Note from Jeremy: This is a guest post by Ulli Hain, the first of two we have lined up on where to eat and drink in Baltimore. Thanks to Ulli for sharing her love of Baltimore with our readers.
I am a science writer who spent nearly six years in Baltimore while completing a PhD in molecular biology. During that time, I fell in love with the city and frequently return from my current home in D.C. People often ask what makes Baltimore so great and I think it is a combination of quirkiness, lack of pretense, and bounty of things to eat, drink, see, and do.
The free Charm City Circulator will take you from the Inner Harbor to almost any place you want to go, including Federal Hill, Ft. McHenry, Mt. Vernon, Harbor East, and Fell’s Point.
The Water Taxi is a great to see all the neighborhoods around the harbor and avoid the traffic. You can buy a one-way trip for $8 or an all-day pass for $14.
Baltimoreans sometimes complain that that all tourists want to do is talk about The Wire and get the best crab cakes in town. To which I say, what’s wrong with that…well, the crab cakes anyways? While there is dispute about where to find the best crab cakes, you can’t really go wrong in Baltimore. Here are some choices:
The cheapest and possibly top contender for best crab cake is Faidley’s (203 N. Paca St., $). Faidley’s Seafood, which was featured on The Travel Channel, is nestled inside the historic Lexington Market. The place is a bit of a maze and filled with a variety of characters so it will be a different experience than the Inner Harbor vibe.
Getting there: Taxi or 15-min walk from the Convention Center.Other good options:
Mo’s Fisherman’s Wharf (219 S. President St, $$$) and the Rusty Scupper (402 Key Highway, $$$) are both in the Inner Harbor, and as a result, more expensive (but also more formal atmosphere). Both offer a wide variety of seafood and non-seafood options as well.
Baltimore offers many great dining experiences beyond crab cakes so skip the lines at the Cheesecake Factory and check out some other nearby options:
Labanese Taverna (719 S. President St., $$) for the hummus bar or grilled shrimp kabob.
Getting there: Situated in the posh Harbor East area, it is pleasant 1-mile stroll along the harbor from the Convention Center. Or take the Orange Circulator from stop 222 on Pratt St. to stop 226 right across from the restaurant.
Miss Shirley’s (750 E. Pratt St., $$), a Baltimore staple, arguably has the best breakfast in town, though it also offers lunch. Located conveniently in the Inner Harbor, you can liven up your chicken and waffles with a Spicy Shirley, their take on the Bloody Mary.
Bertha’s Mussels (734 S. Broadway St., $$), in picturesque Fell’s Point, is a Baltimore institution that offers live music, great cocktails, and of course mussels, among other seafood.
Getting there: This is a great opportunity to take a water taxi from the Inner Harbor to Fell’s Point, where you can then stroll along the water and look at the colorful 19th century architecture, cafes, and unique stores. Or take the Orange Circulator to stop 227 and walk 5-min East on Lancaster St.
Still not satisfied? How about some Italian food at one of the plethora of ristorantes in the historic Little Italy district? Bonus: you may just catch some old men playing Bocce.
Pitango (802 S. Broadway St.) offer the best gelato in town with flavors like black tea, hazelnut, and crème fraiche. Get to Fell’s Point via water taxi or Circulator (see directions for Bertha’s above).
The best frozen custard, an even creamier version of ice cream, can luckily be found very near to the Convention Center at Rita’s (301 Light St).
Midnite Confection’s Bakey (1051 S. Charles St.) offers up cupcakes that won’t disappoint using ingredients like Bourbon Madagascar vanilla. Situated in the heart of Federal Hill, it is easily reached with the Purple Circulator heading south from stop 320 at the Convention Center to stop 323 at Cross St.
When it’s time to take the scientific discussion to a more relaxed setting, nothing is better than sipping sangria and splitting tapas on the harbor. This can be done at La Tasca (201 E Pratt St., price: $$).
For beer drinkers, look no further than James Joyce Pub (616 S. President St., $) in Harbor East for libations and bar food.
Power Plant Live is also near the Inner Harbor for those itching to hear some dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon (22 Market Pl.) or enjoy a Maryland beer flight at the Leinenkugel Beer Garden (34 Market Pl.), just opened in 2013.
Check out the National Aquarium. Though it’s a bit pricey, Friday nights are half-off. The Baltimore Museum of Art on the Johns Hopkins main campus has a great collection of Matisse and other impressionists as well as other art…and it’s free! My favorite work there is Degas’ “Little Dancer” statue. Looking for something more offbeat? The American Visionary Art Museum in Federal Hill features work from self-taught artists and ranges from amazing to oddball, but definitely unique. The BMA and AVAM are both closed on Mondays.
A history buff? Take the water taxi to Fort McHenry, which is where soldiers staved off a British attack during the War of 1812, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.
Got the shopping bug? Harbor East is the place to go for more upscale shops, such as Under Armour, which is headquartered in Baltimore, Anthropologie, and Lulu Lemon. Looking for something more quirky and eclectic, head to Hampden and stroll along the “avenue” (aka 36th St.).