Baltimore’s Best Restaurants 2024 (2024)

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Edited by Jane Marion

Written with Amy Scattergood, Mike Unger, and Lydia Woolever. Additional writing by Janelle Erlichman Diamond

Photography by Scott Suchman

Illustrations by Noemi Fabra

Food & Drink

A paean to the places that made our mouths water this year.

Edited by Jane Marion

Written with Amy Scattergood, Mike Unger, and Lydia Woolever. Additional writing by Janelle Erlichman Diamond
Photography by Scott Suchman
Illustration by Noemi Fabra

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March 2024

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ith the fight for survival firmly in its rear-view mirror, our culinary scene has reached a new inflection point. For the past year, eating out has been an unfettered joy again. Handheld menus have returned (long live print!), service has stepped up (tip well, people!), and we avowed gastronomes can all breathe a little easier (especially without masks). The trend toward more casual dining is still holding strong, mix-and-match small plates remain de rigueur, and both the craft co*cktail and the mocktail movement have left an indelible imprint on bar menus. Best of all? Chefs seem more committed than ever to honing their craft and shaping their menu missions. If we didn’t know it before, we know it now: Restaurants are more vital than ever. With so many of us working remotely or hybrid, they play a critical role in providing a place to connect, commune, and gather. In fact, at their best, restaurants are sort of accidental communities, where anyone can feel a sense of belonging and home.

Make no mistake, our city might be small, but it’s also mighty, with a restaurant scenethat’s as determined, as dynamic, as delicious as any in the country. The culinary landscape continues to make its mark on the national scene, charming out-of-towners, wowing those of us who live here, and one-upping itself every year with a raft of award nominations, including James Beards—for owner-chef Chris Amendola of Foraged and ForemanWolf’s Charleston in 2023—as well as national press, featuring Little Donna’s in The NewYork Times and Clavel’s Lane Harlan in Bon Appétit. This was the year that growth in thefine-dining sphere steadied, but there were some false starts and stalls for a variety of reasons, from longer-than-expected build-outs to prolonged lease negotiations. While there’s always next year, we are eagerly awaiting the reactivation of spaces like Café Hon on The Avenue in Hampden by Foreman Wolf.

That said, we still have plenty to crow about, thanks to standbys like Restaurante TioPepe and The Prime Rib that have been at it slowly, consistently—since time immemorial,it would seem—and a handful of newcomers, like Ammoora in Federal Hill and Bunny’sBuckets & Bubbles in Fells Point, that are welcome additions to our already vibrant scene.

Picking a best restaurant is admittedly something of a soft science, but we do our homework,studying menus, engaging with servers, and speaking with chefs about their vision.With notepads and iPhones in hand, we carefully evaluate every spot, not only for qualityand execution of the food but for originality, ambiance, service, and value. We ask ourselvesif the restaurant is caving to TikTok trends or turning out enduringly excellent dishes, withsomething novel and exciting that can’t be found on every table in town.

This year’s lineup runs the gamut from innovative, chef-driven independents like ourcover model, CookHouse, in Bolton Hill, Le Comptoir du Vin in Station North, and LittleDonna’s in Upper Fells, to the long-running tried-and-trues like The Helmand in Mt. Vernonand collegial Peter’s Inn in Fells Point.

As part of this list, you’ll also find a collectionof deeply personal Love Letters—reflections on restaurants that hold a special spot in ourhearts. While the Love Letters are all officially Best Restaurants, we’re giving them a littleextra care because they remind us that the very definition of a “best restaurant” is a placethat transcends the table and speaks to us on a deeper level.

As always, you’ll agree withsome of our choices and debate others. But whatever the case, do get out there to revisit oldfavorites and make new discoveries. It’s a great time to be hungry in Baltimore.

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Alma Cocina Latina


Even after a chef change and a totalmenu rehaul in January, the fareat this Venezuelan dining spot stillthrills. Award-winning chef HéctorRomero has a particular passionfor exploring the culturally diversecuisine of his country, largely influencedby indigenous Caribbeancooking, while also incorporatingingredients from migrants whoflock to Venezuela from all over theworld. The dishes are a beguilingblend of citrus, spice, sweet—andoften heat.

Begin your journeywith an order of Iberian croquettes(topped with quince jelly) or theNikkei crudo, a fusion of Japaneseand Peruvian cuisine. This iterationhighlights hamachi and tuna tartaremarinating in ají amarillo-spikedtiger's milk. As for the entrees,every one is a star. Our favoritesare a delicate red snapper floatingin mustard seed and coconut milksauce; and an eggplant fricassee,a vegan marvel of Indian tempuraeggplant and flash-fried kale spikedwith Trinidadian curry and a smokyaji dulce, plus a tangy garam masala-spiced goat yogurt served in asaucepan on the side. Combine thatwith the restaurant’s Instagram-worthybeauty—co-owner IrenaStein has an impeccable sense ofstyle—and the whole experienceis a culinary adventure you won’tsoon forget.

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Clockwise from top: Kebbet karaz meatballsresting in a pool of sourcherry reduction; Arabiccoffee service withassorted treats; withits Damascus décor, thespace is positively posh.

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he word “ammoora”means captivating andbeautiful, which is also anapt description for thedishes that emerge from the kitchenof Baltimore’s first fine-diningSyrian restaurant. Executive chefDima Al-Chaar’s massive menu is anode to her native country, whichallows you to pick your journeyaround a region that’s known forvivid flavors and bold blends of spices.Chargrilled lamb kofta getstossed with onion and parsley, andis tinged with Turkish chile andserved with a tangy cucumber yogurtdip. Tiny kebbet karaz meatballs,flecked with mint and cinnamongremolata, float in a bath ofsour cherry reduction sauce worthsopping up with cloudlike rounds ofhouse-made pita. Even the Arabiccoffee is scented with cardamom.The space, set inside the Ritz-CarltonResidences, has serious swagger,too, with mother-of-pearl-inlaid furnitureand glistening Arabic coffeecarts. Go with a group and book abooth tucked behind drapery andupholstered in dusty pink velvet. It’sa flavor journey that transports youstraight to Damascus.



Open the doors to Ananda andyou’ll immediately forget you’rein a Fulton development. Agowned hostess will usher youthrough a gorgeous restaurantfilled with book-lined shelves,stained glass, and roaring fireplaces.Brothers Binda and KeirSingh have created a terrificmenu of both traditional Punjabidishes and more modern creations,from garam masala goatand chicken biryani to burrata salad with gremolata and roastedcauliflower, corn, and crab soup.Ananda has its own nearby farm,so it’s no surprise that some ofthe finest dishes are created fromseasonal produce, each perfectlyspiced, with heat calibrated to taste.Among the best on our visit: palakchaat, a bowl of impossibly crispyspinach with pomegranate seeds,tamarind chutney, and housemadeyogurt; and roasted broccoli,doused with spices, house-madecheese, garlic, and more tamarind.The Singhs raise chickens and ducksfor their eggs and source meatslocally, with that attention to qualityand detail evident on the plate.Order as many dishes as you can.

Antrim 1844 and TheSmokehouse Restaurant


Dining at this restaurant on a 19th-centuryestate-turned-quaint-hotelfeels like being on vacation. The firstpart is getting there, which, unlessyou live in northern Carroll County,isn’t easy. But the journey is worthit. Dinner begins with hors d’oeuvresand co*cktails in the cozy bar or oneof several seating areas before you’reescorted to your table. A piano playeroften fills the multiple dining roomswith music, adding to the ambiance.On our last visit, we were handed amenu with our name printed on it,along with that of executive chef IntiVillalobos-Coady, whose six-coursetasting menu offers a panoply ofFrench-inspired cooking.

There areoptions for each course, and we startedwith grilled octopus with couscous,fava beans, sweet corn, and shish*topeppers, which added a nice elementof heat. Our main dish, an excellentpan-seared halibut, was presentedin a mushroom and dashi broth withcipollini onions and foraged mushrooms.Preparing a classic fish likethis is a risk, but Villalobos-Coady ismore than up to the task—the dishis a marvel. Meals here are not to berushed, and many couples linger overbites of crème brûlée or a rich cheeseplate for dessert. An after-dinnercappuccino—or better yet a cognac—is a perfect cap to a meal that feelslike an escape from the monotony ofeveryday life. Perhaps next time we’llget a room and stay the night.

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Ash Bar


From the dimly lit, red-hued diningroom to the snake-themed dishwareand naughty-but-nice café societyvibe, Ash Bar is a true Baltimoreoriginal (the same can be said ofthe Ulysses hotel in which the restaurantresides). But style only goesso far without substance. Here, themenu—overseen by Lauren Sandler,formerly of Woodberry Kitchen—features mostly elevated bistro fare,including a delicate pan-roastedsalmon with celery root velouté, acomforting rigatoni Bolognese, anda classic roast chicken with tomatoes.Some offerings do shift withthe seasons, but there are signaturestaples like the 24-hour pressedpotatoes with sour cream and troutroe (think blinis) that you should orderno matter how often you go. Thepreparations are solid and at a pricepoint that won’t break the bank. Ifyou want to extend that festive feeling,begin (or end) your night at theBloom’s bar just down the hallway,which looks like something straightout of a David Lynch film, or strollaround the corner of the hotel tograb a potent craft co*cktail from TheCoral Wig, the latest creation fromClavel’s Lane Harlan.



There are few things as muchfun as eating sushi on the Baltimorewaterfront, chopsticking upperfectly cut hirame, ikura, andtoro as the sun sets behind theDomino Sugars sign. This experienceis brought to you by Azumi,located on the ground floor of theFour Seasons Hotel, featuring anomakase menu and fish flown indaily from Tokyo’s famed ToyosuMarket. In addition to a stellar listof seafood for that sushi, whichincludes specialties like truffleuni and A5 Miyazaki Wagyu beef with foie gras, there are alsovarious showy rolls, tempura,and barbecue-style robata,as well as bigger dishes, ofwhich the miso black cod isparticularly good. It’s worthnoting that the nigiri is divinebut smaller than average.(The upside is that this deliversthe full flavor in one bite.)If you’re feeling flush, splurgeon the Emperor’s Sushi Feast,consisting of 40 pieces offresh fish for $240. And thenmaybe order another Serenitysake co*cktail with the billto ease the sticker shock.

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Clockwise from top: Sandlin’s signaturefried chicken andbiscuits with pickles; a pearand Prosecco co*cktail;the whimsical décor; pouring a drink.

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The bunny-themed bathroom.

It takes a unique talent to transform a former neighborhoodwatering hole into a white-hot dining destination, butthat’s exactly what Top Chef alum Jesse Sandlin has donewith her latest concept, on the site of the former Wharf Ratin Fells Point. With its pink walls, rabbit-themed art, andbodacious bubble chandeliers, the place is pure whimsy.The fun also translates to the food—Sandlin’s decadentmenu is built around the namesake buckets of audibly crispfried chicken (plus divinely flaky biscuits) and perfectlypaired bottles of Champagne. (Fun fact: The acidity of thebubbles cuts the fat from the chicken.) And while the offeringscan best be described as casual, quirky, and Southern-accented—fancy deviled eggs, pimento cheese croquettes,fried oyster po’ boys—there’s a slate of wonderful chef-drivendishes, too, that show off Sandlin’s skills. The shrimpand grits, smothered in shrimp cream and a fantasticallyflavorful rendition of the Low Country standard, is coastalcomfort food at its best.



While perfection is nearlyimpossible to achieve in anypursuit (let alone the restaurantbusiness), this paragon ofwhite-tablecloth dining comesclose. After 26 years, co-ownersTony Foreman and CindyWolf still hit it out of the park night after night, sustaining a levelof attention to detail that’s worthyof the highest gastronomic honors.There’s a reason why Wolf has beennominated for James Beard BestChef Mid-Atlantic many times over.(Though we’re baffled by the Beardfolks who never actually bestowher with the medal.) Inspired byher frequent culinary travels toMichelin-starred spots in France, thechef works tirelessly to tantalize ourtastebuds—and all her plates are anarchetype of artistry. A single seascallop sautéed in lemon brown buttersits on a throne of cauliflowerpurée ringed by tiny capers on oneiteration of the menu; pan-roastedmagret of duck is partnered with asunset-colored strawberry-rhubarbcompote on another.

The front ofthe house is flawless, too; oenophileForeman, along with genial maîtred’hotel Peter Keck, keep things runningwith military precision, and nota fork is out of place. The positivelysplendid dining rooms—a seriesof three spaces, plus the bar, areexquisitely tasteful, each with itsown personality, which means thatno two visits are ever the same.Need a second opinion? While theever-evolving tasting menu offers athree-to-six course option, last summer,one patron ordered a whopping11 dishes, and that’s not even therestaurant record of 13. (Basically,one of everything.) Can’t say weblame them.

The Choptank


It would be hard to find a more apropossetting in which to slurp oysters,crack crabs, or indulge in theother bounties of the ChesapeakeBay than this second location of theAtlas Restaurant Group’s upscaleMaryland seafood house concept.But setting alone—though it’s hardto beat this one, which overlooksthe capital city’s famed Ego Alley—does not produce a top-notchrestaurant. The food here speaksfor itself. Rockfish ceviche featuresthick pieces of fish, thin slices ofcucumber, and chopped tomatoes,onions, and jalapeños. The freshnessof each component is evident.Steaks, strips, and sandwiches areavailable, but you come here for thecornucopia of fish and shellfish thatcan be seared, broiled, or blackened.On a recent visit, we opted for scallopswith a side of amazingly richponzu-shiitake brown butter. In thewarmer months, it can be a struggleto get a reservation, so plan accordingly.Once you’re here, you’ll see—and taste—why.

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From Amy Scattergood



Seldom does a restaurant do somany things so well. At Cinghiale,Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf’sbeautiful Harbor East enoteca andosteria, dinner starts with a worldclassselection of imported cheesesand meats. Antipasti include foiegras, roasted pumpkin soup, and aterrific bluefin tuna crudo with avocados,cucumber, capers, and chileoil. Be sure to order at least one ofthe outstanding house-made pastas,which come in every conceivableshape and size. (They’re availablein full and half portions.) Themushroom lasagna, with roastedeggplant and garlic fonduta, is delightfullyrich. Our server heard usmention that we planned to shareit and thoughtfully split the orderon two plates.

Mains include meatslike roasted venison, which is leanand tasty, with sweet potatoes andmustard greens. Veal, duck, chicken,and fish are all complementedrather than overshadowed by themethods in which they’re prepared.(The grilled swordfish, in a hazelnut-anchovybrown-butter sauce, is theperfect example of this synchronicity.)With an impressive multipagewine list—and a sommelier on handfor advice—Cinghiale has everyangle covered.

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Clockwise from top: Lamb chops withEnglish peas andmashed potatoes; the Cilantro co*cktail; The Honey, I’mFoam co*cktail.

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Bar directorGabriel Valladaresat work.

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hortly before 6 p.m. a line forms around the blockoutside this brownstone bistro, which doesn’t takereservations. When the doors officially open, customersare quickly seated inside the intimate butcharming dining room, or at the smallish but lovely bar. Whatcomes next—intricately made, inventive co*cktails and spectaculardishes—explains the place’s popularity. Bar directorGabriel Valladares is among the most talented mixologists inthe city, and his drinks are as artful as they are tasty. The food side, thoughtfully conceived and expertly prepared by chef-ownerGeorge Dailey, is equally impressive. Starters like panko-encrustedchèvre baked in a smoky tomato sauce and a grilledoctopus tentacle in a tomato-based romesco sauce are wildlyinventive. The steak frites ($10 off on Wednesdays) are alwaysa crowd favorite, but we found even more joy in the vegan“scallop” curry, made with king oyster mushrooms and a Thaicoconut curry dotted with peanuts. It’s a sterling example ofDailey’s creativity and attention to detail, traits that makeCookHouse worth the wait, however long the line may be.

Dok Khao Thai Eatery


Don’t let the outdoor mall nearthe Merriweather Post Paviliondiscourage you—p*rntipa Pattanamekar’sColumbia restaurant is a bustling gem of a place.There’s a salmon-coloredchaise lounge in the foyer forthose waiting for a table (noreservations) and a workingfountain in the center of thelarge, inevitably crowdeddining room. Plants and birdcagesdecorate the restaurant—even the chandeliers are enclosed by birdcages—and the whole place evokes adream-like garden shop.

The large menu is loaded withThai favorites: The curries areexcellent, with spice adjustedto taste, and there are exemplaryversions of expecteddishes (pad Thai, tom yumsoup, drunken noodles) plusspecialties like lychee duckcurry, lamb massaman curry,and “cry baby noodles,” anaddictive sweet-and-sourconcoction. Especially on theweekend, Dok Khao can getvery busy, but don’t be putoff by those large crowds—the service is spectacular,with attentive waiters anddishes appearing as if bymagic. There’s also a surprisinglylarge dessert menu thatincludes mouth-wateringmango parfaits and a Thai teacrème brûlée.

Duck Duck Goose


The name might conjure memoriesof a children’s game, butthe fare at Ashish Alfred’s outstandingFrench restaurant isgeared toward the most matureof palates. That said, despitethe elevated food, Alfred knowshis restaurant sits in a neighborhoodknown more for partyingthan pâté, so it’s unpretentiousand approachable. Startwith a Duck L’Orange co*cktail,which he swirls with duckfat-washedSagamore Rye andgooseberries, cardamom bitters,star anise, and cinnamon. It’s awonderful drink that sets thestage for the food. Classic Parisian appetizers like escargot andduck liver pâté are excellent, asis the roasted cauliflower, whichis brilliantly paired with a datepurée. As one might expect, thenamesake duck is representedheavily among the entrees (theroasted duck breast is rich andtender), but much else shines aswell. If there’s a better place toget coq au vin in the city, we’veyet to find it. Dessert is not to beoverlooked here, and the croissantbread pudding, topped withcaramel, is lighter than most butno less delectable. It’s fun andFrench—a combination DuckDuck Goose has nailed.

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From Janelle Erlichman Diamond



Stew in summer? It’s not the firstdish that comes to mind in thatseason, but Chris Amendola hasnever been satisfied with thestatus quo. His menu is ever-changing—sometimes even daily,as a dish might be served with adifferent kind of pasta or varietyof tomato on any given night.But the chef always stays trueto his ideals: using the freshest,most local ingredients possible(including, as the name wouldsuggest, some that he forageshimself) in creative ways. Takethat stew, for example, which isa signature menu item on mostvisits. It is mushroom-based, andincludes ricotta, herbs, pine nuts,and a poached egg. The result isa burst of umami that hits thespot any time of year.

On one recent visit, the seasonal offeringof lightly fried squash blossomsstuffed with cheese reminded usof elevated jalapeño poppers; onanother, a clever Maryland-stylemushroom “crab cake” mimickedour state seafood. And whilevegetables really shine here, thekitchen treats meat with similarrespect. Take, for example,another offering—a leg of lambtopped with zesty chimichurriserved over eggplant purée withroasted tomato and broccoli. As with so many of the disheshere, it was a perfect meldingof ingredients and offersan apt demonstration of whyAmendola was named a JamesBeard Award semifinalist inthe Best Chef: Mid-Atlanticcategory last year.

Gertrude’sChesapeake Kitchen


Renowned chef-owner JohnShields opened this quintessentialBay-to-table restaurantinside the Baltimore Museumof Art in 1998 and, a quarter-centurylater, it hasn’t deviatedfrom its mission. The menustill highlights the bounty ofthe Chesapeake in dishes likeChincoteague fried oysters,smoked blue catfish catties,and rockfish imperial accompaniedby creamy garlicmashed potatoes that makes awonderfully rich dish combining the best of land and sea. Shieldsalso excels with less traditionaldishes like pleasingly spicy udonnoodles tossed in a soy sauce, chileoil, orange zest, and toasted sesameseeds, while lamb meatballs withfigs and yogurt sauce are worthy oftheir menu moniker “Greektown.”Gertrude’s wouldn’t have thrivedfor 25 years if its chef-owner hadrested on his laurels. Thankfully, hehasn’t. And bonus points to Shieldsfor being one of the most congenialchefs in town.

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From top: Chocolatepavé; preparing foodon the line duringdinner service; makingsheets of pasta; thehouse-madetagliatelle withshrimp.

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The livingwall in the diningroom

Even after nearly a decade, this Brewers Hill restaurant in thecentury-old boiler room of the Gunther Brewing Company continuesto dazzle diners. For starters, there’s the always amiableDirector of Operations Nancy Hart Trice, who sets the tone withher warm hospitality. And then there’s her husband, chef JerryTrice, who meticulously sources the very freshest local ingredientsand draws inspiration from around the world to make themshine.

The hits keep coming. A cavalcade of appetizers—from acolorful kale and greens salad with pickled onions to the greengarbanzo hummus with flatbread to a refreshing halibut crudoscattered with slices of avocado sitting in a puddle of coconutmilk and charred habanero oil—are edible masterpieces. The signatureThai seafood hot pot—clams, mussels, shrimp, and piecesof white fish floating in a dizzyingly delicious curry and toppedwith a hill of cilantro—brims with fragrant flavor. Desserts, anafterthought on many a menu, are the pièce de résistance here,thanks to pastry chef Jessica Banner. Consider whatever is inseason, whether that means a chocolate pavé or Black Forestpavlova. (She also bakes the homemade Parker rolls, a NewEngland classic.) Also of note: There’s not a bad seat in the househere. Sidle up to the open kitchen and watch the show unfold—or sit on the gorgeous patio and count your lucky stars for greatfood in a beautiful setting.

The Helmand


There’s little need to change muchof anything at a restaurant likeThe Helmand. For more than threedecades, gracious owners Pat andQayum Karzai have quietly led thefine-dining scene in the city. Thekitchen of this Baltimore culinarylinchpin has produced a kaleidoscopeof flavors that wows bothnewcomers and customers whohave been coming since day one.Everyone knows that The Helmand’srenowned kaddo borwani—pan-friedand baked baby pumpkinseasoned with sugar and servedon yogurt garlic sauce—is a must-order.But the menu, exotic yetapproachable, is filled with otheritems to tempt you, like the zardaluchallow—chunks of lamb simmeredwith sun-dried apricots, prunes,tomatoes, garlic, turmeric, and chilepeppers—or the mourgh challow:chicken sautéed in yellow split peasand tomatoes. Every time we return,which is often, we’re thrilled thatit’s just as we remembered.

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Drive to the southernmost end ofLight Street in South Baltimoreand you’ll find one of the city’sbest pizzerias in a big brick buildingon the corner that once houseda barbecue joint. Owned andoperated by the Hershkovitz siblings,Stephanie and Josh, Hersh’sis strung with Edison bulbs andseems to be guided by the heat and principle of the 5,000-pound,Italian-made, wood-burning pizzaoven that the pair forklifted intothe space. The Neapolitan-stylepies that emerge from this behemothare spectacular: a margheritawith house-made mozzarella,a version of Frank Pepe’sclassic New Haven clam pie, anda white pizza with pistachios andkale that keeps regulars comingback. The pasta, also made in-house,is excellent as well: a shortlist of cavatelli or tagliolini, eachperfectly tricked out. In short,Hersh’s has everything a pizzeriashould have—great pies—pluseverything most pizzerias do not,including rustic entrees (a satisfyingswordfish over couscous) anddeft appetizers (wood-fired octopus)that you’d expect to find at awhite-tablecloth spot.

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Clockwise from top: Shrimp a la plantxa; a variety of tinned fish; mesclun greens with sliced apples and crumbled La Peral; fresh baked bread; Chef Ben Lefenfeld and his co-owner brother, Jake.

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Gatheringplates to serve.

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his Basque-country restaurant inside historic MeadowMill is a paradise for food worshippers. Like the regionitself (known for its many Michelin-starred spots), avisit here feels like an endless feast combining classicingredients with creative flavors. Whatever the season, co-owner/executive-chef Ben Lefenfeld’s ever-changing menu, inspired bythis coastal region between France and Spain, is a thrill to peruse.Explore all the offerings, from an outstanding assortment of conservas(tinned fish) to the one-bite snacks known as pintxos (thechorizo with Manchego and shish*to pepper is one of the bestbites in Baltimore). Many of the bigger entrees—including a plateof wood-grilled eggplant with ricotta or strip steak with black-garlicbutter—are prepared over the coals of the asador grill, whichadds dimension with smoky flavor. The pristine seafood is alwaysformidable, including the grilled shrimp and scallops with zucchiniescabeche, fennel pollen, and aioli we devoured on one recentouting. Service is pleasingly dependable (special shout-out to veteranAaron Loux, who makes it look effortless). And half-pricewine night on Sundays with a bottle of the region’s famed Rioja isour favorite way to wind down the weekend.

La Scala Ristorante Italiano


Little Italy’s La Scala is as old-schoolas they come. The serversare dressed like steam-trainconductors, the pepper grindersare brandished like wands, andthe pasta—made in-house—isworthy of all those ancientladies making orecchiette onPasta Grannies. Chef-owner NinoGermano has been running theplace for over a quarter-century,and it manages to be both traditionaland idiosyncratic: There’sa bocce ball court near the frontdoor, and instead of a chandelier,there’s a wooden octopushanging from the ceiling. Whatevermakes Germano happy isfine with us. There are splendiditerations of gnocchi and risottoand antipasta on offer, as thereshould be. The calamari frittiand veal scallopini are outstanding,as has been every plateof pasta we’ve ever ordered,particularly the Bolognese, puttanesca,and ethereal gamberifra diavolo. Finish off with ademitasse of espresso and atleast one order of tiramisu.

Le Comptoir Du Vin


Hidden away in a sliver of arowhouse on a ramshackle StationNorth street, walking into LeComptoir is like stumbling upon asudden portal to Aix-en-Provence.Rosemary Liss and Will Mesterhave created a French-ish bistroand wine bar that feels at onceupscale and familial, as if yourGallic grandparents had beensecretly trained in the classics.Bottles of wine line the walls, themenu is chalked on a blackboard,and the dishes—ever-changingrustic takes on countryside foodthat are both unconventional andunexpected—come on mismatchedchina.

One night, there might be acassoulet or a stew of lentils withgoose liver. Another might yieldtomato tarts or soup au pistou.An appetizer of rolled pig’s head,green sauce, and grilled bread isspectacular, as is the restaurant’sfamous mussel toast with saffronaioli. If there aren’t enough ofthe tiny dinner tables, there’s abasem*nt dining room that feelslike a forgotten wine cellar andwhich turns into a patio duringthe warmer months. The bread ismade in-house, the natural winelist is long, and the desserts (lemonposset!) are sublime.



The menu at this contemporary Italianrestaurant is attractive for manyreasons. Let’s start with the food:Antipasti like the torta di melenzane,aka baby eggplant in tomato saucetopped with fresh mozzarella, areexcellent, as is the bruschetta with figjam, Gorgonzola, and 24-month agedprosciutto. Pasta dishes, like orecchiettewith crumbled fennel sausageand roasted-garlic broccoli rabe, harkento Italy’s Campania region, wherethe owners have their roots. Andentrees, like a plate of grilled shrimp,swordfish, calamari, and octopus withfingerling potatoes and an arugula-tomatosalad, are caringly prepared.

Chef-co-owner Gennaro DiBenedetto allows the seafood to speak for itselfwhile ensuring that its flavors are accentedby the right level of char fromthe grill. But we also love the menuitself—literally. Its colors and fontsare festive, capturing how it feels todine here. Located on the first floor ofshiny Anthem House in Locust Point,the sprawling space is bright andlively, and the large bar has some ofthe most comfortable stools in town.Reservations fill up on the weekends,so plan ahead or risk disappointment.

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From Lydia Woolever



Don’t come to this 36-year-old OwingsMills stalwart if you’re lookingfor newfangled trends or to fillyour social media feed with imagesof salmon with edible gold leaf orchopped sandwiches—yes, thoseare both a thing. This white-linenspot—long the ad-hoc fine-diningroom for Baltimore County—is allabout quality and consistency, resultingin the kind of cooking you’llwant to enjoy with friends or familyfor a special occasion, or anyreason at all. Whether you grab aseat at the bar to sip a pineapplemartini and snack on shrimp scampiflatbread; choose to perch at thegrill line, with its view of the openkitchen and garde mangers stackingsalads in ring molds; or sit at a tablefor that piece of simply preparedfish that’s been on the menu sincethe beginning, all roads lead to perfection.The eponymous LinwoodDame, who last year sold the businessto his longtime executive chef,Tom Devine, and Erena Vedensky,Linwoods’ chief financial officer, isno longer a nightly presence, butother familiar faces, like veteranstaffer-turned-general-managerStacey Taylor, prevail to table touchand make you feel oh so cared for.

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Magdalena,A Maryland Bistro


If you want to impress out-of-townersor just want to get glitzedup for a night on the town, headto this epitome of elegance inside The Ivy Hotel. The posh diningrooms and Eden-like patioexude a quiet luxury, but aftera post-pandemic relaunch, thebistro-style menu is a bit moreapproachable. The menu drawsfrom the area’s best fishermenand farmers and leans into theseasons, while always payingits respect to the Mid-Atlantic.Each dish is executed with consistencyand care, from a crispysea bass with chanterelles,Sungold tomatoes, and turmericoil in summer to a goldenAmish chicken with pickledokra in the fall.The whiskeyselection, the co*cktails, andWine Spectator-awarded bottlelist make for ideal accompaniments.

We suggest going witha few friends for maximumsharing opportunities. Our ownperfect Magdalena order includesa basket of house-madebread with ever-changing butters,the artisan cheese plate,and the heavenly dessert boardincluding pastry chef Cassidy Lueck’s phenomenal ricottadoughnuts served with a scoopof seasonal ice cream. For theultimate experience, splurge fora room upstairs (breakfast fromthe restaurant is included).

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Clockwise from top: The dining room; house-made pasta; shaking a co*cktail; the tunacannoli; thefoie gras terrine withpickled beets and sourcherry compote.

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A bowl of zitiBolognese.

This intimate Butchers Hill boîte—all aglow on East PrattStreet in the former Salt Tavern space—fires on all cylinders,from the food to the service to the vibe. Working inhis compact kitchen, owner Matthew Oetting puts a polishedspin on familiar Italian-leaning favorites, and his presentationsresult in some of the prettiest plates in the city. Onone visit, that might mean a tangle of toothy house-madefrutti di mare linguini splashed with white wine, teemingwith clams, mussels, and scallops, and enrobed in uni butter.On another, it might mean an inventive scallop piccatatossed with artichokes and tomato-garlic sofrito, or a work-of-art tuna cannoli shell stuffed with yellowfin and dabs ofavocado purée. The bar program offers four different typesof negronis, a roster of amaros to help you digest, and wineby the glass that leads to some of the most generous poursaround. The place gets packed and can get a little loud, butit’s always a good sign when you’re where everyone elsewants a piece of the action, too.

The Milton Inn


Ever since its 2021 openingunder the auspices of the ForemanWolf Restaurant Groupand chef-partner Chris Scanga(formerly of Petit Louis Bistroin Roland Park), this bucoliccountry haven, whose formerclaim to fame is that it wasJohn Wilkes Booth’s one-timeschoolhouse, only gets betterand better. Over time, themenu has become more approachable, with less focus on gameand more emphasis on the greatesthits from the Louis menu—theiconic crispy squash blossoms withsaffron aioli, the Left Bank-leaningquiche Lorraine, the croque monsieur,and the best onion soup thisside of the Seine. But there areplenty of items that are unique tothe Inn, too, further highlightingScanga’s mastery of French foundationalcooking. The pan-roastedScottish salmon in sorrel sauce isexemplary, as is a simple New Yorkstrip boosted by Béarnaise and thedivine steak tartare complete withcaviar and a quail egg.

There’s no such thing as a bad seat here—somerooms are bright and airy; othersare dark and moody. The patio,replete with a fireplace, is perfecteven when the air has a slight chill.Whatever the backdrop, the executionis on-point, the flavors are fantastic,and the hospitality is warmand sincere. Go on Wednesdayswhen wine is half price. And alwaysvisit the dog-themed bathroom nearthe bar, even if only for the selfie.



After briefly closing for a rebootlast year, NiHao reopened witha new menu that put the Cantonrowhouse restaurant more in linewith chef-owner Peter Chang’ssmall empire of Mid-Atlantic restaurantshighlighting traditionalregional Chinese cuisine. NiHao’skitchen now sends out plates ofits superb signature Peking duck(a holdover from the previousiteration, as regulars would haverevolted otherwise), plus hugebowls of flounder spiked with hotchiles or Sichuan peppercorns andcabbage, both takes on the classicwater-boiled fish, as well ascrispy popcorn chicken laced withbright red chiles—not to mentionan impressive list of dim sum.NiHao also features more than adozen baijiu co*cktails, made withthe national spirit of China, traditionallydistilled from sorghum,which makes for a great addition to the local mixology scene. Besure to order the xiaolongbao(soup dumplings) steamed in bambootrays, or the crispy, doughyballoon of bubble pancake that isanother of Chang’s signatures. It’sa great, showy start to what is abanquet of a meal.

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From Jane Marion

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Clockwise from top: Thescene at the bar;mac and cheesewith a lobster tail;a server holdingthe bison rib-eye.

It’s risky business taking a scalpel to a legend,but after 25 years as a go-to destination forBaltimore County diners, The Oregon Grilleneeded some work. Its menu had grown predictableand its appearance stale. Enter the Atlas RestaurantGroup, which reopened the restaurant last yearafter a multi-million-dollar renovation. Thankfully,with its dark wood tones and some of the old horse saddlesstill on display, the space retained its rustic eleganceand clubby vibe.

Plenty of interesting dishesnow permeate the menu, including a potato skin-caviarappetizer and roasted beet-burrata salad with arugula,candied pistachios, tangerines, and a honey vinaigrette.But rarely have we left a restaurant raving about a specificdish like we did after devouring the bison rib-eye.The 14-ounce star of the show emerged from the kitchenwith a deep char yet juicy red interior. Bison is leanerthan beef, which is why we were so impressed by itsdeep flavor. As the fireplace crackled and a piano playertapped away on the keys, we were reminded that whileThe Oregon Grille has a storied past, it’s now writing anexciting new chapter.



This jewel box of an Indian restaurant,nestled along Dulaney ValleyRoad, is a beacon from a darkstretch of country road. As you steponto the patio, you’ll find yourselfin a verdant Eden overflowing withgreenery and a trellis entangledwith vines. The interior of therestaurant—think dramatic, curry-scenteddining rooms that flickerwith candlelight—is equally elegant.Co-owner brothers Binda and KeirSingh of Howard County’s Anandaexplore their roots in Punjabi cookingwith traditional yet moderninterpretations of always well-seasoneddishes like tandoori chicken,fish curry, garam masala goat, andlamb vindaloo. And their vegetable-basedofferings, from spiced okrawith onions to eggplant curry, crushthe concept that vegetarian fare isboring.

The expansive menu alsobends with the seasons and nods toMaryland, as evidenced by the crabkhumbi with sweet meat tuckedinto a portobello mushroom cappedwith coconut chutney. And as anyonewho has ever been to Peerce’sknows, no visit is complete withoutat least a passing conversation withthe sartorially suited Keir, who setsthe tone with his genuine warmthand is always on hand to make arecommendation. (Ask him aboutthe off-menu butter chicken if youlike a lot of heat.)

Peter’s Inn


Whenever we have new guests intown, there’s always one place wetake them for the most culinarilyquintessential introduction to CharmCity. Somehow both gritty and quietlycosmopolitan, eccentric yet accessible, this former Ann Street biker barmanages to capture all the wonderfulcontradictions of our underdog town.Only owners Karin and Bud Tiffanycould combine a sidecar-ed martiniserved on a silver platter with astereo cranking out The Clash. Or ajust-right New York strip steak witha giant taxidermied marlin above thebar. Or Prince Edward Island oysters(with a “bump” of caviar, no less)and the best Texas toast-style garlicbread you’ve ever had.

Hand-writtenmenus mingle with antique oil paintingsand the oohs and aahs of bothlongtime loyal patrons and wide-eyedcome-latelys. That’s because Peter’sis the inimitable blend of no-fuss andplenty of frills, with each dish havingits own magic touch. On a recentvisit, our pasta al limone arrivedwith an unexpected punch of butterysautéed shrimp, smashed pistachios,and smoky chile flakes. It’s a sin toskip the surprisingly lovely housesalad, decadent smoked trout pâté,or divine pot de crème dessert. Andthose relatively new French friesrival McDonald’s, which we mean asthe highest possible praise.

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Occasionally we find ourselves inAnnapolis in search of supper, andmore often than not, that meanswe’ll make our way up Main Street tothis now-mainstay on the state capital’smost bustling strip. Amidst thethrongs of white-hatted Navy plebesand across from the bright lights ofChick & Ruth’s Delly, Preserve is easyto miss, though once you’ve had abite inside, you won’t soon forget it.Since 2015, husband-and-wife teamJeremy and Michelle Hoffman—formerlyof Thomas Keller’s Per Se andDanny Meyer’s Union Square Café,respectively—have been turning outsome of the most ambitious food inAnne Arundel County.

Much is in thename here, with the chef’s PennsylvaniaDutch heritage melding withthe ingredients of the Chesapeakeand pickled and preserved elementsdotting the boundary-pushing menu.Fried duck tongues with rice vinegar aioli and chile crisp were an appetizerwe never knew we needed, whilethe pork terrine is a perennial star,especially the version with fennelpeachkraut and Dijonnaise on offerlast summer. Always indulge in thedaily specials, inspired by provisionsfrom the restaurant’s roster of localfarmers, and on that note, consider abottle from Old Westminster Winery,made just up the road.

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From Mike Unger

Puerto 511


Open since 2014 and reworked in2019 with a prix-fixe-only menu,Puerto 511 is a hidden gem tuckedaway off a side street in the heartof downtown. Open the door towhat feels like a secret gatewayto Lima, and you’ll find Peruvianchef-owner Jose Victorio Alarcon’sminimalist dining room, with 10small tables next to a tiny openkitchen. There’s lovely artworkon the walls and a steep staircasedown to a beautiful dining roomfor larger parties, with a fireplaceto boot. With five courses onweekdays and seven during weekends,Alarcon’s menu is a perfectlyorchestrated series of dishes—allsized and paced just right—likeshrimp in sweet chile sauce atopa corn tamal; grilled veal skewersover Peruvian corn and potatoeswith pepper sauce; and a stunningdish of fish ceviche with sweetpotatoes in tiger’s milk, a regionalmarinade of yellow peppers andlime. Puerto 511 is BYOB, whichallows for personalization, but theyalso offer pisco sours, the traditionalPeruvian co*cktail—and astellar accompaniment to Alarcon’sglorious food.

Restaurante Tio Pepe


This subterranean Spanish stalwarton the quiet edge of Franklin Streetisn’t the hot spot it used to be. Infact, on a recent Tuesday night, wewere the only table in the place, butbefore long, that felt like being in onone of Baltimore’s best-kept secrets.Two servers swept through with glasses of potent house-madesangria and the sort of old-worldservice that M.F.K. Fisher wouldpraise. By the time other localstrickled into the cavernous diningroom—dimly lit, decked inwhite tablecloths, dripping withoil paintings, and the occasionallipstick-red carnation—we weretoo busy swooning over the lusciousgarlic soup off the special’smenu (which hasn’t changed in adecade) to pay them any mind.

With minute steaks and stringbeanalmondines, the menu isstuck in 1968, the year that TioPepe opened, but that makesit kinda cool again. Start withthe hollandaise artichokes andSerrano ham with melon. Then,while it might sound sacrilege,forgo the famous paella for near-perfectionsoft-shell crabs withlemon and butter and, always,the masterpiece suckling pig withpan jus, smoky black beans, andcinnamon-scented apple saucethat you’ll be dreaming about fordays. But before you head backout into the modern-day night,find room for a café Americanoand slice of the delightful pinenut roll for dessert. Turns out,they kind of knew how to live 56years ago.



This Italian Harbor East hot spotis the juggernaut of the AtlasRestaurant Group, which has25 area restaurants (and counting).The vibe is swank—fromthe oversized card-stock menu(good riddance, QR codes!) tothe sophisticated dining roomto a lineup of deeply delectabledishes, thanks to co-owner-chefJulian Marucci, who coaxes bigflavors from simple ingredients.All the offerings are excellenthere, but be sure to order atleast one of the house-madepastas stuffed or coated with allsorts of scrumptious items fromrabbit to crab with uni cream.

The rest of the menu is a hit parade, too—some signatureswith timeless preparations,like the beef tenderloin withspicy black garlic mostarda,others seasonal, like thesmoked carrots with ricottaand truffle honey or risottowith roasted corn and crab.Pair it all with a pick from theseemingly limitless selectionof award-winning wines, fromPiedmont to Puglia. At theend of the meal, lounge on thepatio or in the piano loungeover an espresso martiniwhile taking in the spectacleof decked-out patrons passingby. La dolce vita, indeed.

Tapas Teatro


Like a classic film, this belovedSpanish restaurant is asrelevant today as it was whenit debuted 23 years ago inStation North. Adjacent to theCharles Theatre, it still drawsmoviegoers who down pitchersof the signature sangria(which can be brought insidethe cinema). Everyone elseseems to love it as well. Thebar, dining room, and streetsidetables are packed, butthe staff remains friendly andunflappable. On a recent visit,we heeded our server’s adviceand started with a handfulof small plates. All wereexcellent, but the huevos decordoniz y chorizo—strips ofsausage topped with a richquail egg on toasted crostini—stood out. After four,we wanted more. Along withthe description for gambasal ajillo—shrimp sautéed inolive oil with garlic and parsley—comes a parenthetical:“Add capers or/and chiles fora kick.” To which we say, doboth—it takes an alreadyoutstanding dish and turns itinto a masterpiece. Like mostmovies, many restaurantsfade over time. Only thegreats endure.

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Thames Street Oyster House


It seems like every hip restauranthas a raw bar thesedays, but well before freshlyshucked seafood found itselfin the Roaring Twenties-esquerevival, there was ThamesStreet on its cobblestonenamesake in Fells Point. Forover a decade, owner CandaceBeattie and executive chef-partnerEric Houseknechthave helped remind our cityabout oysters, the shellfishwhich once reigned supremealong the nearby waterfrontlong before crab wasever king. And here, in thisChesapeake-meets-New Englandeatery, those half-shellsare served as impeccably asthey come.

This is the placefor even the least bold to trytheir first oyster. Your serverwill guide you from the accessibleto the challenging. Butthe rest of the menu shouldn’tbe missed either. The butterywhole-belly clam roll—withfat fried bits of bliss tumblingover the edge of a griddledsplit-top bun so good we’d eatit solo—would make our lastmeal. For sharing, a splurgefor the five-pound lobster—stuffed with blue crab, shrimp,and scallops—is worth it,though the claw-knuckle-and-tail-packed polenta withEnglish peas, mushrooms, andspring onions makes an idealand still indulgent substitute.Funnily enough, we getespecially jazzed about theseasonal sides, which on onelate summer visit included theloveliest brown sugar bakedlima beans we’ve ever seen.

The Tilted Row


Executive chef Amy Hessel andowner Ziad Maalouf have createda destination-worthy restauranton the ground floor of a modernist Bolton Hill apartmentcomplex, with a menu ofMiddle Eastern dishes with aMaryland twist. Sit at the counterand watch the crew makingplates of falafel-encrustedsalmon, charred octopus withblack-garlic aioli, or lamb koftawith hummus and preservedlemons. There is an excellentSunday brunch (massive cinnamonrolls! crab Benedict!)and Blue-Plate specials like thefried chicken and biscuits thatdraws locals on Thursdays withdedicated regularity. Close toMaryland Institute College ofArt, there’s a deceptive casualnessto The Tilted Row thatmakes diners feel comfortable,yet the exceptional service,beautifully run open kitchen,and pretty plating elevate theplace to fine-dining status. Besure to order the za’atar focaccia,or the desserts—one regularoften just orders the brown-buttertoffee cake—as Hesselwas also trained in pastry.

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Clockwise from top: ChefZack Mills on the line; the interior withnautical art;raw oysters on ice; the mushroom tart.

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Blue crab andbone marrow.

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et inside the historic, circa-1798 Whitehall Mill, TrueChesapeake is a lofty, industrial setting for sophisticatedChesapeake cuisine. Most of the menu highlightshail from the raw bar, befitting a restaurant with itsown local oyster farm, on St. Jerome Creek in SouthernMaryland. Those oysters come a variety of ways:shucked, roasted, and topped with Old Bay and butteror Gruyére and black truffles; in dishes like oystersRockefeller and oyster stew; or fried with cucumbernoodles, pickled jalapeño, and puréed fennel. Of course,chef Zack Mills’ menu offers more than just oysters:There’s a silken spaghetti with middleneck clams;an elegant mushroom tart that looks like a beautifulbird’s nest built from pastry crust and filled with localfunghi; and a spectacular blue crab and bone marrowdip, served in the bones. The co*cktail list, made at thecenterpiece bar embedded with crushed oyster shells,of course, is a finely tuned accompaniment for anydish. And the weekday happy hour for $6 martinis, Old-Fashioneds, and daquiris makes us, well, happy indeed.



Long before gourmet pizza (includinggluten-free and vegan)became a thing on menus acrossMaryland, there were blisteredNeapolitan wonder wheels atthis convivial hangout withEdison bulbs, marble accents,house-made fior di latte mozzarella,and a wood-fire pizzaoven that turns out pizzas withpizzazz. You’d be hard-pressedto find pizza with more personality—Verde’s feature pairingssuch as prosciutto and fig,smoked mozzarella and lemon,and mushrooms with trufflecream. (And whichever one youpick, make a mental note tocome back and try a differentone next time.) But the toppingsare only part of the equation.We also love the thin crust withits perfectly charred cornicione(outer edge), slight chewiness,and tangy topping of cheese. The menu is rounded out withexcellent offerings from the bar(here’s looking at you, negronis!)and an array of outstanding antipasti—we constantly crave theputtanesca-style shrimp—thatmake this so much more than aneighborhood pizza joint.

Woodberry Tavern


We’ll admit that it took us sometime to adjust when the restaurantonce known as WoodberryKitchen reopened as atavern after the pandemic. Butnow that the place has foundits footing, we can see that,though James Beard Award-winningchef Spike Gjerde’soriginal iteration was inarguablyambitious, the tavern is amore understated expressionthat’s no less charming. Withits Windsor chairs, Persiancarpets, and nostalgic desserts,the restaurant’s farm-to-forkDNA is still very much in place,with a focus on regional specialtiesthat are at once familiarand novel.

As ever, almost allingredients are sourced locallyand dishes change withthe seasons, but the experienceis now more intimate.Executive chef Steven Kenny(a veteran staffer who workedat Easton’s famed Bartlett PearInn) is laser-focused on what’savailable on any given day,but devises dishes that are aspioneering as ever. In early fall,that might mean “crab service”(a trio of dishes including crabsalad, a crab pot, and crabfritters) or tortellini with chanterellesand sweet corn. In thecolder months, you might finda pretzel-crusted pork loin withmiso-buttered cabbage. Whenthe mercury dips, oysters threeways emerges, including fried,roasted, and raw. The pretty-as-a-picture baked Alaska isiconic. Turns out, you can gohome again, especially after atotal reinvention.

Baltimore’s Best Restaurants 2024 (2024)


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