Fells Point / Butchers Hill
NOTE: Click on a restaurant's name to get more information in our Eat Guide.
129 S. Broadway, (410) 522-4777
The two best reasons to go to Arcos are the barbacoa de borrego (a convincingly authentic replication of the roadside classic of Oaxaca, Mexico: slow-steamed, peppery, winey, pull-apart lamb meat) and the pretty candlelit backyard patio. Maybe this summer Arcos will make good on its promise of a bona fide backyard barbacoa pit. The prices have inched upward (from their absurdly low origins) and the kitchen has its share of instability, but on the right night, with the right mariachi band, it's magical.
814 S. Bond St., (410) 276-7141, www.Theblackolive.com
Greek food--who knew? No greasy rotating column of anonymous gyro meat in this classy cultured pearl of a restaurant. Yes the food is Greek, but it's the food of a seaside gem on some tiny Aegean isle where dinner was swimming in the ocean only hours ago. Black Olive prides itself on using only truly fresh and organic ingredients, simply prepared to allow the food's own excellence to shine. Best bet is to select from the catch of the day, on ice by the kitchen. Have it grilled and served with the Black Olive's proprietary sauce that enhances both the sweetness and salinity of the exquisitely fresh fish. A little savory bread pudding (made with olive bread) on the side is also advised.
1621 Aliceanna St., (410) 522-3940
Late-rising slackers and post-2 a.m. weekend drinkers know the Blue Moon as a place to get a fantastic brunch-quality meal at hours of the day when breakfast options elsewhere are limited to fried egg sandwiches in skanky diners. Blue Moon serves up turbo-powered coffee and imaginative, delicious breakfast until 3 p.m. every day, and on Friday and Saturday nights reopens at 11 for late-night fast breaking. So whether you're rolling out of bed at the crack of noon or simply laying down a nutritional cushion before hitting Ladies Drink Free Night, some of the town's tastiest pancakes, fluffiest French toast, and flat-out best homemade cinnamon rolls in the universe are to be had right here.
1600 Thames St, (410) 276-9719
Over the long haul, the slightly disorderly Duda's has cornered (pun intended) the bar-grazing market by pouring a guzzler's delight of draft beer and maintaining the 'hood's most consistently friendly dining room. The burgers are renowned, well-seasoned beauties served on fresh buns, and the seafood is a notch or two above what the unpretentious ambiance suggests. Check out the hot sauce collection. Waiting for a table is common.
1744 Eastern Ave., (410) 563-7840
In the mood for authentic Mexican cuisine for only a few tamales? Stop by El Taquito, a quaint Fells Point restaurant where Mexico's colors fly proudly. Start the night off right with the chips with salsa and guacamole, followed by a choice of traditional burritos, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, or a variety of specials that are served with rice, beans, and tortillas. Most entrées are your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or beans and cheese. For you (very) brave souls, they offer lamb, beef tongue, and rabbit to fill your tortillas. You won't need many greenbacks, but they don't take the plastic.
1812 Bank St., (410) 342-2172, www.henningerstavern.com
No matter how many years we have been going to Henninger's, we always feel like we're being let in on a local dining secret when we walk in. Maybe it's because the scruffy front bar belies the elegant food therein, or the fact that the place is in a quiet back corner of Upper Fells Point. Henninger's food is ambitious and always seems to have a trick up its sleeve--like the menu-staple fried oysters, which arrive here on a bed of wilted lettuce in a delicious Pernod cream sauce. We're willing to ride along on fun fare like Henninger's Fighting Fish, a tempura-fried catch of the day with Hong Kong-style vegetables and sticky rice, but the menu also satisfies the more traditional diner with crab cakes and filet mignon (though that comes wrapped in applewood bacon with citrus-sweet potato mash.)
801 S. Broadway, (410) 327-3273
If you can get a seat in this busy diner in the heart of Fells Point, it's probably the best cheap eats to be found in the neighborhood. Tasty lunch-counter basics, like meat-loaf sandwiches, pancakes, and burgers round out the menu, and if you've got a hankering for a little something to wash down that pancake breakfast, they serve alcohol all day, too.
1800 Thames St., (410) 327-5561, www.johnstevenltd.com
You can't unpack this kind of ambiance from a shipping crate; it takes decades. The warm, patina-ed hardwood throughout, the massive bar, the smell of steamed shrimp and Old Bay, the quiet dining room decorated with European paintings and African sculpture, the bustling outdoor patio. John Steven is like an old buddy who's still at the end of the bar while others come and go. The staff puts out expert fish and seafood entrées--daily specials never disappoint. Crab cakes rank with the best around town. The taps offer a refined and tasty selection. And the steamed shrimp you smelled when you crossed the threshold? Order a pound of jumbos. Outstanding.
1606 Thames St., (410) 276-4700, www.kaliscourt.com
Kali's Court is a posh and expensive Mediterranean seafood restaurant that earns stellar marks with its romantic, candlelit interior and its small boutique menu--only a half-dozen or so entrées, appetizers, and salads. The results are exquisite--an albino anchovy salad with fennel, toasted almonds, and black-truffle vinaigrette; a killer of a bouillabaisse with lobster, green-lip mussels, calamari, and seasonal fish. Kali's Court is particularly loved for its grilled whole fish--they helped put bronzini on Baltimore's culinary map--and the dreamy outdoor garden, for which early reservations are a must.
1606 Thames St., (410) 276-4700, www.kalismezze.com
This small-plates counterpart to the dressier Kali's Court restaurant next door is plenty elegant for a special meal, and affordable enough to satisfy both the budget and the belly. The menu is Mediterranean, which means plenty of simply prepared seafood and salads. Highlights include a zesty tabbouleh starter, fattoush sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, rice-stuffed peppers and grape leaves, marinated eel, brilliant baby lamb chops, and delicate fried squid. They sport a manageable wine list, too. But make rezzies--this Fells Point gem is constantly packed.
1702 Thames St., (410) 563-5423, www.koopers.com
Juicy hand-formed burgers headline the menu at this quintessential Fells Point pub. The burgers are half-price all day and night on Tuesday, when patrons are asked not to endlessly hog up tables. Kooper's sustains a week's worth of similar dining specials (e.g., fajitas and margaritas on Mondays, New York steak on Thursday), and locals appear to have the whole schedule memorized. You'll have a better time if you like a drink or two--everyone else here does. Not quite memorable dining but efficient and reliable, with a terrific Sunday brunch.
1718 Eastern Ave., (410) 522-9485, www.gabirecords.com/lacazuelaindex.htm
This sunny, family-run storefront Ecuadoran restaurant serves up hilariously mammoth portions of authentic cuisine. Brace yourself for the churrasco, long, flat cuts of marinated skirt steak, served with avocado, white rice, two fried eggs, chopped tomatoes, and steak-cut french fries; or the fritada, tender-roasted pork served with plantains and hominy. Order anything with La Cazuela's righteous chimichurri sauce; consider the cheese-stuffed plantain appetizer; or, for something really different, the dark, briny, souplike ceviche.
1626 Aliceanna St., (410) 276-6606
Liquid Earth is the place for a shot of wheat grass or a fruit-, veggie-, and vitamin-filled beverage. It is also the home of some of the most heavenly meat-free sandwiches ever to grace our cakeholes. The sacred submarine--crunchy Italian bread stacked high with baked tofu, roasted onions, mushrooms, cheese, pickles, and cherry hots--is so large it usually ends up being lunch and dinner. The meatless muffaletta is another favorite. And Liquid Earth's vegan cheese--which can be substituted for the cow variety on any sandwich--is so creamy you won't believe its dairy free. Just don't hit up Liquid Earth if you're in a hurry; this place is too laid back for rush orders.
811 S. Broadway, (410) 522-9191
Mehek's sherbet-fresh ambiance and pretty platings instantly set apart this new Fells Point Indian restaurant. The contemporary aesthetics and modern table settings, along with a graphically impressive menu, make first-time diners feel like they're in capable, experienced hands, and they are. The greens that accompany appetizers are fresher here, the garnishing more thoughtful, and food that elsewhere lacks visual pleasure is loaded with it at Mehek. Skewers and kebabs are the house specialty. The food itself comes in manageably moderate portions and has a light touch. The hot stuff could be hotter, though, and the service can be oddly aloof.
1727 E. Pratt St., (410) 732-6399, www.obryckis.com
There is something to be said for a crab house that takes its business so seriously that it closes during the winter, traditionally a time of lesser-quality Chesapeake crustaceans, even if most Baltimore crab-house offerings are no longer local. Obrycki's does have good crab, but it always seems a little odd to belly up to a dozen steaming jumbos in such a fancy Colonial American dining room. Still, this seems to be the place to impress out-of-towners looking for their first crab feast, and we locals do enjoy the occasional shot of Obrycki's unique astringent, mustard-based crab seasoning.
708 S. Bond St., (410) 327-9823, www.oneeyedmikes.com
The handsome home of the self-proclaimed world's first Grand Marnier club, this unpretentious Fells Point bar has made itself indispensable by the sheer efforts of its friendly owner and staff, who give personal attention to all comers. The front bar is always crowded with locals, and the hidden back porch attracts large groups of merry friends. The pub grub is pretty swell, too, with an emphasis on home cooking. The meat-loaf dinner and the shepherd's pie are standouts. Club members keep their eyes on the daily specials and pour in for Monday's steak night. The ever-present pooch is Duke, and One-Eyed Mike's truly does pour more Grand Marnier than any other bar around. Downsides: the scant parking, and it's closed on Sunday.
1425 Aliceanna St., (410) 534-7296, www.pazorestaurant.com
Tapas came late to Baltimore, but Pazo has brought the city fully up to speed. The open-air kitchen slow-cooks, home-makes, simply dresses, or otherwise expertly turns out a mouth-watering panoply of small plates (available in bigger sizes for larger parties). The menu changes, but dishes like rabbit lune (rich, buttery ravioli pillows filled just so with “smoky rabbit”) or pinchitos andalucia (peppery grilled pork) will make you glad you have a mouth. Even wilted spinach acquires a kind of Platonic ideal here. Somehow the cavernous former warehouse space never feels impersonal, and the swank décor does nothing to disturb its casual air. And neither grand scale nor upscale vibe appears to do much to inflate very reasonable big-night-out checks.
504 S. Ann St., (410) 675-7313, www.petersinn.com
Somewhere in the back of this worn-looking Fells Point bar, Karin Tiffany turns out some of the most consistently worthwhile food in the city. There are only maybe half a dozen tables and a handful of entrées and appetizers, all spelled out on a chalkboard hanging next to the men's room, but Tiffany touches all the bases: artful openers, show-stopping soups, and always, always a worth-the-trip vegetarian entrée and a prime steak treated with all the respect it deserves. Plus the most garlicky garlic bread in the Mid-Atlantic. An enduring local favorite, and with good reason.
1822 Aliceanna St., (410) 675-2080, www.pierpointrestaurant.com
When Pierpoint opened in 1989, chef Nancy Longo's little restaurant created quite a local stir. For the first time Maryland food--specifically, Chesapeake cuisine--was being treated not just seriously but reverentially. Seventeen years later the crowds might have thinned, but Pierpoint is still quietly concentrating on dishes that showcase the freshest and most excellent of local ingredients. If it's been a while since your last visit, you'll be relieved to know that the smoked crab cakes are still on the menu, and the Silver Queen corn chowder still reigns as the house soup.
906 S. Wolfe St., (410) 675-0212, www.redstarbar.us
The two best reasons to go are the free parking lot (a Fells Point rarity) and the handsome, soaring brick-and-wood space, which handily accommodates large crowds. The menu has undergone what looks like a complete overhaul since City Paper last visited. There are now, along with the sandwiches and salads, more bona fide entrées, and the fine steak salad and yummy thin-crust pizza are still in place, but what's become of those fabulous panini? On the other hand, some of the clunkers have vanished, too. Popular Sunday brunch features jumbo lump crab hash and fried steak and eggs.
318 S. Broadway, (410) 276-6200
The first Salvadoran restaurant along the Broadway strip to openly court a gringo clientele, this white-tablecloth spot is more inviting and finished looking than its ramshackle Spanish Town precursors. The food served is very similar, though--groaning servings of plain, simple, modestly spiced food. The value-priced combination platters are artless concoctions of dense papusas, endless refried beans, yummy tamales, fried plantains, and marinated beef. Seafood selections from the mesquite grill help to raise up the fare. Restaurante El Trovador is the place to take newcomers to try this starchy, satisfying cuisine.
2031 E. Fairmount Ave., (410) 534-7100, www.simonsofbutchershill.com
Though the dim back streets of staid Butchers Hill may seem an odd place to find a Cajun/Creole restaurant--complete with frequent live jazz shows--it's clear that the locals adore this place. Simon's has a very low-key neighborhood joint feel, complete with friendly regulars in the front barroom offering cheery welcomes to first-timers. If we were them, we'd play it a little cooler, so as to discourage the further discovery of Simon's skilled kitchen and beautifully priced menu. Bayou eats-wise, Simon's has it all--gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp Creole--and lavishes each dish with care and attention. Even the bargain-rate bar eats, from the fried oyster po'boy sandwich to the blackened catfish, excel.
1700 Thames St., (410) 563-6600
The downstairs bar is typically filled with Fells Point's finest. Instead, head upstairs, if you can, where the mood is much more serene. This restaurant imported much of its furnishings from Ireland, and it looks smashing, with black-leather banquettes, walls resembling red leather, and upholstered barstools in shades of vermillion and crimson. Try not to fill up on the marvelous Guinness onion soup, topped with Irish cheddar, or the restorative Irish stew, as the sublime shepherd's pie (topped with whipped potatoes) and chicken pot pie (in puff pastry) await.
1717 Eastern Ave., (410) 534-5650, www.tdbistro.com
Timothy Dean, a protégé of famed chef Jean-Louis Palladin, makes mouths water with sophisticated yet down-home preparations--Florida corn soup with poached oysters and vegetable mirepoix; buttery-under-the-skin oven-roasted free-range chicken; fennel-flecked salmon fillets with melted leeks; a crispy Parmesan tulle perched on a Caesar salad. Dishes convey flair and technique in equal measure. Very special mention for the Thai curry mussels with lemon grass, Thai basil, and spring onions. The arena for Dean's cuisine is a jazzy and boisterous Fells Point joint, which would be the closest thing Baltimore had to a real bistro if customers didn't want to linger so much.
Admiral Fell Inn, 888 S. Broadway, (410) 522-2195, www.truedining.com
True took over the rustic restaurant space in the Admiral Fell Inn, opened with a splash, and little has been heard from it since. The regularly changing menu trumpets its use of organic, peak-of-season, and locally purveyed ingredients--perhaps a notion that doesn't play so well in Fells Point. The current menu is absent a few known-to-be-stellar dishes--in place of the perfect Amish roasted chicken is a roasted breast tossed in amaretto cream sauce. The London broil roulades, tournedos forestiere, and the seafood ragout have gone, too. What's up? Investigate it during the twilight dinner special, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., when entrées are discounted 20 percent.
1710 Thames St., (410) 537-5055, www.waterfronthotel.us
Just when you thought Fells Point was saturated with noisy, loud taverns, along comes a place that convinces you there's always room for one more. The food here is excellent, and the cushy dining space upstairs (open Thursday through Saturday nights) compensates for the noisy, awkward seating downstairs. Big-ticket items include well-cooked steaks and seafood pasta dishes. Light fare focuses on crafty quesadillas (which are half-price on Mondays), with plenty of vegetarian options. The historic 18th-century building that houses the Waterfront Hotel has been gutted back to its handsome brick skeleton. Check out the bacon-wrapped barbecue shrimp appetizer served on thick slabs of Monterey Jack toast and the excellent, friendly service.
1739 Fleet St., (410) 675-5999, www.zemeanbeancafe.com
For a town with such a significant Polish immigrant population, Baltimore sure is thin on the pierogi. Fortunately, Ze Mean Bean fills this gap beautifully. The pierogi plate is a lifesaver, with homemade tender dough pockets of potato and cheese, cabbage, or sweet farmers cheese. But we also highly recommend the voluptuous holupki (stuffed cabbage) and the leczo, homemade potato dumplings sautéed with fresh house-made sausage. Those new to Eastern European eats should go for the Slavic Sampler, a butter-slathered plate of Polish mother's love.
435 S. Broadway, (410) 675-0400
This bright, clean Fells Point diner is open 24 hours during the weekend, making it an ideal place to soak up some of that alcohol you've been pounding back at the neighborhood's bars before you head home. The menu is fairly typical diner food. It offers breakfast all day as well as the usual burgers, sandwiches, and comfort food entrées. Despite the name, the menu's smattering of Greek items don't really impress, but if you stick to the basics you'll do well at Zeus. We like the thick, crunchy, and never greasy fries and the dense carrot cake.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201