen working at the stall. The pizza is greasy enough to turn a napkin translucent yet delicious enough to make even the most frugal eater think it’s worth the hefty price tag.
Skip the musubi and go straight for the original from Ono Poké ($12). Coconut sticky rice is heaped with a generous portion of raw ahi tuna that’s fresh as all get-out. This appealing version of the Hawaiian meal known as “surfer’s sashimi” gets a nice crunch from edamame, fried shallots and sweet onion. Trust that you will stay full until dinner.
The old-school candy counter of the market is back, now with ice cream from Baltimore-based Taharka Brothers. We have yet to meet a flavor from the creamery that we don’t like, but we’re especially partial to roasted strawberry, which is just a more dazzling version of the strawberry of our youth. Top off a $4 scoop with a chocolate crab by local company Naron for a treat that’s as Baltimore as it comes.
“Everything here is organic, everything is made with a lot of love,” is the mantra at Gangster Vegan Organics, where you can order the $12 Ay Papi burrito bowl that substitutes nuts for taco meat and cashew nacho cheese for the standard. (You won’t find soy meat substitutes anywhere on the menu). With avocado and cilantro date dressing, it’s a filling and lightly sweet lunch option whether you’re vegan or not.
The sight of Steve’s lunch, a down-home, old-school lunch counter, is a calming one for regulars of the old Cross Street Market who may feel dazed and confused by the bright and gleaming market. At this longtime stand, customers are called “youse,” and the guy behind you will take a scrapple and egg sandwich. We opted for the classic steak fish sandwich, a hearty option and at $7, one of the most economical choices you can make at the market.
Tacos al pastor at Taco Love Grill
Among other things, Taco Love, which first opened in White Marsh in 2011, offers an excellent take on the storied al pastor tacos, with perfectly seasoned pineapple and pork inside a homemade tortilla. It’s loaded up with chopped onions and cilantro. Just as it should be. Order three for $11.50; the stand also runs a $9.99 special on Taco Tuesdays.
Rice Crook, a spinoff of Washington’s Bun’d Up, brings a Korean twist to Taiwanese “gua bao” sandwiches and other delicacies. $12 gets you an assortment of three buns of your choosing; we especially liked the Korean barbecue beef bao, topped with kimchi and sweet chili aioli, and served in a sweet, homemade bao bun. Or try it as part of the stand’s popular rice bowl option, which can easily leave you with leftovers for dinner.
When you’re really craving banh mi, nothing else will do. For fans of the Vietnamese sandwich, the shrimp banh mi ($11.75) at Phubs is likely to become a regular part of the lunch rotation. Perfectly cooked shrimp are topped with pickles, cilantro and “our most addicting sauce" (though we confess to being underwhelmed by the baguette). It comes with crispy, house-made tapioca chips. The stall comes from brothers Chuong and Paul Nguyen, who also have locations in Hanover and Wilmington.
Why complicate things? This isn’t your truffled bacon Wagyu burger, cooked still bleeding. It’s not the chef’s re-interpretation of the traditional American hamburger. This is a delicious 3-ounce patty ($4.50), preferably two or even three of them, cooked well done and loaded with fixings. The unpretentious burger stand comes from the owners of Locust Point’s Southside Diner, brothers Nick and Steve Karvounis, who got their start slinging breakfast and lunch at their dad’s stalls in Bel Air and Lexington Market.
Baltimoreans have love for RoFo written in their DNA, somewhere just below the affinity for crab cakes. Combine that with the massive cultural moment chicken sandwiches are having, and the timing couldn’t be better for Royal Farms to open its first standalone chicken stall at Cross Street Market. Order your choice of a light- or dark-meat chicken sandwich ($6.25), and up the Baltimore ante with a helping of Chesapeake sauce.