Somewhere along the line, Charleston became the grand dame of Baltimore's fine dining establishments; the first place locals think of when they really want to go upscale. And while there are numerous restaurants in this city worthy of the special-est of occasions, Charleston's reputation is well deserved. Chef Cindy Wolf's Southern-inspired menu is, well, inspired--the seafood bisque and creamy foie gras are particularly transcendent, but there are no wrong turns here--and the small plates format allows you to get a variety of tastes. Just keep in mind that there is no such thing as a cheap meal at Charleston.
You're liable to get a handshake from owner Casey Jenkins when you dine at Darker Than Blue. The friendly affability of this soul-food-inspired venue is part of its appeal, but it's the menu that makes it a safe dinner bet. The blackened Louisiana tilapia is savory and spicy and the entrée portions are so generous that a to-go bag is practically a necessity. Because the place is small, reservations are recommended, but if you're planning to go on any night but Saturday when they have live jazz, scoring a table doesn't seem to be that hard.
Louisiana isn't the flashiest of Baltimore's fine-dining restaurants, or the most established, but its Creole/French cuisine is well worth a taste. The dining room with its dark wood, fine linens, and sweeping staircase offers Old World opulence, and the food is equally decadent, from pecan-encrusted fish to an elegant take on seafood gumbo to a surf and turf that will supply all your calories for the week.
The best place to get home cooking outside your own home, period. This Charles Village soul food counter has become a favorite since it opened, and though sometimes hand-made means it runs out of items by late afternoon, it does provide the opportunity to eat through an entire menu. So go for it: You won't go wrong with the made-to-order fried chicken, lake trout, or meatloaf, or the sides--from mashed potatoes with gravy to spicy cabbage and buttery greens. Just remember to put an extra half-hour on the treadmill the next time you step on.
Hearty portions of house-made fare make the sometimes lengthy waits for orders worth it at this Northwest Baltimore soul food carry-out joint. We usually go with the Cajun fried fish with some sides of mac 'n' cheese and greens, or when we're pretending we're going to be healthy, a veggie platter of any four sides. (Gravy counts as a vegetable, right?) If you can somehow eat these portions and still have room, the desserts here may spur hyperglycemia on sight.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201