In my 17 years living in Baltimore, the food scene has greatly improved. That means when friends and family ask for recommendations, I have a harder time giving them dining suggestions because the offerings are so vast.

That means I also have to provide an X factor, like a restaurant’s signature dish. A general restaurant recommendation is simply not enough. Sometimes you have to tell folks what they should order when they get there.

This is a list of must-order items and signature dishes and drinks at some of my favorite Baltimore restaurants.

The Capital Grille

Coconut cream pie at The Capital Grille. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

While their cuts of meat and signature service are more than enough to make this a go-to, their coconut cream pie is a show-stopper. It’s more like a work of art. And it tastes like it was sent from heaven.

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Fried oysters at Charleston.
Fried oysters at Charleston. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

Multiple James Beard nominee Cindy Wolf’s luxury Low Country restaurant makes some of the finest fried oysters in the country. And I know what I’m talking about — I used to live in New Orleans. These bad boys are lightly breaded in cornmeal and perfectly fried. Served with a lemon and cayenne mayonnaise, they are a treat.

Alma Cocina Latina

12-hour brined young whole chicken at Alma Cocina Latina. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

The 12-hour brined young whole chicken is cooked and plated to perfection. The dots of avocado-garlic sauce artfully positioned on the plate allow the meat to shine. Usually accompanied by mini roasted potatoes, this is one of the finest entrees in the city.

La Scala

Lobster Regina at LaScala.
Lobster Regina at LaScala. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

It’s a toss-up between the espresso martini and Lobster Regina. The creamy, boozy martini is the best I have ever had. And the fact that they guard the recipe adds to its allure. The Lobster Regina is an open book. With its twin lobster tails served atop homemade penne tossed in a red pepper cream sauce and lump crab, this decadent dish is unlike anything else in the city.

Kong Pocha

Korean fried chicken at Kong Pocha. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

Run. Do not walk to this hidden gem in Old Goucher. The Korean fried chicken is one of the best bites in the region. (Get it drizzled with the garlic soy sauce). It is the ideal mix of juicy chicken contained within a double crisped breading.


Chef's special wings at iBar . (John-John Williams IVz/The Baltimore Banner)

The chef’s special Buffalo wings are the best in the city, and the closest thing to the originators of Buffalo wings, Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. They use the same recipe and have the same tangy heat as the original.

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Thai Arroy

The crabmeat fried rice is the perfect blend of Thai cuisine with a Baltimore twist. Topped with huge lumps of crab, this filling dish is unlike any other in the city.

Blue Moon/Blue Moon Two

Cap'n Crunch French Toast at Blue Moon/Blue Moon Too. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

Sarah Simington is credited with bringing the brunch craze to Baltimore. Her signature dish, the Cap’n Crunch French Toast, is a major reason why. It’s so well made it doesn’t even need syrup. The strawberries, apples, blueberries, bananas and whipped cream atop the stack are more than enough.


Any of their biscuit sandwiches are a treat. The biscuits are big, fluffy and tasty. And whatever you choose to go in between — eggs, bacon, chicken, cheese — pairs perfectly. I like to get mine with eggs, cheese, bacon and strawberry jelly.

Miss Carter’s Kitchen

Crab-stuffed chicken at Miss Carter's Kitchen. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

Whether it’s chicken, lamb chops, salmon, or shrimp, their stuffed dishes are next level. The flavorful crab stuffing is the equivalent of a lump crab cake. These dishes will haunt your dreams.

Capital Lounge

Their celebrity baked potatoes are named after famous Black historical figures such as Lena Horne (garlic shrimp topped with cheese, garlic butter and Parmesan), Duke Ellington (assorted vegetables topped with cheese and garlic butter), and my personal favorite, Billie Holiday (lump crab meat, cheese crab sauce, topped with shredded cheese). These spuds are educational and enticing.

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Duck Duck Goose

DDG burger at Duck Duck Goose. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

The DDG burger is a must at this Fells Point bistro. The burger is topped with Gruyère cheese, blueberry jam and a healthy slice of foie gras, and comes with duck fat frites. The combination of the salty, sweet and fatty satisfies almost every flavor profile. Take the dish into overdrive by adding a fried egg to the burger.


The squid ink spaghetti alla Chitarra is peppered with lobster, shrimp, calamari, basil and a spicy lobster tomato sauce. I usually get it as a half order and turn it into an appetizer.


Unlike other restaurants that simply plate their pasta, this restaurant goes the extra step of baking their pasta after cooking it. This gives the pasta a more complex taste while also making it Instagram worthy. Ask for the penne Bolognese to be cooked a little longer so that the top forms a slightly crispy cheese crust.

The Helmand

Kaddo Borwani at The Helmand. (John-John Williams IV/The Baltimore Banner)

The Kaddo Borwani, a pan-fried and baked baby pumpkin, is a comforting food to start off an evening of Afghan cuisine. It’s seasoned with sugar and served on yogurt garlic sauce. I must have this dish at least once a year — particularly in the cooler fall months.

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John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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