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New to Baltimore’s food scene? Try these 5 restaurants for carryout.

Clockwise from left, the chicken parmesan with bread sticks, Caesar salad and pistachio cake, at Orto restaurant, near the Charles theater Wed., October 14, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff)
Clockwise from left, the chicken parmesan with bread sticks, Caesar salad and pistachio cake, at Orto restaurant, near the Charles theater Wed., October 14, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)
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So you’ve moved to Baltimore in the middle of a pandemic. How do you know where to eat? What’s even open? Should you order ahead, or once you get there?

We hope you’ve already tried some of the better-known staples of local dining: sandwiches from DiPasquale’s, perfect Maryland crab cakes from Faidley’s, pit beef from Chaps, the Neighborhood Bird at Ekiben. If not, add them all to your list.

Here are five more spots to check out. Each will tell you something different about the underrated and unabashedly nostalgic culinary capital that is Charm City.

Connie’s Chicken and Waffles

The #1 special, a buttermilk waffle with chicken tenders, is a specialty at Connie's Chicken and Waffles.
The #1 special, a buttermilk waffle with chicken tenders, is a specialty at Connie's Chicken and Waffles. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Connie’s Chicken and Waffles offers up a longstanding staple of Baltimore’s carryout: the chicken box. Brothers Khari and Shawn Parker, who named the shop for their mom, also serve some of the best chicken and waffles you can find. Check out their recently reopened stall at the Charles Street Plaza downtown, where even with your mask on you can feast on the sweet aroma of fresh batter on the griddle. Warm, fluffy waffles come in plain buttermilk or flavors like Oreo and Crunch Berries. Douse in syrup and wrap around a juicy fried chicken tender for the ultimate cheat day brunch. Order online or once you get there.

222 N. Charles Street, Downtown. Open daily from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. 667-260-4947. connieschickenandwaffles.com

Orto

Orto added chicken parmesan to its menu during the pandemic — more of a comfort-food dish than its typical fare.
Orto added chicken parmesan to its menu during the pandemic — more of a comfort-food dish than its typical fare. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Back in the before times, fan favorite Orto served up a contemporary take on Italian cooking, embracing the bitter flavors of the country that so often get lost in translation to Italian-American cuisine. Soon after the pandemic hit, owner Elan Kotz said he began looking for good value and comfort food meals to serve his guests. Enter chicken parm over pasta. It’s been wildly popular, with the restaurant serving more than 100 a week some months. It’s easy to see the appeal. The $40, three-course feast for two comes with bread and a knockout rendition of Caesar salad topped with homemade sourdough croutons. There’s even a lovely slice of cake to share for dessert. Order online or call ahead to pick up at the restaurant in Station North. Orto also offers plenty of al fresco dining.

1709 N. Charles Street, Downtown. Open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Weekend carryout orders must be picked up before 6 p.m. 443-759-7200. ortobaltimore.com

Le Comptoir du Vin

Le Comptoir du Vin is a French bistro and wine bar on Maryland Avenue.
Le Comptoir du Vin is a French bistro and wine bar on Maryland Avenue. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Le Comptoir du Vin couldn’t have been much hotter at the start of 2020. A portal to the French countryside in Station North, the tiny bistro was recognized by Bon Appetit and Esquire, forcing national food writers to grapple with the realization that decades after the late Anthony Bourdain declared in his memoir that “Baltimore sucks,” Charm City was well on its way to becoming a certified Food Town. (And trust us, there’s nothing Baltimore likes better than proving haters wrong. Even Bourdain eventually realized his mistake.) Tables at Le Comptoir were booked up for weeks in advance. Then, the pandemic. Ever-creative owners Will Mester and Rosemary Liss have pivoted their eatery to sell some of their signature dishes like French lentils with labneh to go. They’ve also added items like Sicilian pizza that’s worth writing home about and an incredible ham sandwich on housemade focaccia. Lathered in Normandy butter and dusted in Maldon salt, it’s as decadent as a slice of cake. Order online and pick up at the shop, where you can also snag bottles of natural wine and fancy vinegar.

1729 Maryland Ave., Station North. Open Thursday-Saturday from noon until 6 p.m. Place orders before 5 p.m. 443-297-7384. le-comptoir-du-vin-online-shop.square.site

Papi Cuisine

Papi Cuisine made a splash with its crab cake egg rolls. Sadly, they're so popular they're not available for carryout.
Papi Cuisine made a splash with its crab cake egg rolls. Sadly, they're so popular they're not available for carryout. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

It would have been hard to miss Papi Cuisine’s triumphant debut this year in Fells Point with a crab cake eggroll that seemed to break the local internet. (We Baltimoreans have a most Pavlovian response to the words “crab cake.” So sue us.) In fact, the crab cake egg roll has been so popular that staff had to remove it from the carryout menu. To try it, you’ll have to eat on premises, and reservations are pretty much booked into December. Maybe you’ll want to wait, then. But trust that when you do finally eat your first crab cake egg roll from Papi Cuisine it will knock your socks off. Overflowing with a generous portion of fresh jumbo lump crab, perfectly seasoned and encased in crispy egg roll wrapper, it’s an ingenious creation that feels destined to become part of the local food repertoire for years to come, like orange crushes and Old Bay anything. Other menu items at the Caribbean fusion spot can be ordered to go, like the flavorful jerk lamp chops, yummy slow-cooked kale or crab ball fries, drenched in cheddar cheese sauce and house aioli.

1928 Fleet St., Fells Point. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. 410-246-2166. getpapicuisine.com

Woodberry Kitchen

Woodberry Kitchen has one of the best outdoor dining setups in Baltimore, but you can also order to go. Make sure to get the schmierkase for dessert.
Woodberry Kitchen has one of the best outdoor dining setups in Baltimore, but you can also order to go. Make sure to get the schmierkase for dessert. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Need a break from the sweatpants life? Put on some jeans and head to Woodberry Kitchen. The restaurant is one of the stars of Baltimore’s dining scene, with co-owner Spike Gjerde the only local chef to have won a James Beard award (though Charleston’s Cindy Wolf has been nominated more times than we can count). The restaurant near Hampden has one of the most inviting al fresco dining set ups around. During a recent visit to pick up a contactless carryout order, a band played, wood stoves burned and twinkle lights hung overhead. Whether dining in or to go, try to order the schmierkase for dessert. The refined take on the classic Baltimore cheesecake is studded with brownie bites and drizzled in chocolate sauce. So good it should be illegal.

2010 Clipper Park Road, Woodberry. Serving dinner Wednesday through Sunday and brunch on Sundays. 410-464–8000. woodberrykitchen.com
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