Baltimore has over 250 neighborhoods, each with its own personality and flavor — including when it comes to the food scene.
As a Baltimore food blogger, I read lots of friendly, yet earnest, online discourse between residents on the cuisine of these different neighborhoods. I’ve seen several debates on Twitter and Instagram about who has the best crabcakes, snowball stands or chicken boxes. It’s left me curious and wanting to dine and drink at some of the popular standouts and gems.
I will use this column to explore the city’s eating scene, including restaurants, bars, markets, coffee shops and bakeries. First up are two historic districts, the neighborhoods of Old Goucher and Charles North.
These areas are similar in that they are home to flourishing art scenes, diverse communities, historic buildings, and impressive, award-winning food businesses. Here are a few food and beverage destinations to try in these neighborhoods.
1701 N. Charles St.
Alma Cocina represents the very best of Baltimore’s food scene. The restaurant is Venezuelan-inspired with influences from Latin America and the Caribbean. The space is elevated yet cultured, decorated with lots of greenery, woven baskets and vases. The food? Exceptional! I tried the Latin Gyoza, Pollito (roasted chicken and potatoes), and churros on my recent visit. An unforgettable dining experience full of flavor, creativity and warmth.
12 W. 20th St.
Walking into Kong Pocha, you’re transported to a retro street market with ‘70s and ‘80s decor. The restaurant has some of the city’s best Korean fried chicken along with other traditional Korean food. On weekends, Kong is open until 2 a.m. for some top-tier, late-night eats.
1729 Maryland Avenue
This neighborhood bistro was named one of “The Hot Ten: America’s Best New Restaurants 2019’' by Bon Appétit and one of Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants in America, 2019.” Their approach to a French bistro feels welcoming and different from traditional French bistros I’ve experienced in my food travels. On my latest visit, I ate the Cheddar + Green Onion Toasty, a melty grilled cheese with sharp cheddar and peppery green onions, and the Chicken, Leek + Morel Pie, a golden brown, dignified chicken pot pie with shredded chicken, mushrooms and veggies. With a bottle from their natural wine list (the restaurant offers a list of organic fermented grapes with few or no additives), I’d put this Le Comptoir du Vin visit as one of my favorite meals of the year.
2118 Maryland Avenue
When folks ask for the best wings in Baltimore, iBar is always in the conversation. The bar is famous for their “Chef-Style Wings” — chicken wings, fried hard and tossed in a spicy buffalo, garlic and parmesan sauce. Sometimes I will order the chef-style sauce over steamed shrimp. I’d probably eat anything tossed in iBar’s sauce.
iBar is a Baltimore institution. The space is a bit divey, with dated signs and decor, an old, sturdy bar and filled with locals. The wings are a must-try, and the drinks pack a punch.
2101 N. Charles Street
Mi Comalito is my go-to spot for pupusas in Baltimore. The restaurant serves Salvadoran, Honduran, and other Latin American foods in a very casual environment. I have not gotten through much of the menu — just pupusas or tacos on my visits, and they have always been solid.
2223 Maryland Avenue
Looking for a great cup of coffee? Sophomore Coffee says they “believe in the simple luxury of enjoying a cup of coffee in a friendly, beautiful and inclusive space.” It’s truly simple and still so special.
Sophomore’s coffee drinks are excellent. On my visit, I sipped on their latte — just espresso and milk from a local farm. The drink was crafted with the foam in the shape of a heart. Every time I have a latte from Sophomore Coffee I remember just how good espresso can taste without syrups or sweeteners. The cafe has a few tea options for non-coffee drinkers, too. Staff is friendly and the space is small and stylish with a pink-and-blue-patterned coffee bar and bright white and pink walls
2229 N. Charles Street
With over 100 bottles of gin to choose from, Old Goucher’s gin bar, Dutch Courage, offers adventurous small bites and classic and creative cocktails in a space that inspires forward thinking and taste. On my visit, I ordered one of the gin flights and was able to sample six different brands. I snacked on their three-cheese grilled cheese sandwiches with a chipotle peach jam and caramelized onions.
Other honorable mentions in Old Goucher and Charles North include Joe Squared, a beloved pizza spot on North Avenue; Fadensonnen, a bustling beer garden and tavern; The Empanada Lady a Puerto Rican empanada eatery located inside of Motor House; No Land Beyond, a board game bar, and Nancy by SNAC, a grab-and-go restaurant for residents and cafe for MICA’s students and staff.
As I set out to explore even more restaurants in Baltimore neighborhoods, I would love your help in uncovering some of the city’s great food businesses. If you have a food and drink business that you love, please let me know.
Simone Phillips is the founder of the food blog Charm City Table and a Creative in Residence for The Baltimore Banner.