Monday, February 26, 2024

Visiting Charm City? You Need to Try This!

When I go to NY and visit with my friend Daisy, she takes me to all the best eateries. And I don't mean fancy 3 Michelin star restaurants like Le Bernardin. Instead, she takes me to the best places to get banh mi, birria tacos, ice cream, and pizza. In a city like New York, there's more than one place to get the "best" in pretty much any category. Here in little old Baltimore, however, there are far fewer choices. Sometimes I think, if Daisy came to visit me here in Baltimore, where would we eat?  

neighborhood bird from Ekiben
First of all, we'd go to Ekiben and chow down on the chicken sandwich known as the Neighborhood Bird: a fat fried Taiwanese-curry-seasoned chicken thigh or two (I've even had a sandwich with three!) crammed into a rather large and pillowy bao bun and topped with sambal mayo and a handful of herbs. Another must-order there is the gluten-free tempura broccoli topped with sliced Chinese sausage, fresh herbs, red onion, and a dose of rice vinegar. Those are my favorites, but to be very honest...everything at Ekiben is perfect.

Koco's crab cake, served at home
Koco's Pub is next on the list. While I'm sure all their grub is good, unless one is allergic to shellfish, the massive 11-ounce crabcake is mandatory. Right now, one cake with crackers, lettuce, tomato, and pickle is a splurge at $36.99; four bucks more will get fries and cole slaw, too. If one is feeling cheap, there's a smaller 6-oz cake available (Wed - Fri until 4pm only) for $22.99. I suggest going for the gusto and getting a 11-oz sandwich, which is plenty large enough for sharing. Daisy will probably want her own. Honestly, I think she has two stomachs. 

steamed crabs from Salty Dogs
We might opt for steamed crabs, though not necessarily instead of crab cakes. I like getting carry-out from Salty Dogs, but we could dine in at Bill's Terrace Inn, instead. Bill's crab cakes are pretty decent, so we could get both cakes and steamed crabs there. Mmmm...making myself hungry here.

mushroom "crab" cake at Foraged
Keeping with the crab cake theme, we'd probably also hit up Foraged and sample their "crab" cake made with lion's mane mushrooms. So good. And also a selection of their pig parts, definitely the kool ranch pig ears, maybe some snout and/or jowl. One really can't go wrong there.

bone marrow crab dip from True Chesapeake
I'd also want to take Daisy to True Chesapeake. For oysters multiple ways, of course, but also for the fantastic crab and bone marrow dip and also to eat whatever invasive species they might have on the menu at the moment, snakehead or blue catfish or both.

loaded yuca fries from La Food Marketa
We also might go to La Food Marketa, where we'd order the yuca fries loaded with short rib and a fried egg, the reuben quesadilla, the street cauliflower, and any number of other fine things. Or we could go to their sister restaurant, The Food Market, and order pretty much everything on the menu, but especially the soft pretzels and a Baltimore club.

ice cream cone at the Hampden location of The Charmery
What about dessert? I think a scoop of Old Bay Caramel ice cream from The Charmery would do nicely. Or any flavor from Taharka Brothers.

New York has world-class Chinese food, so there's no place in Baltimore that would be particularly impressive to someone who lives in Manhattan. Folks from other areas, however, I'd absolutely take them to Red Pepper or Kung Fu 12. It seems that half the restaurants in NY are Italian, and while we have some good places in the Baltimore area, nothing tops what New York has to offer. The same for pizza, though I feel like the pies at Squire's are different enough for a visitor to appreciate. They're not NY-style, for sure, and not Neapolitan-style either, with their firm and crisp crust and somewhat sweet and herby sauce. One can say the same for Ledo, which some will argue isn't even pizza. (Then what is it?) 

If any other Baltimore-area readers have suggestions as to where to take an out-of-towner for a Baltimore dining experience that won't be found anywhere else, I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment!

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