This post originally appeared in the October 14, 2023 edition of Eater’s Travel newsletter, a place for Eater’s editors and writers to share their tips for navigating the world’s most delicious destinations. Subscribe now.
Every time I go back home to Baltimore, one of my first stops is a no-brainer: Locust Point, the peninsular neighborhood just south of the city, houses a number of hidden treasures. After a recent crawl that terminated at Diamondback Brewery, my friends and I ambled down to Himalayan House to enjoy platters of succulent momos, the thin-skinned dumplings found throughout the Himalayas often packed with chicken, beef, goat, or vegetables and served with a spicy, ginger-and-chile-pepper-inflected dipping sauce. The restaurant serves delicious Indian fare, but its Nepalese specialties, which are incredibly hard to find elsewhere throughout the region, are not to be missed.
It’s a welcome reprieve, a moment to enjoy the progress the city has made in spite of the fraught history that still looms large to this day. Charm City has had a real tough time getting out of its own way. The lasting environmental, political, socio-economic, and cultural impacts that decades of redlining and displacement continue to have — not only on Baltimore’s Black population but on the city as a whole — are omnipresent.
But Baltimoreans persist. You don’t have to look hard to see that the city is a beehive of innovation, where constituents new and old are collaborating to usher in a brighter future. And I’ve been able to appreciate how deeply this intentionally inclusive attitude has been permeating the city’s restaurant scene with each return trip. Of course, I love coming home, but it’s a pleasure amplified by seeing many of the city’s residents grapple with the history they’ve witnessed or inherited. Especially if that looks like a more expansive and delicious drinking and dining scene.
I can’t head to Baltimore without a visit to Mama’s on the Half Shell to slurp down a dozen Chincoteague oysters or enjoy a cup of chowder. From there, I might visit the American Visionary Art Museum to browse its latest installation, or head to one of my favorite Greek wholesalers, Prima Foods, to stock up on imported olives and fresh-cut blocks of feta.
If I’m making dinner, a visit to Angels Ate Lemons for a bottle or two of natural wine is a must. If not, perhaps I’m hitting its sibling restaurant Chachi’s for rotisserie chicken paired with fresh, vibrant sauces, crisp salads, schmaltzy potatoes, and rotating seasonal specials that always seem to perfectly epitomize the unstuffy, communal atmosphere this team has worked so hard to establish. Though any return trip would hardly be complete without a meal at Little Donna’s, where ice-cold martinis abound and dinner feels more like pulling up a chair in chef Robbie Tutlewski’s childhood home around family-style platters of schnitzel, plump pierogi, pickled vegetables, and thin-crust tavern pies.
Of course, crabs are a must, even if for the nostalgia factor alone: I learned how to properly pick a Chesapeake Bay blue crab before my motor functions fully developed. Also, there’s something so satisfying about cracking open those bright red-orange claws, dunking the sweet, luscious meat into a ramekin of drawn butter, and washing it all down with a cold Natty Boh that will never get old for me. Cantler’s Riverside Inn, a decades-only, family-owned restaurant about 25 minutes outside of the city is my go-to spot. But the area is flush with crab shacks, and the spots our team has rounded up will never steer you wrong. But, if you’re less inclined to get your hands dirty, a jumbo lump crab cake or soft-shell sandwich may be the right move for you. Or, kick-start the weekend with one of Amanda Mack’s legendary crab hand pies, which are available for preorder online to be picked up at Crust by Mack’s pop-up downtown. Believe it or not, one of the sleeper hit soft-shell sandwiches in the city comes from none other than the concessions at Oriole Park, Camden Yards. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until next year to try that one.