Of all the trips on the Red Sox schedule this fall, Ryan was really surprised when I planned my Baltimore trip first. In his words, “Baltimore is kind of dumpy”. When I think of Baltimore, the Broadway orchestra starts to play and the Hairspray soundtrack starts rolling…. “GOOD MORNING BALTIMORE!” I did in fact sing this song every morning while we were there. I love Baltimore! It was one of the first cities I visited in college because two of my best friends grew up there. It’s the city famous for Old Bay seasoning and crabs. It’s the city where I first ordered a soft shell crab and didn’t understand that I was eating a shell. It’s the city in the north where people have a slight Minnesota twang, but oddly talk like they are from the south, y’all know what I’m talking about? It’s a city all to it’s own and so full of unique culture. Here’s the play-by-play of where we went, what we saw, and of course what you should eat if you make it to the great city of Baltimore.
Best Breakfast: This is a toss up. We went to two very different places, both with unusual menus and character. The first is Miss Shirley’s, which has a contemporary feel and great outdoor patio. We went with some friends and had a delightful sunny brunch. Ryan ordered the breakfast sliders: one each of pulled pork, bacon and white cheddar, and goat cheese, spinach and red peppers. Each is served on a small challah roll and filled with scrambled eggs. It’s definitely the order for the diner that can’t decide on one item. I ordered the Skinny Shirley- an egg white omelet with lots of veggies and a green salad. To compensate for the healthiness I ordered an appetizer of fried pickles which are my favorite. These were particularly crispy and the exact saltiness I was looking for. They are accompanied by a dill dipping sauce that was tangy and fresh. If you are starting the day with a cocktail, the Old Bay bloody mary was smooth, spicy, and refreshing. It’s served with a garden of vegetable condiments.
Day two breakfast had a lot to live up to after Miss Shirley’s, and we went the opposite direction to Blue Moon Cafe which is located in Fells Point. Blue Moon has roughly 8 tables. We went on a Friday at about 10:45 am, when the rest of the world is supposed to be at work, and ended up waiting over an hour to be seated. The good news is that it’s worth waiting for. Blue Moon Cafe was featured on Food Network (DDD I believe) for the Captn Crunch Crusted French Toast. Yes, I know, it is genius. Crispy, sweet crust around tender challah. All served with fresh fruit and whipped cream. It’s offered as a special, not a regular menu item, but ask for it no matter what. We also ate another menu special, the Baby Jesus (Ryan renamed it the Baby Moses)- lump crab meat benedict served with Old Bay infused hollandaise and crispy home fries. It is by no means healthy and by all means hearty and awesome. They have a number of healthy options including oatmeal, egg white omelets, and fruit parfaits for those readers who just had a heart attack. The staff has a lot of character and sass, the decoration is eclectic and charming, and the food comes fast. Go there. Ryan suspected they take call-ins to get your name on the list, so I would recommend trying that and getting there early on a weekend.
Take a Lap Around the Inner Harbor: No matter where you stay in downtown Baltimore, you are likely in a short walking distance of the Inner Harbor. I recommend talking the walk from Camden Yards to Fells Point, roughly two miles along the water. It’s beautiful on a sunny day. You can easily make a day of this by stopping at the National Aquarium, checking out the USS Constellation and other historic ships, or taking a peddle boat into the water. There are bridge walks throughout the water to make it accessible to pedestrians. If you head there at night there are many restaurants with live bands and waterfront seating.
Indulge Your Appetite and Intellect: Wit and Wisdom is located in the Four Seasons Hotel right on the water. It is run by Chef Michael Mina, a culinary mastermind in Baltimore. As the name implies, the menu at Wit and Wisdom puts whimsical touches on traditional dishes. We went for happy hour for a drink and some appetizers and if you can’t make it for dinner I recommend you do the same. They have great specials on cocktails and a lot of the appetizers are served for just $5. We ordered the homemade Old Bay chips and french onion dip and the lobster corn dogs. They were everything I wanted them to be and better. You can always tell when something is made from scratch and it makes all the difference.
Eating Light and Late: As I’ve mentioned a time or two, we eat dinner around 11:00 pm. Depending on where we go it isn’t always easy to find kitchens open that late. Lucky for us, Talaria was located right near our hotel and open until midnight. My friend Kim Dubront recommended them for their ceviche and I was immediately interested. For those that don’t know, ceviche is most commonly found is South American cuisine. It is raw fish that is marinated in a highly acidic sauce. The acidity cooks the fish so that it is served in a style similar to seared ahi tuna. They have a menu of flavor options and you can choose your fish as well. I ordered the ahi tuna with the avocado and corn preparation. The tuna is finely chopped and seasoned with traditional flavors like jalapenos, lime juice, corn, and red peppers. It is smooth and creamy; served with plantain chips for that necessary crunch. I also ordered grilled calamari with their signature fire and ice preparation- hot and spicy habeneros that are cooled with a prickly pear granita. It hits your tongue with so much flavor it’s overwhelming and intriguing. If you aren’t one for fish they have a full menu of South American dishes like empanadas, arroz con pollo, and filet mignon with chimichurri. The ambiance is young and vibrant and great for a fun evening out with friends.
Best Dinner: One thing you should know about these baseball trips is that I have a list of restaurants to eat at long before we land. I research online and read dozens of magazine articles in search of the must-eats in any city. We are both good about asking the locals for recommendations as well. So when Ryan’s friend Trygg called to say that he made a reservation for our long-awaited double date, I nearly dropped the phone. EXCUSE ME, THAT’S MY JOB! Lucky for me I decided to check out the menu before protesting; Trygg must know me better than I thought. Woodberry Kitchen is about 10 minutes north of downtown Baltimore and serves up modern-American cuisine from locally grown ingredients. They are serious about farm-to-table eating and do a phenomenal job serving it up. The restaurant has a big, open kitchen in the center and homey, barn-inspired ambiance. Brick walls add a rustic touch and the dim lighting is exciting and enchanting. They have an outdoor fire pit on the weekends and it’s a great place to enjoy their exciting and original cocktail menu. With four big eaters at an upstairs the table, it was easy to start ordering away… here’s the blush-worthy list of what we ate:
Appetizers included the deviled eggs (perfect) and the homemade sausage topped with an over easy egg served and sweet potato. Rarely do you find homemade sausage, it really is a treat. Ryan ordered the bacon, red onion jam, and cheddar flatbread and it was everything a fat kid could want. A sophisticated bacon cheeseburger if you will. Local Chesapeake Bay oysters made the rounds and are served with homemade mignonettes including sweet horseradish cocktail sauce and spicy buffalo sauce. The creativity is endless. For entrees we ordered the Maryland Crab Soup, the soft shell crab, a beef stroganoff inspired noodle dish, and the tavern steak with red pepper sauce. The dishes were executed perfectly. Full yet? There’s always room for dessert! Ryan and Trygg ordered versions of the Paw Paw ice cream. Huh? Paw Paw is a local fruit; as our waiter described it looks like a mango and tastes like a banana. They homemade ice cream from it and serve it sundae style or like a frozen banana cream pie. We ordered both.
Best Sweet Treat: My roommate Katlyn introduced me to Berger cookies when I was a freshman in college. The company is home grown in Baltimore and their cookies are delightful- a thin cake-like vanilla cookie that is heavily dipped in rich chocolate fudge. Since Ryan is the big chocolate lover of the family, I knew he had to try them. Out in the suburbs you can find berger cookies in most grocery stores; downtown they were a little harder to find. Take a cab up to the Lexington Market (I’ll be honest in saying it’s not the nicest area of town). They have a stand in the market where Berger bakery sells about two dozen different cookies and cake products. Look for the traditional cookie, which you can buy by the pound or in prepackaged containers.