Today Eater returns to Baltimore, Maryland to focus on 12 newish restaurants that have been garnering some serious buzz. Once again, local food writer Ryan Detter has kindly offered up his picks of the city’s hottest openings from the past 12 months.
It comes as no surprise that there’s plenty of options for shellfish lovers — Maryland crab is famous for a reason, seriously — and right now the city is crushing on oysters and raw bar plateaus (Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Gunther & Co., Loch Bar). Wood-fired pizza is also having a moment (Paulie Gee’s, Cosima). As in other American cities, Baltimore is racking up new food halls (R. House), exploring accessible French fare (Colette), and showing up for fast-casual concepts (Ekiben).
1 Dylan’s Oyster Cellar
What started as a pop-up in the summer of 2014 has finally led to proprietor Dylan Salmon’s brick and mortar ode to bivalves in hip Hampden. Think white-tiled floors, classic cocktails, clams, whole fish, and oysters of all varieties prepared raw, fried, and more. The paint on the walls has barely dried, having just opened in December, but Instagram is already abuzz with the pan-roasted oysters.
2 Paulie Gee’s Hampden
It took a while, but this outpost of the famed Brooklyn pizzeria by the same name finally opened to much fanfare this past summer. The former Hampden Republican Club has been transformed into a Neapolitan-style pizza lover’s haven with ample wood paneling, two straight-from-Italy wood-burning ovens, and a bar tucked away in the back. An impressive list of 31 pizzas includes a variety of creative toppings (Meyer lemons, local brisket, hot chile oil) and an entire vegetarian section.
3 Cosima Mill No. 1
Tucked away inside an old, refurbished mill, you’ll find this modern tribute to Sicilian cuisine. Owner Donna Crivello’s team is serving up wood-fired pizzas, smoked mozzarella arancini, pastas, and elevated takes on entrees that are inspired by Crivello’s grandmother (the restaurant’s namesake). The space includes a sleek bar for small plates and cocktails, an industrial-meets-chic dining room, and a picturesque outdoor patio that overlooks the Jones Falls’ babbling brooks. (Valet recommended.)
4 R House
The second food hall to open in Baltimore in as many years, this former auto body shop has been totally revamped into a modern, industrial space serving trend-forward food from local chef-driven stalls. With coffee and breakfast (Ground & Griddled), traditional tacos (Amano Taco), massive fried chicken sandwiches (BRD), handmade arepas (White Envelope), vegetarian fare (Stall 11), Mediterranean street food (ARBA), Korean (BeBim), poke bowls (Hilo), desserts (Little Baby’s Ice Cream, BLK // Sugar), and a 40-seat bar, there’s something for everyone.
The owner of Station North’s highly touted Bottega opened this sister restaurant early last year to ravereviews. Adrien Aeschliman has taken the charming experience of his first restaurant, but added a bar serving classic cocktails and a menu that focuses on unfussy French fare. The menu changes regularly, but expect seasonal vegetables, proteins such as quail and stuffed rabbit, whole fish, the well-known Gruyère beignets, and an approachable wine list.
6 Wet City
The explosion of craft beer guarantees a solid IPA at most bars, but if you want to dig deeper, this Mount Vernon bar has an excellently curated list, including esoteric sours from Europe, double IPA’s from little-known breweries in Pennsylvania, and options even the biggest beer fan likely hasn’t heard of. Enjoy your brews in a clean, Scandinavian-inspired space while nibbling on elevated familiar eats like shrimp and grits and Nashville hot chicken.
7 The Elephant
Once a shuttered Baltimore institution, the Brass Elephant rises again as a modern take on the original. Take in the ornate dining rooms filled with original teak carved doorways, Tiffany-style stained glass windows, and crystal chandeliers while sampling items such as lamb tagine and wood-fired flatbreads, or head upstairs for drinks and small plates at the opulent 32-foot original marble bar.
8 Loch Bar
Local restaurateur Alex Smith has added a swank oyster bar to his list of Harbor East restaurants (he also owns the highly regarded Azumi and Ouzo Bay). At Loch Bar you’ll enjoy towers of shellfish at the sweeping marble bar and live music seven days a week. For dinner, grab a seat on one of the leather tufted banquettes or the outdoor patio and indulge in other East Coast favorites like crab cakes and lobster rolls as you take in the killer view of the harbor.
9 Bar Vasquez
The latest restaurant from James Beard finalist Cindy Wolf is an homage to her Argentinian mentor, chef Marcelo Vasquez. This Harbor East restaurant takes inspiration from that region’s meat-forward cuisine, highlighting beef flown in from Uruguay, sausage from Argentina, and locally raised meats from the mid-Atlantic. For those not in the mood for red meat, there’s a large selection of small plates, a variety of empanadas, pizzas, and fish, all served in a lush, two-floored space filled with palm trees and nightly live music.
10 Ekiben Baltimore
Steam buns are all the rage at this Fell’s Point spot. Three recent college grads started selling their wares at the Saturday farmers market, eventually generating enough buzz to move into a permanent spot in the historic neighborhood. Expect pillowy buns overstuffed with curry fried chicken, Thai meatballs, or Old Bay steamed shrimp, and sides of tempura broccoli served in a fast-casual space that’s small but hip.
Chef Brian Lavin (previously the chef at the acclaimed restaurnts Salt and Fork & Wrench) finally has a place of his own with Gnocco. Focusing on modern Italian and Spanish dishes in a well-appointed but comfortable neighborhood space, he’s put together a menu of thoughtfully presented small plates such as saffron arancini and roasted veal sweetbreads, a handful of handmade pastas (most notably the squid ink gnocchi), and a couple of rotating entrees.
12 Gunther & Co.
Gunther Brewing Company’s abandoned boiler rooms have been transformed into this stunner in the Canton neighborhood. Choose either the relaxed bar area — where you’ll enjoy innovative cocktails from head bartender Shaun Stewart and oysters on the half shell — or go for dinner in the sweeping dining room, replete with a lush living wall and a 30-ft open kitchen, where diners can watch chef Jerry Trice create globally influenced dishes like a hoisin-glazed rack of lamb or a Thai seafood pot.