10 Best Lunch Spots in Baltimore: Serious Business From Mile-High Sandwiches To Succulent Crab Cakes
By Tawanna Browne Smith
Family Travel Expert
You can get just about anything you want for lunch in Baltimore that you can get for dinner, whether it be a sit-down meal, buffet, or grab-n-go. Places like Lexington Market house counter-stops like Faidley's, famous for their crab cakes - good to eat just about anytime of the day - and sandwich shops like Mary Mervis' deli, fixing up over-sized sandwiches worthy of a "To Be Continued" sign. With over 23 carry out shops and 11 delis, on top of the seafood, fried chicken and international fare food vendors, Lexington Market has dozens of options for you to grab a quick bite to eat, depending on your lunch time fancy.
If time permits and you're looking for something more mid-scale you have several choices in the Harbor ranging from Spanish tapas at La Tasca Restaurant to seafood at Phillips Harbor Place Restaurant or Rusty Scupper to American fare at the Cheesecake Factory.
More upscale options for the business or special occasion lunches can be had at formal restaurant and locations like Brightons Orangerie in the Harbor Court Hotel or just about any other hotel in the Harbor with an onsite restaurant. And don't rule out the food trucks - they're mobile, cheap, fast and just about anywhere in the city. Baltimore has your mid-day nourishment needs covered whether you're looking to eat a little or a lot.
9 Holy Frijoles!
This Mexican restaurant in Hampden shoulders the responsibility of delivering latin food to the neighborhood. Holy Frijoles serves up margaritas, generous portions of chips and salsa and plenty of rice and frijoles (beans). Some may call the decor tacky whereas others might think of it as charming. The artsy, colorful dining room only has a dozen tables, but they're always full of people, both locals and visitors looking to enjoy their fair share of tacos, enchiladas, margaritas, and burritos. The dishes can be considered Americanized Mexican food filled with beans and whatever else the cook can think of. Considering the location and large portions, plates are surprisingly affordable. (410-235-2326)
8 La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar & Restaurant
La Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant and Bar is a quick trip to the Mediterranean right at the Inner Harbor. Classic Spanish decor and scenic Harbor views make this tapas restaurant a great choice for visitors. A wide variety of tapas include vegetarian options, chicken, seafood, beef and pork. Tapas prices are very reasonable for the location. The sangria list is impressive with over 12 varieties available. The Langostinos, Patatas Bravas, and Berenjenas Fritas are popular flavorful dishes and highly recommended. Live flamenco and guitar takes place on Thursdays at 7:30 and 9. And with sangria pitchers at half-off on this day, it makes it an easy vehicle to get you into a flamenco dancing mood. $3 "happy hour" runs from 4-7pm on weekdays. (4102092562)
7 Mama's on the Half Shell
A 10-minute drive from the Inner Harbor, Mama's on the Half Shell is located in the Canton-Highlandtown area. Opening in 2003 and joining the myriad of seafood houses in Baltimore, Mama's environment is down-to-earth. This popular hangout offers classic Baltimore dishes such as their highly-praised fried crab cakes with mustard and their raw bar of oysters and clams. Mama's interior resembles a classic tavern, decked with dark wood and low lighting. Their low prices, large portions, and seafood all-stars such as the Blue point and grilled oysters, fish and chips, swordfish, and pan-seared scallops make it a favorite not only in Canton Square but the Baltimore area on the whole. (410-276-3160)
6 Nacho Mama's
Nacho Mama's is a fun place to grab a quick bite of Mexican food for lunch, possibly without the long wait you'll find after work. However, be prepared, the wait can be just about as long as the menu on some days. Popular with the young post-collegiate crowd, this relaxed Mexican restaurant offers well-prepared cuisine fit for a king. Portraits of Elvis line the walls, depicting him in various guises. Some regulars even swear he visits occasionally for great nachos, burritos and fajitas. If you have a lighter appetite, you will appreciate the numerous vegetarian options, such as the portabella and spinach quesadilla, as well as entrees like grilled tuna. At this quirky establishment, the requisite nachos are served in a (clean) hubcap, and the local National Bohemian beer is only a dollar. (410-675-0898)
5 Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory is one of Baltimore's few trusted chain of restaurants. Its prime real estate at Harborplace, overlooking the water make it an easy and popular destination for visitors staying at nearby hotels. Its popularity means long waits. The Cheesecake Factory offers an extensive and eclectic list of appetizers, drinks, deserts, and entrees with a range that would appeal to even the pickiest eaters. Menu choices include American fare as well as ethnically-inspired dishes. Well known for their cheesecakes with non-traditional varieties such as red velvet cheesecake and white chocolate caramel macadamia nut cheesecake. They even offer a Sunday brunch menu and take-out just in case waiting isn't an option. (410-234-3990)
4 Waterfront Kitchen
Ensconced in the ground floor of the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Meyers Museum, the Waterfront Kitchen serves meals, quite simply, that you'll be remembering fondly (and hungrily) weeks later. Chef Jerry Pellegrino and his spectacular team pride themselves on being a "seed-to-table" institution, owing to their heavy emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. This popular Fell's Point restaurant adds diversity to the neighborhood, taking the dining experience up a notch. On Sundays Waterfront Kitchen serves brunch from 11am-3pm with entree prices ranging from $9-$20. And to go with pocket-friendly prices and fresh local food is a view of the east side of the Inner Harbor to be admired by any other restaurant in the area. (443-681-5310)
3 McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant
McCormick & Schmick's has been serving hungry seafood lovers at Pier 5 near the Inner Harbor since 1998. Although the restaurant is a part of a national chain, this location is distinctly Baltimore serving up local favorites like Maryland crab soup. When the weather is warm, patrons have access to outdoor dining on a first come, first serve basis. The menu changes regularly and the "Fresh List", which highlights fresh catches, changes daily. For the budget conscious, lunch is a viable option with 10 entree offerings for $10 each. The seafood selection is fresh and extensive with over 30 selections of fish ranging from Virginia Chincoteague oysters to Tocumen, and Panama yellow fin tuna. (410-234-1300, 888-344-6861)
2 Brightons Orangerie
Located in the former Harbor Court Hotel now called the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel, this elegant dining and tea room features fine chandeliers, dainty furnishings and a beautiful panoramic view of the Inner Harbor. Drawing straight from the waters of the Chesapeake, the kitchen boasts artful presentations of fresh seafood, regional cuisine, and other delicacies such as turtle soup and frog legs also appear on the menu. Daily specials are created using herbs and from the hotel's rooftop garden. If you're looking to do something a little sophisticated with some girlfriends or just enjoy this British tradition, high tea is served on Friday and Saturday afternoons. (410-347-9750, 800-824-0076)
1 Faidley Seafood
Faidley's, located minutes from the Inner Harbor in Lexington Market, is a crab cake landmark. The building itself has been around since 1886. Eat-In is done at stand-up tables where diners can enjoy other Faidley seafood favorites such as raw oysters, shrimp, and clams before heading to the main attraction. Their award-winning crab cakes have been featured in various publications as well as on the Food Network in a crab cake show-down where they came out on top. Patrons can choose between regular or jumbo lump crab cakes where they're fried in minutes and accompanied by any number of side dishes. Visitors interested in enjoying Faidley's crab cakes at home can also have them shipped. (410-727-4898)
About Tawanna Browne Smith
Tawanna has had a wanderlust spirit since she was 13. A dozen or so addresses later, she now resides in Maryland with her husband and two sons. Tawanna is the founder and creator of Mom's Guide To Travel, a family travel blog. She's also a contributor to the Travel Channel. If she's not traveling somewhere out of state, she's either shopping or searching for the best crabcake or the best cupcake in the Baltimore-Washington area.
Read more about Tawanna Browne Smith here.