Crispy, thin-crust pizza is Bagby's raison d'être, but if you don't try its pasta--a baked penne with sausage and a creamy tomato sauce, fettuccine with homemade meat sauce--you'll be missing out. Sandwiches tower high with fillings, but warm service, real plates, and glass stemware makes this more than just another pizza joint, and a boon to Harbor East residents and visitors alike.
If you're nostalgic for pre-crash excess or lucky enough to be on an expense account, stroll down Capital Grille's lux lane for gargantuan dry-aged steaks and butter-drenched lobster. The menu isn't going to startle--nothing here but old-school variations on surf and turf--but it's great quality food, well cooked and expertly served. And in these stressed economic times we can all stand a little Béarnaise lubrication, washed down with a named vintage Bordeaux, especially if someone else is treating.
Although it's named for another city, Charleston is arguably Baltimore's best restaurant. The sumptuous yet understated setting, seamless service, and perennially stellar food keep it at the top of the city's food pyramid. A meal at Charleston is unforgettable, with dishes such as Hudson Valley foie gras over crisp, buttery spoonbread with black truffle oil and crispy bits of smoky bacon; silky, insinuating Blue Point oyster stew; and Chef Cindy Wolf's signature heads-on shrimp with grits and Andouille sausage. One suggestion: Let the staff choose the wine from Charleston's incomparable cellar--you just sit back and enjoy.
Anyone who's spent time in Northern Italy will be immediately at home in Cinghiale: The place both smells and feels like a stylish Lombardi osteria. Though it's gonna cost you more than if there was a genuine Italian nonna (grandma) in the kitchen, Cinghiale without a doubt cooks up Baltimore's most authentic regional Italian cuisine. The menu is surprisingly vegetarian-friendly, with upscale offerings like robiola and chestnut ravioli, but our eyes truly mist up with Italo-nostalgia for the stellar house-cured meats.
Diablita has transformed the old Tack Factory (and former home of Tsunami) into a charming, rustic happy-hour spot with imaginative margaritas (think spicy cucumber or red chile guava) and Mexican food with a dash of the Caribbean. A basket of house-made chips surprise with crisps of yucca and plantain tucked in among the tortillas. Short-rib burritos and chile/peanut tacos pack in protein and spice. Grab a booth and a buddy and graze.
There's no denying that the Inner Harbor can get touristy. But Edo Sushi, right in the center of things, brings a quiet charm to the area. The upstairs balcony seating is perfect for a hot summer day away from the crowds, and Edo Sushi has a wide variety of sushi offerings with traditional rolls to the more artistic Tokyo and sweetheart maki. The fish parings in the specialty rolls are very straightforward, relying more on clean flavors than curiosity.
Want some meat with your meat? Sure, Fogo de Chão has a salad bar the size of the Light Street Pavilion, but the point of this Brazilian-style steakhouse is the 15 kinds of fire-roasted meat carved right at your table. It's all you can eat of every imaginable cut of beef, plus pork, lamb, chicken, and sausage, brought to you until you either burst or cry uncle. A few addictive, high-octane caipirinha cocktails will definitely help ease the burden.
A handsome spot near Camden Yards and the new Hilton, this place offers familiar standards, a very reasonable prix fixe theater menu, and brunch, as well as a good selection of wines and cocktails. Burgers are good, the chopped salad is really good, and the BLT (though not technically a "BLT" since there's cheese and avocado on it) is excellent. The cheese steak is also worth a bite. For brunch, the beef Benedict with tenderloin and fried chicken breast smothered in country gravy pretty much sell themselves.
This Mediterranean restaurant is elegant but comfortable, with a budget-friendly small-plates menu as well as more ambitious entrées. Vegans and vegetarians will do very well here with smartly executed versions of traditional dishes like foole m'damas (garlicky mashed fava beans) and manakish b'sbanigh (grilled flatbread with spinach and sumac). Carnivores can feast on a wide variety of lamb dishes, and everyone loves the fantastic make-your-own hummus bar.
This recent addition to the Little Italy foodscape brings something to Baltimore we didn't know we were missing: Argentine empanadas. Max's wraps delicious savory bits into a tightly wound dough wrapper and bakes 'em to flaky perfection. The long list of fillings includes ham, cheese, olive, chorizo, mixed vegetables, Bolivian salteña, and ground beef. They're small enough, and cheap enough ($3.15) to ward off any guilt. Max's also sells frozen empanadas and other Argentine goodies to go.
Whether it's because your aunt is visiting or you're entertaining out-of-town clients, there are times you simply must eat at the Inner Harbor, and McCormick and Schmick's is one of your best bets for a good meal. It's seafood, so you got that whole dining-on-the-waterfront-eating-aquatic-creatures thing covered. The ever-changing menu features the freshest fish and crustaceans; we recommend anything planked or cashew-crusted, plus the oyster sampler. For great cheap eats, the bar serves up amazing happy-hour deals--$1.95 gets you blackened fish tacos or a plate of garlicky steamed mussels.
OK, so it can come off a bit cheesy, what with the whole ship theme, complete with servers in Gopher-style unis a la The Love Boat, but let's face it: Oceanaire is one of the few remaining legit seafood restaurants around, and it delivers the goods. Crab cakes are succulent, delicate, faintly sweet, and totally refined, and we've never had a piece of fish that wasn't perfectly fresh and expertly cooked. It can be pricey, but it offers reduced-price grub during happy hour in the sleek bar area.
Chef/owner Rocco Gargano was born in Southern Italy and shows a sincere love for his mother country's cuisine. The menu isn't innovative--all the usual suspects, from insalata caprese to pastas primavera/Bolognese/etc. are represented. However, the pasta is homemade, and all of Gargano's food is simply prepared from quality ingredients--the essence of good cooking in any language. If you're craving classic Italian, Rocco's got you covered.
Sabatino's is as classic as Sinatra. The menu is a greatest hits of Italian comfort food, with large servings of chicken parmigiana and fried calamari presented with a large side of spaghetti or salad. It also offers a selection of homemade pasta, generously served with plenty of marinara sauce, with bread for scooping, should you get tired of silverware.
Located at the heart of the Inner Harbor, this swank steakhouse has an air of sophistication and pizzazz that promotes lingering despite its being a chain. Featuring a full bar, a quieter private dining room, and an incredibly lively main dining room, Sullivan's works for intimate dinners, business drinks, and even larger festivities. After tearing their eyes away from the capacious wine display, customers will find that the menu is just as impressive as the venue. Attentive staff and excellent steak round out the dining experience.
Good tacos and even better salsas served here, with the added bonus of a full bar and flat screens. Both shrimp and fish tacos are treated to a zesty version of the expected pinkish sauce and sliced cabbage. The fish is particularly good. Chicken and beef can be dry at times. Several homemade salsas are available self serve, we like to mix them all into a Voltron salsa. A free buffet accompanies the Friday happy hour.
Talara brings salsa and South Beach to Baltimore in the form of Cuban art, dance nights, and Latin-inspired dishes heavy on the raw. Ceviche is the star here, from traditional to Asian-inspired combinations, with diners choosing their own seafood and preparation. You'll also find tostadas, mini-paellas, and some very fine chorizo-wrapped diver scallops, but happy hours (early midweek, late on Saturdays) offer the best deals with select $5 tapas and drink specials.
Tapabar coexists comfortably in a corner of Little Italy turning out mostly traditional tapas such as plump papas rellenas, stuffed potatoes bursting with chicken, hearty alubias blancas, creamy white bean soup, and crispy churros with silky chocolate sauce. The food is locally sourced when possible--always a plus--but the setting is another of the restaurant's charms. Sleekly dark yet still cozy, it's hard to beat a bottle of Rioja and a window seat to watch East Baltimore stroll by.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201