Best Restaurants in Baltimore

Food for All Moods: Baltimore's More than Crab (Though Ours Is Best)

Baltimore is a city where the hip and the high society mix freely. Interesting cuisine is being served in places with a decidedly casual feel, though we still have special occasion dining, too. There are several restaurants that have two sides to their interiors, allowing different experiences to take place. Baltimore has access to the finest bounty in the nation: seafood such as Maryland Blue crab, cod, striped bass that we call "rockfish", trout from our nearby mountains, as well as tomatoes, heirloom corn, peaches, cantaloupe and even obscure hot peppers. Maybe surprisingly to some, Baltimore is also a city where you can also get a world-class steak.

Baltimore has several places that other cities call "restaurant row". The major streets, the Harbor, Harbor East, the neighborhoods have stretches where you'll discover restaurant after restaurant. Some people will like having wide selection, while others will try them all in a progressive dinner.

The region is home to different ethnic groups – both in the city and in the suburbs – creating a melting pot of flavors.

With a vibrant professional economy, there are definitely upscale options, yet this is a city with a blue collar heritage that appreciates value in all things.


Anne Arundel County
Beefalo Bob's
Photo courtesy of Beefalo Bob's

"Pit Beef" – smoked, thinly sliced beef on a Kaiser roll with raw onion as a garnish is a Baltimore thing – even Anthony Bourdain said so! But he didn't go to the right place. Many pit beef stands use gas to cook, resulting in a residual lighter fluid flavor. Others never know how to achieve different levels of doneness: no rare! Beefalo Bob's does pit beef, ham, turkey, as well as pulled pork and other forms of 'cue. Their hickory wood-smoked meats are succulent, the portions enormous. Pit beef (well-done) ends are enjoying a culinary moment all on their own; Beefalo Bob's has them as an appetizer. A foodie without tons of cash can really enjoy himself here. Many pit beef stands are outdoors only with limited hours, but Beefalo Bob's is a full-service sports bar.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Baltimore's pit beef is world-famous, but it's not all created alike! Pasadena's Beefalo Bob's is worth driving in from the other counties to experience.

Tamar's expert tip: Beefalo Bob's also does casual, as well as formal catering. They smoke on site! So, even that most upscale party can have little sliders of delectable meats to pass on pretty trays.

Read more about Beefalo Bob's →

Pho Towson & Bar
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

There are lots of places to get Vietnamese pho in the metro area, but this restaurant does it outstandingly, plus has many more strengths, too. The pho itself is in a rich, well-developed and slow-cooked broth. They're generous with meats and have the option of adding even more. Plus, they always give a generous amount of the freshest garnishes, like sliced onion, scallions, cilantro, bean sprouts and lime. Craving something a little more solid? "Salted Shrimps", one of their appetizers, are a generous portion of fried shrimp with the head on. Try it, you'll like it! Pho Towson & Bar also has quite the unusual cocktail list, developed from exotic locales around the globe.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Inexpensive isn't a value if the quality's not there. The pho here is, phenomenal.

Tamar's expert tip: This restaurant is in the lobby of a Best Western Plus (their upscale brand). If you're staying there, Pho Towson will do room service!

Read more about Pho Towson & Bar →

Corner Charcuterie Bar
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

This restaurant started as BYOB, while later a charcuterie bar opened around the corner. While both sides now have a liquor license, they still have their distinctions. The Corner definitely requires reservations and is medium-casual. Cuisine is determined by their Belgian chef founder, who also incorporates exotic wild game and offal. "The Other Corner" has a vibe like you were invited to a friend's private cabin in the woods; it's fun to sit at the bar. Both sides have terrific promotions. The Corner offers a 3 course pre-fixe on Mondays for $25. The Other Corner has a $20 dinner special that includes a glass of wine or beer, a salad or soup and the special entrée of the day.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: People love to try new, exotic foods and wild game, but affordably. Corner Charcuterie Bar is a great place for a date.

Tamar's expert tip: On May 2, you'll no longer be allowed to BYOB. They have a "Gastronaut Society" – a private eating club – that gets you invites to even more exotic, wild game choices.

Read more about Corner Charcuterie Bar →

North Baltimore
Miss Shirley's
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Miss Shirley's – with 3 metro locations – is like a psychedelic kaleidoscope take on Southern brunch. Presentations are gloriously over the top and portions are huge. If one savory garnish is great with a Bloody Mary, why not 6, including a crab claw or slice of jalapeno smoked bacon? Traditional low-country ingredients, like benne seeds, meet the best of the Chesapeake Bay. Whether your tastes run to breakfast items like eggs Benedict or hearty lunch fare like a Hot Brown, inventive lemonades or sizeable cocktails, you're covered. If you're figure conscious, they have a special menu for all the fun without the guilt. Right now, they've brought back items for their 10th anniversary.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Everything is fun, flavorful and decadent. The setting is casual, so don't be embarrassed to dig in. The menu changes seasonally.

Tamar's expert tip: If you come early (before the bohemian late-risers and the after church crowd), you shouldn't have to wait in line. They don't take reservations, but they do have a food truck that can be spotted at various downtown locales.

Read more about Miss Shirley's →

Costas Inn
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Costas Inn has its own take on seasoning for steamed crabs: they don't just throw a bunch of Old Bay and black pepper on them. It has a distinct sweetness to it – perhaps some toasted onion in there. It's been acclaimed by all kinds of celebrities and food authors, including David Rosengarten and the folks on the Today show. In the mood for something to start with (or instead of crabs)? Their oysters Oysters Rockefeller are truly must-get. Run! They do a twist on the Pernod sauce with Amaretto. This lends a sweetness to the already sweet-fresh oysters that's perfect. They're rich, the recipe doesn't mask the seafood and the oysters are HUGE. You could definitely order the 5 oyster size (also available in 3 oyster size portion) for your lunch or light-ish dinner and be completely satisfied. Not to mention happy!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: You gotta try crabs in Baltimore! But so many places are tourist traps. Costas Inn is a family-owned, neighborhood place that's world-famous for its quality.

Tamar's expert tip: Costas Inn ships nationwide, so send a taste of Baltimore to your friends.

Read more about Costas Inn →

East Baltimore
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

It's fitting that this Harbor East restaurant is named for the Italian word for "wild boar": it's one of the city's finest places to find nose-to-tail cuisine and wild game, done Northern and Piedmont Italian style. You'll trust Chef Julian Marucci with his more exotic offerings after experiencing the perfection of his Black Bass, pan roasted duck, etc. Regulars know that his rabbit is one of the best you'll ever eat. Even desserts are wildly creative, including parsnip cheesecake, blue cheese gelato, spiced beet cake. The restaurant has two distinct sides: a fine dining, dressy Osteria and the casual (feel free to wear jeans or shorts as you munch on snacks of hand-cut charcuterie and wine) Enoteca.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This Northern Italian restaurant is not stuck in a time rut. From expert nose-to-tail use of meats to interesting desserts, the experience itself is fresh.

Tamar's expert tip: Every Tuesday in the Enoteca – the casual side – is the "Cellar Raid": bottles of wine are half priced. Co-owner Tony Foreman is a renowned wine expert, so the selections are primo.

Read more about Cinghiale →

Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Aldo's is considered by far and away the most gourmet restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy. Family owned, Chef and son Sergio Vitale is a true foodie. He travels the world, checks out different restaurants, sources the very best in meats and local produce. Vitale is insistent on not drowning their natural goodness in butter and cream. Not all beef carpaccios are created equal: Aldo's excels from the traditional with the addition of tonnato sauce, a mayo with tuna flavors! It's a surprisingly tasty pairing with beef. Apparently, it also fits into the paleo diet, if that's your thing. The interior of this classic Baltimore row home has been transformed to resemble an outdoor Italian restaurant, complete with sidewalk . . . but the "interior" tables are comfier and more private.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Aldo's breaks away from the commonly seen mass-produced in a giant pan dishes. Techniques like sous-vide and gourmet ingredients are married to Italian recipes.

Tamar's expert tip: Limoncello, the famous chilled Italian lemon after dinner drink, is made in-house.

Read more about Aldo's →

The Prime Rib
Photo courtesy of Tamar Aleia Fleishman

Washingtonian magazine once had an article about the difficulty of obtaining and aging the finest of meats and it turns out that The Prime Rib has some of the best in the country. Big, thick, juicy and simply seasoned, the meat takes center stage. It's hard to stray away from such a masterpiece, but their lamb, soft-shelled crabs and dry aged USDA Prime NY Strip are all also excellent. This is the original of three restaurants up and down the East Coast; it opened in 1965. It's modeled after the great 1940's steakhouses in New York, with live jazz combo every night, black walls adorned with fine art. Servers are in tuxedos. While men are no longer required to wear jacket and tie, many do: this is a special occasion restaurant where celebrities, politicians and people getting engaged celebrate.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is one of Baltimore's last remaining classic restaurants. Go here for the finest steaks with traditional sides in a retro-chic atmosphere.

Tamar's expert tip: Desserts are rather an afterthought here, so save your calories for the savories.

Read more about The Prime Rib →

Antrim 1844 Smokehouse restaurant
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

The finest dining experience in the Baltimore metro region is without question Taneytown's Antrim 1844 Smokehouse. Pulling up to the historic plantation mansion, every aspect is special. Dinner guests spend a half hour in the parlor, being served passed hors d'oeuvres and the cocktail or wine of their choice. It's like a private party! Then, you are led downstairs to the original smokehouse decorated with portraits of Civil War generals. Antrim is only 15 minutes away from Gettysburg, after all. Chef Spencer Wolff is new at the helm, taking the menu in the direction of Contemporary American cuisine. With the melting pot that America is, that promises to have lots of potential. Dinners are prix-fixe 6 courses that you can pair with wines. Their wine collection is known to be one of the best on the East Coast. For a $400 wine purchase, you can dine in the wine cellar.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This has the whole package that the epicure desires: dramatic entrance and interior, piano music in the background, local ingredients, fine wines.

Tamar's expert tip: You can book dinner in the wine cellar – all to yourself – for a $400 wine purchase.

Read more about Antrim 1844 Smokehouse restaurant →