With a majority of vendors now in their stalls and crowds back in full force, the new Lexington Market finally feels like home.
There was a joyous, bubbly atmosphere in the air during my recent visit as retirees lunched among doctors and office workers. In contrast to the former building, which was dimly lit and in desperate need of repairs, the revamped digs are full of light and gleaming furnishings. The massive wooden staircase offers seating and people-watching galore, and low tables with chairs allow guests to more comfortably enjoy their meals than at the previous high-tops where customers had to scarf their food while standing.
But did we come here to talk about the decor, or to eat? As ever, the house specialty is affordable comfort food. With a mix of familiar faces and upstart businesses, you can treat yourself to a taste of Baltimore’s past and present (and maybe a pickled onion).
Here are six items to try on your next visit.
Connie’s Chicken & Waffles
Lexington Market fans will remember Connie’s Chicken & Waffles from its presence at the old market. The restaurant — which also has branches in Broadway Market and Charles Plaza — is serving up its signature dish at its stall with the same fluffy and delicious waffles ($13). For an extra special treat, say “hi” to namesake Connie Parker, who was behind the counter when I stopped by, singing and chatting with customers. A proudly retired Baltimore Gas and Electric Company employee, Parker says her sons — company founders Shawn and Khari Parker — don’t want her working too much, but you get the idea no one argues with Mom.
With its second location in Baltimore and its first inside Lexington Market, Ovenbird Bakery brings the city the gift of wonderful bread, pastries and breakfast sandwiches. Pick up a loaf to dress up dinner, and don’t miss their terrific sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on a fennel seed bagel. At $5.83, it’s not just one of the best egg sandwiches in the city, it’s also one of the cheapest.
It warms my heart to see how tradition and innovation sit side by side at the revamped Lexington Market. That’s certainly the case with Trinacria, a family-run business that has operated an Italian grocery store in the area since the 1900s. Now fans have another place to get their goods, including well-priced Italian cold cut sandwiches ($6.95) and pizza, a fresh addition to the menu ($6 per slice for the meatball version). Also available are pickled onions, a little-known Baltimore specialty.
Krause’s Lite Fare
Co-owner Arra Cho took over Krause’s Lite Fare from the previous owner, Yong Hwang, whose perfectly roasted, freshly carved turkey was written about in Bon Appétit in 2015. The stall tops the meat with perfectly moist stuffing and tart cranberry sauce in their famous Thanksgiving sandwich ($13.95). It’s a hearty helping of home and the holidays for any time of year.
What is it about a big piece of strawberry cake with strawberry frosting on top ($4) that makes me think all is right in this crazy world? The owners of Market Bakery first opened shop at Lexington Market in the 1970s and are still serving up all the hits, including Berger cookies, strawberry shortcake, banana pudding and, of course, lots of cake, at their shiny new location on the market’s ground floor. Just walk down the big steps to get there.
They might as well call Deddle’s Donuts “blissful bites.” The tiny and perfectly fluffy churro doughnuts are made to order; you can watch the mesmerizing doughnut-making machine squirt the raw dough for each into a deep fryer until they turn golden brown and are dusted in cinnamon sugar ($6 per dozen). Or try ‘em topped with Fruity Pebbles and marshmallow drizzle. I picked up a few bags to share with my coworkers, and was quickly the toast of The Baltimore Banner newsroom.