NOTE: Click on a restaurant's name to get more information in our Eat Guide.
323 Park Ave., (410) 727-5599
You know you're at a real-deal Chinese restaurant when the fish tanks aren't for decoration but rather choosing tonight's dinner. Chinatown Café serves righteously authentic food, and it's currently the city's only dim sum dining option. The best time for dim sum is on weekends when carts roll around with steamer baskets full of tempting treats like curried cuttlefish and shark-fin dumplings, but the dim sum menu is always available. Standouts include Chinese broccoli, green peppers stuffed with minced shrimp in black bean sauce, and truly amazing beef ribs in a deep-heat black pepper sauce. If the menu seems overwhelming or unfamiliar, ask the friendly owner for advice.
Lexington Market, 203 N. Paca St., (410) 727-4898, www.faidleyscrabcakes.com
There are many, many, many places to get a crab cake in Baltimore, but only one Faidley's. It's hardly the most glamorous place to dine on divinely lumpy, golden cakes, but it's certainly one of the most democratic--packed along Lexington Market's counters you'll be cheek by plastic fork with downtown suits, safety orange vest-wearing road-crew guys, and tourists in search of a real-deal local delicacy. Simple is best here: Splurge on the all-lump crab cake and take it unadorned, its craggy-surfaced homeliness bespeaking the large chunks of back fin inside. Break apart the generously sized patty with said plastic fork and breath the salty, buttery Old Bay scent of perfection. Pile onto a saltine cracker (optional) and enjoy.
3450 Wilkens Ave., (410) 644-8716, www.kibbysrestaurant.com
Kibby's is known for its shrimp salad, and it truly is something: enormous shrimp and lots of 'em in a perfect mélange of dressing, chopped onion, and Old Bay. However, much else on Kibby's wide-ranging menu is also very good, and those who enjoy classic seafood dishes like crab imperial and oyster stew will be well served. Sour beef with dumplings is also done right here at Kibby's, and Maryland crab soup is rendered with skill. Who knew dining with the blue-hair crowd could be such a rewarding culinary experience?
21 N. Eutaw St., (410) 837-2100, www.maggiemoores.com
Irish breakfast isn't just for breakfast anymore. At Maggie Moore's, it's on the menu all day, along with shepherd's pie and sliced lamb sandwiches. Traditional Irish fare--an admittedly limited culinary genre--is just a fraction of what's offered here, though. Rockfish, pork chops, veggie risotto, beets and goat cheese, and the like round out the list. McBartenders and Irish music (sometimes live) help complete the cultural picture displayed in this painstakingly restored old bank building across the street from the Hippodrome Theatre.
214 W. Mulberry St., (410) 752-5155
Though Martick's menu changes often, according to the owner's food moods, some dishes are, thankfully, immutable. First, the pâté--who would eat in a French restaurant and not get pâté?--rich, beautifully textured, and plate-scrapingly delicious. Bouillabaýsse displays the eightysomething Mo's still formidable kitchen talents--it's a symphony of ocean-scented broth, saffron, garlic, and fennel with loads of seafood swimming therein. Martick's offers updated dishes involving pecan encrusting and such treatments, but we prefer to enjoy his Continental creations while they're still there for the having.
131 S. Schroeder St., (410) 576-8899, www.patricksofpratt.com
This neighborly West Baltimore bar claims to be the country's oldest continuously operating Irish pub. Belly up to the stand-up-only bar or squeeze yourself around one of the small marble-top tables and prepare to be greeted by the assertively friendly staff. In her historically respectful pub, chef/owner Anne Rowley serves up a nontraditional, very contemporary mix of international bistro fare, everything from quiche Lorraine and penne marinara to sauerbraten with dumplings. But it's the half-pound crab cake that makes a trip to the pub's borderline location worth it--all back fin, no filler, and huge, served with a daily changing vegetable preparation.
Lexington Market, 400 W. Lexington St., (410) 539-8385; 3212 Washington Blvd., (410) 644-5997
Though the name might sound like the punch line to a politically incorrect ethnic joke, Polock Johnny's is actually a Baltimore institution that's been dishing dogs since 1921. And not just any hot dogs, but big, juicy, glistening Polish sausages hanging off the end of their fluffy potato roll buns, mounded with sauerkraut and pinstriped with spicy brown mustard. While downing one of Johnny's heartstoppingly good Polishes, you may as well go whole hog and get the thick-cut “Ocean City” fries, too, or maybe some of the life-preserver-sized onion rings. Wash it all down with a big fresh-squeezed lemonade and tell Johnny we said hi.
1501 W. Baltimore St., (410) 233-9390
You select the fresh fish fillet you want, and the way you want it cooked--baked, grilled, fried, or blackened. Have it as a dinner platter, with two sides, or as a sandwich. The sides run the gamut from french fries, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese to collard greens, corn on the cob, and baked apples. Make it a fully rounded meal with dessert: peach cobbler, banana pudding, fruit salad, or sweet potato pie. It's all good, and some of it is good for you.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201