The centerpiece of the Mount Vernon neighborhood is the Washington Monument. The 178-foot-high Neoclassic structure is in the form of a doric column topped by a statue of George Washington, proffering a scroll in his right hand, as he resigns his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Friends who live in upper floor apartments nearby have said that from certain angles, the Father of our Country appears to be holding something other than a scroll in his hand. I have not witnessed this particular view myself, but I have a pretty good imagination. You may chuckle at that factoid as you continue north on Charles Street in search of a place to recover from walking up and down the Monument’s approximately 13 stories of steps. Lucky you–the 800 block of North Charles has a cluster of eateries within fainting distance.
Quite a number of years ago, I worked for an auctioneer on Antiques Row, two blocks west on Howard Street. (Once fortified, you may want to wander that way to poke around the shops specializing in period furniture, paintings, porcelain, and other decorative items.) This was the early 90s, and there wasn’t much to speak of in the way of decent food in the area; lunchtime usually meant sandwiches from home. Today, however, I could stroll over to Charles Street and choose from Dooby’s, Khun Nine Thai, or Indigma. The Korean-inspired Dooby’s is part coffee house, part cafe, serving things like miso caramel lattes and steamed buns filled with pork or tofu and mushrooms. They also have ramyun, or Korean-style ramen–I like the spicy gochujang version–and a fine burger topped with kimchi, among other things. Tiny Khun Nine Thai next door has everybody’s favorite pad Thai and green papaya salad. They’re not afraid to bring the heat, so if you’re a bit of a wimp, ask them to make your curry mild.
We continue our lunch tour through Asia at Indigma, across the street. Their modern Indian cuisine is equal parts familiar and new, like a version of the street food chaat made with avocado, and Bombay spicy chicken wings. Non-carnivores will be pleased with their large selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Plenty of gluten-free options too. Of course, if you’re not around at lunchtime, those restaurants offer dinner as well. There’s also Sugarvale, a cocktail bar on the basement level of the same building that houses Dooby’s. The two places share an owner, so you’ll find the pork buns and burger on their brief menu, and sweet chili nuts to nosh while you sip a black walnut amaretto sour or other interesting drink.
On the other side of Dooby’s is the Afghan restaurant, The Helmand. For those unfamiliar with the cuisine of Afghanistan, it has similarities to Greek, Persian, and Indian food, but is really its own thing. I am crazy about the kaddo borwani, a dish of meltingly tender baby pumpkin that is both sweet and savory, served with a garlicky yogurt sauce. Swoon. I’m also fond of the aushak, ravioli filled with leeks served on minty yogurt and topped with a ground beef sauce. I’ve honestly only ever had wonderful experiences at this little gem.
A little further up the block is Akbar, an Indian stalwart where I unfailingly order my favorite eggplant dish, bengun bharta. In the next block are two more restaurants specializing in the food of the Asian subcontinent, Kumari and Nepal House. If you’re feeling more European, however, there’s also Marie Louise Bistro. They have fresh croissants and pastries available for breakfast every morning, and bistro favorites like escargots, pate, and coq au vin at lunch and dinner. Burgers and salads, too, for those looking for less-French fare. If you’re in the mood for a little bit of everything–a more global dining experience–try The Elephant. Where else can you get lasagna, pad Thai, and an Egyptian-spiced lamb flatbread? The lounge menu offers Tandoori-style chicken kabobs and french fries…drizzled with chocolate. If none of this floats your culinary boat, there are more Asian restaurants in the 1000 block of North Charles Street. Minato Sushi Bar serves sushi, obviously, which you can order as individual rolls or as part of a bento box with additional goodies like teriyaki or tonkatsu. Indochine specializes in pho, but also vermicelli (bun) and rice (com) dishes. But perhaps you want bar food? Keep walking, friends.
On the corner of Charles and Chase Streets is the historic Belvedere Hotel. If you stroll around to the main entrance, you may recognize the distinctive pierced columns of this Beaux Arts structure from episodes of television shows Homicide, Veep, and House of Cards. The building has quite a history, starting out as a grand hotel in 1903. It played host to celebs like Clark Gable, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (she a Baltimore native who in her early years lived just three blocks away at 34 E. Preston), writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and various US Presidents including Reagan and Kennedy. In less-glamorous years, the Belvedere served as a low-rent dorm for college students, was converted to apartments, then became a hotel once again. Now the Belvedere has been split into condos, but the Owl Bar on the lobby level is still open to the public. The historic bar, a speakeasy during the Prohibition, serves upscale bar fare like pizza, several varieties of sliders, and trendy items like poutine and deviled eggs.
Our final stop on this particular tour is another bar, The Brewer’s Art, located in a grand old townhouse mansion in the next block. Named the Best Bar in America by Esquire Magazine in 2009, they are probably best known for their in-house brewery and beers Resurrection and Beasly. (The latter was originally called Ozzy before the bat-biting singer filed a cease-and-desist order.) The food at the Brewer’s Art is not to be ignored, however, and I find it even more of a draw than the brews. This post is getting a little long, so we shall explore chef Andrew Weinzirl’s upscale modern American cuisine in a future entry.
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.