We're glad someone thought up this concept: a bar devoted to gourmet burgers and equally gourmet toppings (and really good beer, too). The Abbey folks are doing it up right in their snug space, offering ostrich, lamb, mushroom, chicken, and even beef burgers topped with crab dip, herbed yogurt, a fried egg, peanut butter (alas, the foie gras burger seems to have disappeared). And those waffle-fry nachos? They're freakin' awesome. If you could get them for breakfast, they'd be the ultimate hangover food.
Each visit to Baba's makes us anticipate our next, when we swear we'll come even hungrier so we can eat more. Smoky, never bitter baba ghanouj is the best in town, pungent Syrian pizza with sumac and sesame seed is a wonder, and the zucchini fries are downright addictive. You can take out your hummus, dolmas, and falafel from Baba's, but grabbing a table in the tiny brick-walled storefront so you can be enveloped by the background noise of owner Farid Salloum preparing food and the warm smells of cooking doubles the pleasure.
Sometimes, you just want a big-ass, Dagwood-type sandwich but are too lazy to make it yourself. Luckily there's Federal Hill's Beach Bums, which specializes in exactly that. The country coop is awesome, with turkey, roast beef, thousand island dressing, and even hard-boiled egg. Another favorite is the land and sea, which pairs excellent shrimp salad with roast beef. There is also hand-dipped ice cream, decent homemade soups, and even a little patio around back.
Though real-estate agents might have you think differently, the neighborhood of Riverside is not Federal Hill. It's evident when you walk into Captain Larry's. This corner bar with its sorta-arty nautical theme has a much more relaxed vibe than its cousins to the north. It's a neighborhood bar, and the food is as neighborly and delicious as backyard-barbecue fare. You can't go wrong ordering one of the daily specials--our favorite is half-price fish sandwich Tuesday. And make sure you get some fries. They're so good we gave 'em the Best of Baltimore Best Fries award in 2009.
Harborque is one of the only barbecue restaurants in the city that actually smokes its meat--in a ginormous shipping container behind the restaurant, no less. Ribs are very, very good, baby-back with a nicely assertive rub, tender and sporting a deep pink smoke ring. Pulled pork is also very good. Pit beef here is possibly some of the best around, flavorful and moist, though not traditional since it's smoked. All sides are good except the blah hush puppies. Several sauces are available; we like the spicy barbecue. If possible save room for the excellent cakes.
This Federal Hill staple is best known for its superior sushi (we've been known to make the trip from Mount Vernon to Fed Hill midday because we had a craving for Matsuri's crispy spicy rolls), but its traditional Japanese dishes are not to be overlooked. Delicious donburis, udon soups, ramens, teriyakis, and tempuras populate the menu. For those who have a hard time deciding what, exactly, they're in the mood for, bento boxes come in both lunch and dinner sizes.
The Reserve's stern exterior does little to hint at the culinary creativity within. But this South Baltimore bar surprises with better-than-bar food, such as pan-roasted semi-boneless quail or pistachio-encrusted rack of lamb, as well as standards like crab dip. We look forward to the opening of the upstairs dining room where, with luck, no televisions will distract from the food.
This true surf-and-turf restaurant has the best view of the Inner Harbor--large glass windows offer a practically floor-to-ceiling view of the boats and, at night, lights twinkle romantically. Although famous for crab cakes, cream of crab soup, steak, and martinis, the Scupp's Sunday brunch is like climbing aboard a cruise ship for the afternoon--featuring maple sausage, piles of shrimp in Old Bay, mounds of Caesar salad, fans of asparagus, an omelet station with crab, and Belgian waffles hot off the grill, along with endless glasses of mimosas, champagne, or sangria.
Fans of moderately priced, classy but casual seafood joints will appreciate Ryleigh's Oyster, particularly its well-stocked raw bar, featuring super-fresh bivalves, served up by knowledgeable, friendly shuckers, and its selection of competently prepared (read: not overcooked) shellfish from the steamer. You can opt for a variety of salads, sandwiches, and appetizers, if you want to go light--on the belly and the wallet--or you can choose from a full menu of seafood entrées including shrimp and grits, fish and chips, sun-dried tomato and lobster pasta, or sautéed rockfish. Bonus: A great patio is open in the summer months.
For better or worse, small plates are omnipresent around town. At the Italian-inspired Taverna Corvino, it's clearly for the better. This way you can try tagliatelle with Gorgonzola cream, toasted chestnuts, and basil and veal lasagna, sautéed mussels and razor clams, lamb chops and beef carpaccio. Most dishes are also available in entrée-sized portions for groups where indecision (or experimentation) is not a problem.
There are older Thai restaurants in the city, but none better than this Federal Hill standby. Classic drunken noodles have the right balance of savory and sweet. Fried fish in curry sauce manages to retain its crispness. Salads are citrusy bright and fresh. And service is gracious, even when this storefront restaurant is packed and people are jostling in line just inside the doorway. It's worth the wait even though we wish we didn't have to.
When the Wine Market opened, its wine shop-cum-restaurant set-up might have seemed gimmicky, but wine drinkers soon learned that this was a great way for a restaurant to expand its bottle inventory, and Locust Pointers were happy to have a fine wine shop and wine bar close to home. But the restaurant's ever-changing American dishes (including killer breakfast burritos on the Sunday brunch menu) and industrial-chic space make it more than simply a place to drink well.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201