The east coast is fond of its shellfish. What culinary delights does Baltimore have on offer?
Baltimore’s speciality is plucked directly from its shores – but you can forget lobster rolls and clam chowders. If you visit for one reason, make it for a traditional Chesapeake crab feast. The ultimate celebration of this city’s finest foodie offering – and a meal that can take several hours – piles of steamed blue crab are devoured at trestle tables lined with brown paper.
Local beer is essential to wash down the salty tang of Old Bay seasoning, a signature Chesapeake ingredient no feast is complete without. There’s something satisfyingly carnal about rolling up your sleeves and picking away with crude implements. Everyone in Maryland has their own method for achieving success – handily for rookies, bystanders certainly won’t mind telling you exactly how it’s done.
Sounds delicious – but what if mallets and flying shards of shell isn’t my thing?
Crab carnage aside, you can still get stuck into the city's seafood – and there’s no shortage of creativity when it comes to this Chesapeake treat. As an alternative brunch option, head to Miss Shirley’s (a timeless Baltimore institution) and order Crab Eggs Benedict or their Maryland twist on the classic Bloody Mary (spoiler alert: it comes lavishly garnished with a helping of crabmeat).
However, crab cakes are what the city undeniably does best and every food joint claims to make the best in town. Phillips Seafood, situated in the heart of the Inner Harbour, makes these small patties to perfection. Book a table on their alfresco Crab Deck for a quintessential “Bawlmer” dining experience.
A new generation of restaurants have also polished the city’s down-to-earth swagger, demonstrating an unpretentious appreciation for fine dining. And it is home-grown talent and the US love of comfort food that shines through.
Catalonian restaurant La Cuchara is an excellent example of local chefs exploring global cuisine (in this case the Basque country) and bringing it home to fuse worldly technique and flavours with local produce. Think sophisticated, adventurous food without any stuffiness.
Nice. And what if I fancy something less gourmand?
Need a quick bite, or somewhere to pitch up for the afternoon? Head to R House, a food market in an old auto bike garage, restored to industrial-chic perfection. Showcasing local chefs in rotating kitchens that serve trendy, budget-friendly food, there’s plenty of choice for those experiencing crab fatigue.
Poki bowls and homemade kombucha are highlights, but it’s the Bmore BRD sandwich (a hot mess of brioche bun, crispy fried chicken and Old Bay spice) that draws crowds. Power sockets are in plenty for laptops, squishy sofas create a relaxed "stay-a-while" atmosphere, and punters are kept pumping with freshly ground coffee and craft cocktails – the house speciality is a Kumquat Collins.
Baltimore has had an invasion of millennials. What’s that doing to the character and foodie legacy of the place?
The city has seen a transformation, yes – but what all its neighbourhoods share is a mingling of old and new. Across town, warehouses and civic buildings are being converted into cool urban spaces and re-appropriated as gig venues, bars, smart restaurants and brunch spots. There’s even a microbrewery located in an old fire station. This new generation are flocking to Baltimore with ingenious ways to preserve the city’s heritage.