In recent years, the Baltimore food scene has evolved from a few famous crab houses to an upscale dining destination with award-winning chefs and a trio of exceptional restaurant groups running the show.
The creme de la creme of city stalwarts are operated by Foreman Wolf, where five-time James Beard-nominated executive chef Cindy Wolf prepares an exquisite fusion of French classics and Lowcountry-inspired cuisine at the 20-year-old waterfront Charleston in Harbor East. At the group’s brand-new Bar Vasquez, co-owner and wine director Tony Foreman serves superior vino varieties and standout Argentine steaks.
The Atlas Restaurant Group is another stronghold in the Harbor East neighborhood. Touting whole grilled fish at its Greek-inspired Ouzo Bay, five-star sushi and sake at its Japanese oasis Azumi and sky-high shellfish towers with “Great Gatsby”-esque cocktails at its ever-chic Loch Bar, the group has created a Poseidon empire for the urban elite.
To taste the region, farm-to-table is elevated to a whole new level with James Beard Award-winning chef Spike Gjerde and his Foodshed family of restaurants in the trendy neighborhoods of Woodberry and Remington. Fully committed to homegrown ingredients for everything from produce to protein, experience the best of the Chesapeake Bay and its farms at Foodshed’s flagship Woodberry Kitchen and the meat mecca Parts & Labor.
A highly anticipated addition to the local dining scene, Rec Pier Chop House, located at the recently opened Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, brings elevated Italian cuisine to the Fell’s Point neighborhood. Andrew Carmellini, a James Beard Award winner and Michelin star chef, focuses on seasonal offerings, high-quality ingredients and house-made pastas at the new establishment. The restaurant’s bold menu and sophisticated design attracts diners in search of robust Italian flavors.
Left: At Loch Bar, indulge in a round of ice-cold oysters, including multiple local varieties. (Courtesy of Atlas Restaurant Group); Right, top and bottom: Dine on farm-to-table fare in the hipster-chic space of Spike Gjerde’s popular Parts & Labor. (Photos by Scott Suchman)
Also in Fell's Point, Thames Street Oyster House is a local favorite with its impeccable raw bar, prized lobster roll and quaint, cozy space. But for a true Maryland tradition, roll up your sleeves and dig into a pile of piping hot steamed crabs on the roof deck of L.P. Steamers seafood shack in Locust Point. Afterward, indulge in a cold can of National Bohemian beer (also known as Natty Boh, a Baltimore favorite first brewed in the area in 1885), at Max’s Taphouse, a beloved brewpub that features an enormous beer selection.
Here James Beard Award winner and Michelin star chef Andrew Carmellini shares one of his favorite Italian recipes.
½ cup roughly diced pancetta (about ¼ pound)
4 boneless short ribs (about 2 pounds), cut into thirds
1 heaping tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 canned whole tomatoes (two 28-ounce cans, about 4 cups), preferably San Marzano, plus their juice; or 4 cups crushed tomatoes, plus their juice
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large, dry, ovenproof saucepot, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat until the fat renders, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, mix well and continue cooking. Crush the tomatoes over a bowl with your hands, then add them to the pot along with their juice. Bring the mixture up to a low boil.
Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven. Check the ribs about every 15 minutes or so to make sure they’re not boiling too hard. Cook until the meat is super tender and a fork can pass through it without sticking, about 2 ½ hours.
¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
A pinch each of salt and coarse-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
In a dry saute pan, toast the pine nuts over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid burning or sticking, about 8 minutes. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the panko breadcrumbs and continue cooking over low heat, mixing occasionally, until everything is toasty brown, about 2 minutes.
Add the oregano and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper and cook together for a few seconds, so everything is warmed but the parsley does not wilt. Remove from the heat and then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano (not before—otherwise, you’ll have a melted cheese mess).
Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the ribs and place on a plate, using a pair of tongs. Use a ladle to remove some of the fat from the sauce, by pressing the chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so that the ladle fills only with the clear fat. (This is optional, but it makes the sauce prettier.) Add ½ cup of water to the sauce and stir to finish.
Place 4 to 5 pieces of meat on each plate. Pour the sauce from the pot directly over the short ribs and sprinkle the topping generously over each dish. Serve immediately.
By Lydia Woolever