When last we met, we were enjoying the “Admiral’s Hour” at Oceanaire after a stroll from Fells Point to Harbor East. Today, we’re going to wander around Harbor East a bit more. There’s tons to see and do in this area, especially if you’re a foodie. In all honesty, it’s the only reason I ever come to this neighborhood–to eat. There are plenty of cute boutiques, but I can’t let myself be distracted by shopping when there are important, life-altering, decisions to be made. Namely where, out of the bazillion restaurants in the area, should I eat?
We’re going to be rebels and start today’s culinary journey by walking counterclockwise around the circle of road that borders the National Katyń Memorial. While walking, take a gander at the memorial itself. The statue, which rises 56 feet into the air, memorializes the approximately 22,000 victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish nationals by the Soviets. It’s jarring and a bit macabre, with figures of soldiers seeming almost impaled by the flame-like structure. Its existence is a testimony to the strength of Baltimore’s Polish population. A shame there aren’t any Polish restaurants around….
Take a left down International Drive and head toward the entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel. You’ll see Loch Bar first, a restaurant specializing in the somewhat unusual combination of whiskey and seafood. If you’re a fan of brown liquor, you’ll go ga-ga over Loch Bar’s selection of Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, and even Japanese whisk(e)y. The restaurant is becoming famous for its lobster roll as well. The lobster meat may be from Maine, but here it’s dressed Connecticut-style in melted butter (Kerrygold Irish butter, no less) rather than mayo. Bearded guys take note: please wash your face after eating one of those things, unless you think you (and your partner) will enjoy the smell of all that butterfat on your face for the rest of the day.
Inside the Four Seasons is Wit & Wisdom, a Tavern by Michael Mina. If you’re not from the west coast, you might not know the multiple-Michelin-starred, James-Beard-Award-winning chef Mina. Most of his restaurants are on the other side of the country, but we are proud to have Wit & Wisdom here in Baltimore. The restaurant is formally called a “tavern,” but it’s much more than that. So much more that we’ll cover it in a post of its own sometime in the near future. Suffice it to say that you can get pretty much anything you want there–breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, snacks, cocktails, steaks, a burger, Maryland-inspired seafood dishes, private dining spaces, themed meals–and it will be lovely. The service will be impeccable, too.
On the other side of the hotel is Azumi, a high-end Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi and sashimi made with the finest fresh fish available. Start off your meal with tiny freshwater Sawagani crabs, which are eaten whole (shells and all!) with sea salt and lime, then go on to the king crab leg with spicy soy butter, and finish with miso marinated black cod. Or choose the omakase tasting menu option and sample four courses of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, plus dessert. One of their many sake selections would be a perfect accompaniment, but wine, beer, or a specialty cocktail will do the trick as well.
The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront is across Aliceanna Street from Azumi, and they have a restaurant, too. Apropoe’s serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. If you’re thinking, “hey, what’s up with that weird spelling and apostrophe?” I wondered the same thing myself until I realized that it’s a reference to Edgar Allan Poe, the American writer of dark tales and poetry who died and is buried here in Baltimore. You can pretty much ignore the name if it bothers you that much, as they don’t serve roasted raven with Amontillado sauce, although there is a Poe burger. The dinner menu has all of the now-standard Modern American favorites, like beets with burrata and sous vide short ribs. We went recently and enjoyed the wedge salad topped with scrumptious Nueske’s bacon, the white crab pizza with fontina, pesto, and a generous portion of lump crab, and their crab cakes with corn relish and tarragon aioli. The dining room is comfortable, and if you sit by a window, you can watch Mr Trash Wheel doing his thing to keep the harbor clean.
In the building next door there are two notable restaurants. Fleming’s is a steakhouse, with the classic and pricey choices of aged beef and red wine. We recommend eating at the bar. The Prime Burger with cheddar and peppered bacon is a bargain $8 between 5pm – 7pm, as is the filet mignon flatbread and the tenderloin carpaccio. Order a glass of featured wine to go with and you’ll have a nice meal for less than $20. You can get another fine burger at the bar at Roy’s, around the corner. It’s made with Wagyu beef and comes with truffled onions and mushrooms, togarashi aioli, and a sunny-side-up egg. A shame it’s not available in the dining room, too, but Roy’s has always had plenty of other things to choose from. We’ve been going to Roy’s since they opened in the early 2000s and were one of only about three restaurants in the neighborhood. Back in those days, most of the buildings around the circle hadn’t even been built yet. We applaud Roy’s for their longevity and we still go there occasionally when we’re in the mood for one of their Hawaiian martinis or maybe a fruity mai tai, and of course some beautifully prepared fish. The misoyaki butterfish, or black cod, with a sweet and savory glaze is a favorite, but it’s hard to err if one prefers turf over surf. I have found their rustic rub crusted ribeye with smoked sea salt to be mighty tasty, too.
Around the corner on President Street is something we’ve all been waiting for: the newly opened Charm City Cakes. While Food Network star Duff Goldman has been baking intricate and amazing custom cakes in Baltimore for fifteen years now, there has never been a retail outlet. Crazy, huh? Prior to a few weeks ago, the only place one could get a slice of a Charm City Cake (outside of buying a whole cake or knowing someone who did) was at Jack Binion’s Steakhouse in Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. The new Harbor East shop has cupcakes, macarons, and other sweet treats.
Next door to the bakery is the James Joyce. It’s a real honest-to-Guinness Irish pub, built in Ireland before being shipped and assembled here in Baltimore. You’ll think you’re in Ireland once you get your pint of Magners cider or Smithwick’s in hand…until you look at the menu and see hummus, a Cajun caesar chicken wrap, and teriyaki shrimp. Never fear, they have corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, lamb stew, and Irish new potato nachos to satisfy your need for authenticity. Ok, so the nachos aren’t exactly authentic, but they still go great with beer!
Minxeats Baltimore food blogger and Co-author of the new book, Maryland’s Chesapeake: How the Bay and its Bounty Shaped a Cuisine, plus Food Lovers’ Guide to Baltimore, and Baltimore Chef’s Table.
Editors Note: One thing we like to do when launching in a city is to partner with local writers. This is a key part to the City Walker experience, we don’t only want our app (iOS and Android) to have a local prospective, we want our blog to have it too! This gives the authentic personal prospective that no one other than a local can offer. We are honored to have MINXEATS be a guest writer for City Walker in Baltimore.