The 14 Best Restaurants in Baltimore

two arms passing off a plate over a table filled with wine glasses

Courtesy of The Helmand 

Baltimore often gets lost in the long list of iconic Northeastern foodie destinations, like New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston, but ask any local and you’ll see how closely the city’s culture is linked to food. As the home of the nation’s best crab cakes, several James Beard award-winning chefs, a Food Network famous cake shop, and original creations like Berger Cookies, Snowballs, and Natty Boh, Baltimore packs a lot of rich food history and diversity into a city of only 600,000 people.

01 of 14

Charleston Restaurant

Orand studden couches and wing back chairs in a restaurants with large windows

Courtesy of Charleston

 

Address
1000 Lancaster St, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
Phone +1 410-332-7373

No list about Baltimore restaurants would be complete without the one consistently voted best in the city by Baltimore Magazine and Zagat. Co-owned by an eight-time James Beard finalist for Best Mid-Atlantic Chef, Charleston features artistic, sophisticated American/French fusion small plates served as prix-fixe menus of three to six courses. The wine list with over 600 options is also impressive, but the true selling point is the service: it’s refreshingly welcoming and lacks the pretentiousness normally associated with fine dining. That said, save this spot for planned occasions, as reservations and more formal attire are recommended.

02 of 14

Hersh’s

overhead shot of a wooden table with an assortment entree with a spinach pizza in the center

 Courtesy of Hersh's

Address
1843-45 Light St, Baltimore, MD 21230, USA
Phone +1 443-438-4948

Despite not being as pizza-famous as New York or Chicago, Baltimore has a strong tradition around pizzerias and a reputation for square-shaped pies from Joe Squared. Most pizza places are laid back and accessible enough for family outings, but Hersh’s is particularly ideal for families. It has a menu that not only encourages sharing and features simple pizzas to appeal to fussy eaters, but also includes an array of homemade cheeses, clever topping combinations, and drink selections to satiate grown-up palates. 

03 of 14

Clavel

restaurant with white walls, light wooden chairs and high industrial ceilings. There arre strings of lights hanging overhead

 Courtesy of Clavel

Address
225 W 23rd St, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA
Phone +1 443-900-8983

Whether for a boozy lunch or starting a night out, Clavel’s combination of tacos, ceviches, and agave-based cocktails provides the perfect backdrop to catching up with friends. Founded by the person behind treasured Baltimore speakeasy, W.C. Harlan, this family-owned taqueria and mezcaleria takes pride in its Sinaloan heritage, handmade tortillas, and bartenders trained in mezcal distilling. The space is bright and airy, but be prepared to wait on weekends since tables are limited and service stops at 7 p.m. If you plan ahead, you can tag on an hour-long mezcal tasting experience, too.

04 of 14

Helmand

White bowl with seasoned cauliflore and basmati rice. There is an out of focus spoon behind the bowl

 Courtesy of The Helmand

Address
806 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201-5308, USA
Phone +1 410-752-0311

Although the city’s harbor location and access to the Chesapeake Bay make it a prime spot for fresh seafood, many of Baltimore’s restaurants are vegetarian-friendly. You wouldn’t necessarily expect an Afghan restaurant to be a top recommendation in that department, but Helmand’s menu is evenly balanced between roasted meats and vegetables, and the stand-out dishes are on the vegetarian side. Don’t miss the kaddo borwani (baked baby pumpkin with sugar and garlic sauce), the aushak (Afghan ravioli with leeks), and the fluffy naan.

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05 of 14

La Scala

Address
1012 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
Phone +1 410-783-9209

Baltimore’s Little Italy has a plethora of choices for carbo-loading, but for home-style Sicilian cooking with generous portions and a touch of Baltimore influence, look no further than La Scala. Since he opened the restaurant in 1995, the chef/owner has been checking on diners to see if they like the Maryland twist to veal scaloppini (crab meat), need more cheese for their pasta, or want a bottle of imported olive oil. The hospitality extends beyond the table, too: you can make new friends over the indoor bocce ball court before hopping on the complimentary shuttle back to the harbor.

06 of 14

The Food Market

Small bowl fulled with cheese-topped onion rigs garnished with parsley

 Courtesy of The Food Market

Address
1017 W 36th St, Baltimore, MD 21211-2416, USA
Phone +1 410-366-0606

You know when you see menu items like soft pretzels with beer fondue, lobster fingers with truffle honey mustard, and crab cakes up to a pound in size that you’ve come to the right place if you’re tired, down, or hungry. The ethos is elevated comfort food, but the minimalist industrial design keeps the vibe casual despite flourishes of higher-end ingredients and pricier big plates. If you can only go for one meal: make it brunch. The lazy French toast ("all cut for you, so you can simply start eating") and a separate menu of brunch drinks are local weekend favorites.

07 of 14

Woodberry Kitchen

Overhead shot of a plate of clams and spaghetti on a dark wooden table. There is a fork resting on top of a spoon to the right of the plate

 Courtesy of Woodberry Kitchen

Address
2010 Clipper Park Rd, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA
Phone +1 410-464-8000

To feel completely connected to the Maryland food scene and support local suppliers in the process, head to Woodberry Kitchen. Everything on the menu is sourced directly from local farmers and fishermen, and even drinks are mostly home-grown: all spirits are from the states, the majority of wines are local, and all beers are from Maryland breweries. The building itself also ties into Maryland culture; it’s a restored flour mill from the 18th century, and its high ceilings and leafy terrace offer stunning settings for leisurely indoor or al fresco dining.

08 of 14

PaperMoon Diner

two sausages rolled in panackes on a plate with a small syrup carafe. There is a milkshake in a plastic container to the left of the plate. The food is on a red metal table with a matching chair

Courtesy of PaperMoon Diner

Address
227 W 29th St, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA
Phone +1 410-889-4444

Don’t let the residential location or the lack of prices on the menu fool you: this diner delivers everything you’d expect (large portions for affordable prices) plus a fun, bold, and quirky aesthetic. That design isn’t for everyone—some may not enjoying eating beside a bejeweled, green statue with G.I. Joe soldiers for hair—but it will suit you if you want a break in diner monotony and a mix of classic dishes and unique house specialties. You may need to wait at peak times, and always go in with room for a milkshake.

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09 of 14

Ida B's Table

three pieces of fried chicken on a rectangular ceramic plate. The chicken is garnished with a sprig of rosemary

 Courtesy of Ida B's Table

Address
235 Holliday St, Baltimore, MD 21202-3612, USA
Phone +1 410-844-0444

Baltimore has a strong civil rights heritage, and this soul-food restaurant named after Ida B. Wells—a famous African American journalist and civil rights activist—is an ideal place to pay homage to that ongoing history. The restaurant is a venture of Baltimore’s non-profit journalistic endeavor, The Real News Network, and regularly hosts events and talks in addition to serving up southern comfort food like fried catfish, blackened chicken, and Liberian collard greens.

10 of 14

Akbar

Address
823 N Charles St # B, Baltimore, MD 21201-5387, USA
Phone +1 410-539-0944

Whether you’re escaping the rain or gearing up for a long night ahead, Akbar’s all you can eat lunch buffet of Indian food is available daily for as long as you can manage. The specific dishes are subject to change, but you can count on the usual tandoori and curry suspects. If you have a choice, opt for some of the house specialties, like Peshwari naan and chicken xacutti. Reservations aren’t usually needed for lunch and if you miss the buffet, Akbar also offers an a la carte menu.

11 of 14

L.P. Steamers

person holding a tray of Baltimore crabs

 Courtesy of L.P. Steamers

Address
1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230-5103, USA
Phone +1 410-576-9294

As one of the city’s mascot foods, crabs hold a special place in Baltimorean hearts. Discussions get contentious over which restaurant does them justice, but for arguably the most authentic iteration, go for a family-owned crab shack like L.P. Steamers. Hot steamed crabs are the obvious choice for first-timers, but to get the full Maryland crab experience, grab a seat on the rooftop overlooking the water and round out your meal with the crab dip, Old Bay fries, and fried crab fluff.

12 of 14

Attaman's Authentic NY Delicatessen

overstuffed sandwich cut in half on a plate with two pickles and pile of potato chips and a lemon slice

Courtesy of Attman's Delicatessen 

Address
1019 E Lombard St, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
Phone +1 410-563-2666

One of the last remaining landmarks from Baltimore’s former center of Jewish life, Attman’s has been around since 1915 and has never wavered from having some of the best sandwiches in the city and indeed—according to several publications—the U.S. You can never fail with the hot corned beef or specialty Reuben but be warned that sizes are comparable to Katz in New York or Canter’s in Los Angeles, so even one sandwich may be more than you can chew.

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13 of 14

Miss Shirley's Cafe

stack of four blueberry pancakes on a colorful plater with blueberries and syrup drizzled on top and butter on the side

Courtesy of Miss Shirley's Cafe 

Address
513 W Cold Spring Ln, Baltimore, MD 21210, USA
Phone +1 410-889-5272

The winner of several awards for best brunch in Maryland and best pancakes in the country, Miss Shirley’s offers unbeatable sweet and savory breakfast options with a southern twist. While it has all the grease-heavy dishes you want in a breakfast menu, like chicken and waffles and coconut cream stuffed French toast, it’s also very allergy-friendly and features accommodating menus for kids, vegan, gluten-free, and visually-impaired guests. 

14 of 14

Vaccaro's

a tray with two rows of cream puffs topped with cannoli cream, a maraschino cherry, and green sprinces

Courtesy of Vaccaro's

Address
222 Albemarle St, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
Phone +1 410-685-4905

It’s tempting to mention snowball shacks as Baltimore’s top dessert, but since these shaved ice stands are seasonal, satisfy your sweet tooth any day of the year with this Italian pastry and cookie shop that has served Greater Baltimore area since 1956. With cakes, tiramisu, cannolis, gelato, and over 30 varieties of Italian cookies, you can find something to match any craving. If you get hooked, don’t worry: you can buy large assortment tins or even ship cannolis to your hometown.

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The 14 Best Restaurants in Baltimore