Chef Chad Gauss shares a few dishes that area athletes like when they visit The Food Market. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)
Whether in season or off, athletes gotta eat.
Luckily, the Baltimore area is filled with go-to spots where Ravens and Orioles players flock to relax and refuel. Among them, restaurants like Spoons Cafe, the Abbey Burger Bistro and The Food Market have become known for their athlete clientele.
Chef Chad Gauss, owner of The Food Market, which Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco reveres for its tuna, says he considers many of the players as family. The Hampden restaurant has offered personal cooking classes and catering services for players in their homes, he said.
The contemporary American cuisine is surely a draw, but it's also about the convenient location and "come as you are" ambience, Gauss said.
"It's a simple but significant experience for them," he said. "They can come in and be themselves, and not worry about the pressures that might come with a sports bar."
"We're a funky couple of restaurants," said Jackie McCusker, co-owner of Mama's on the Half Shell and Nacho Mama's. "We are all things Baltimore. That's why I think it feels so special when someone comes in and chooses us."
Baseball players in particular have few days off during the season, so dining out can be rare — especially for players with young families. "The majority of the time we just stay at home because we're on the road all the time," Orioles pitcher Zach Britton said.
When players do make it out, Baltimore restaurateurs say they make it a point not to give them star treatment. David Dopkin, a partner in Miss Shirley's Cafe, said that's part of the reason athletes return to his restaurants in the Inner Harbor, Roland Park and Annapolis.
"Baltimore athletes just seem to be, in general, just blue-collar, down-to-earth guys," Dopkin said. "They come in the door like anybody else, and usually we're really excited, but we try to play it cool."
Abbey Burger co-owner Marigot Miller said her staff takes a similar approach. "They just treat them like anybody else, which I think is why they keep coming back," Miller said.
But don't take the restaurants' word for it. Here are some Ravens and Orioles players divulging their favorite eats from the Baltimore area, and a few of their post- and pregame food rituals.
Justin Tucker, 26, kicker
The Food Market: "The Amish soft pretzels with beer cheese fondue are amazing. I like their scallops. I like their wagyu steak frites."
Ryleigh's Oyster: "One of the first places I went to when I was living in Fed Hill my rookie year was Ryleigh's Oyster. [Owner] Brian McComas has become a friend and he's always super accommodating … I'm a fan of their fish and chips."
Mama's on the Half Shell: "It's home to my favorite steak in Baltimore. I'll get a bacon-wrapped filet with crab imperial on top and a bearnaise sauce; that with mashed potatoes and asparagus. To start it all off, you gotta get the beer mussels, and then wash it all down with a [Heavy Seas] Loose Cannon IPA."
Food ritual: Tucker gave a shout-out to chefs Manny Tejeda and Waldemar "Shorty" Martinez at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills for creating one of his favorite morning foods: egg whites with spinach and cheese, and a Belgian waffle topped with peanut butter and syrup. "Marshal [Yanda] inspired me to do that with the waffles. ... It's a total game changer."
Brandon Williams, 27, defensive tackle
Seaside restaurant: "Great crab cakes, great crab legs, great spot. Bread pudding to die for; literally, it will ruin you for other people's bread pudding."
Pizza fave: "Genova's, but I would really say any pizza place, because I love pizza that much."
At home: Williams says he makes the best PB&J. "I like the ratio of peanut butter and jelly to be more jelly than peanut butter, because you can't keep getting it stuck to the roof of your mouth. So the jelly kind of counters that and makes it more flavorful, and a lot more jelly-like."
Postgame food ritual: "After almost every home game, I go to Seaside, hang out, eat some crabs, crab cakes and bread pudding."
Eric Weddle, 31, safety
Miller's Deli: "The 'signature [combo]' sandwich with pastrami, corned beef and brisket. It was so good, and they have an Oreo brownie that's bomb, too."
Miss Shirley's: "The white chocolate chip pancakes, and the banana split parfait."
Miss Shirley's restaurants are popular spots for Orioles and Ravens players, past and present. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)
Postgame food ritual: "I smash like a gallon of ice cream. I'll go get three different kinds and eat like three different bowls of it. I really like ice cream. I try to sacrifice all week so then I can just eat my face off."
Jimmy's Famous Seafood: "They have the best crab cakes in town."
The Food Market: "I actually eat [there] a lot. Breakfast and brunch. ... It's pretty good and it's just a nice little area. I would say try everything there, to be honest. Every time I go there, I try something random."
Postgame food ritual: "Gummi worms. ... I'd probably eat a whole big pack a day if I can."
Adam Jones, 31, center fielder
For breakfast: Simply Marie's, where "anything there for breakfast is money," or Atwater's. "I get huevos rancheros, that's always one of my favorites, and also they have a bacon, [egg and cheese] biscuit sandwich."
Abbey Burger Bistro: Jones has his own burger on the menu, the Simply AJ10: Kobe beef on an English muffin with pepper jack cheese, avocado, jalapenos, bacon, chili pepper mayo, lettuce and tomato, served with tater tots and nacho cheese.
The Food Market: "I really like the steak frites and the sea bass."
Pregame food: "Watermelon, just something to get me going."
Zach Britton, 28, pitcher
Spoons Cafe: "They have a breakfast burrito that's really good."
Abbey Burger Bistro: "I like to try everything on the menu at Abbey Burger because they always have new meats. ... They had kangaroo one time, and I tried that. It was really gamy. I normally stick with like Jonesy's burger."
Tommy Hunter, 30, pitcher
On breakfast: "A lot of us are big breakfast guys. ... It's usually family time, too, so I think that's a little more important, why we like breakfast as much as we do. But we don't eat breakfast till like 11."
Miss Shirley's Cafe: "The cinnamon rolls are a delight. I'm kind of just a regular eggs guy in the morning. Eggs, bacon and maybe some chocolate chip pancakes if they have 'em."
Pregame food: Clubhouse chef Jenny Perez's shakes. "I usually just eat whatever she gives me. ... She's the best."
Caleb Joseph, 30, catcher
Spoons Cafe: The 2-2-2 (two eggs, two pieces of bacon, sausage or ham, and two pancakes or French toast), or cinnamon roll pancakes. "Those are perfect, it's not too much but just enough sweet."
On seafood: Neither Joseph nor his wife likes seafood. "It sucks, especially living around here."
On trying new restaurants: "We don't really try new stuff. We pretty much stick with like P.F. Chang's or the chains."
Hyun Soo Kim, 28, outfielder
Food rituals: "He doesn't really have a restaurant or a food that he like has to eat, but he feels like he's having at least one Korean food per day, post-game or before the game," translator Danny Lee said.
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