While it’s pretty easy to find the obvious hotspots in Fells Point, that is, restaurants that are on the highly beaten paths of lower Broadway and Thames Street, there are plenty of other gems hidden away on various side streets.
Few visitors to Fells Point would have any reason to walk east on Eastern Avenue much past, say, Ann Street, unless they had friends in the neighborhood or were looking for a Latin grocer or a Catholic Church. My old parish, Holy Rosary, is on Chester Street just a block north of Eastern, and is a fine choice if you want to attend Mass on Sunday–particularly if you’d like a Mass said entirely in Polish. Afterwards, your sense of spiritual sustenance may be high, but the physical realm is lacking. In other words, you need brunch. You’re in luck–Johnny Rad’s is just around the corner. (Yes, do ignore that Burger King right there.) This “pizzaria tavern” has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so don’t expect anything fancy. And please don’t tell me I’m going to hell for recommending a bar for post-Mass dining; it’s not like I haven’t heard it before.
Johnny’s is famous for their pizza. It’s mostly Neapolitan-style, but because their brick oven is gas-fired, not wood-fired, they like to call it “Baltipolitan.” In any case, the pizzas are delish, and there are several vegan options. They also have snacky things like hush puppies and risotto balls, salads, and sandwiches like a fat bacon burger, and cheesesteaks, which like the pizzas, can be veganized for your pleasure with non-animal meat. But if you’re more interested in wings than pizza, stroll south on Chester Street another block to Fleet, take a left, and voila! Kisling’s Tavern, home of Baltimore’s Best Wings. Sure, sure, lots of places make that claim, but Kisling’s may well be telling the truth. Their award-winning wings can be ordered in 17 flavors, from original Buffalo to chili lime, mango habanero, and honey dijon. Or naked, if you’re a complete wuss. You can also buy a bottle of their original wing sauce to take home, as a savory souvenir of Charm City. They have burgers and stuff, too, and a big 10-ounce jumbo lump crab cake available after 5pm.
If neither pizza nor wings turn you on, there’s a Royal Farms store across Chester from Kisling’s. If you’re not already in the know, this local convenience store chain has some of the best fried chicken around. So if you spot one, and you’re hungry, check them out.
If you walk another block south, to Aliceanna Street, and hang a left, you’ll see Captain James’ Seafood Palace. Honestly, you can’t miss the place, as it’s shaped like a ship. It sits on a wedge-shaped piece of land between Aliceanna and Boston Streets where a boat-shaped restaurant was a perfect fit. As its name implies, Captain James is a real seafood-a-palooza, open for breakfast/brunch, lunch, and dinner. They have all the classic Maryland-style dishes, like crab cakes, crab soup, crab dip, crab fritters, crab, crab, and more crab. But also meat (chicken, ribs, beef, burgers) if you’re one of those unfortunate folks who is allergic to shellfish. If you’re in the mood to bash on some steamed crabs, Captain James has a crabhouse right across the street, on the water. It even has it’s own handy-dandy water taxi dock, if you’re too stuffed to walk all the way back to the busier parts of Fells Point.
Ok, let’s recap your day so far: you’ve gotten up early to attend the 10:30 Polish Mass at Holy Rosary, had a pizza or wings or steamed crabs, and found yourself back at your hotel for a well-deserved nap. Eventually you’re going to need dinner, and probably more drinks. Where to next? There are a few other places on Aliceanna Street, a couple blocks west of the Captain James. Lobo doesn’t have a full kitchen, so their menu emphasizes things like cheese and charcuterie, raw shellfish, sandwiches, and a selection of items they modestly call, “snacks.” Among these is a killer cheeseburger tartare, an elevated (and raw) version of the famous two all-beef-patties, etc. that we know and (perhaps) love. The meat is chopped filet, and yes there are pickles and special sauce and even some sesame seeds. Across the street from Lobo is Darbar, if you’re in the mood for Indian food. They serve all the familiar dishes, with some more unusual ones like chicken Kolhapuri with a red chile sauce and peanuts, and kurkuribhindi, or crispy fried okra (don’t knock it ‘til you try it). And of course Indian restaurants are known for their excellent selection of vegetarian dishes.
Our final stop on this somewhat meandering tour is Pierpoint. Chef/owner Nancy Longo’s restaurant has been a fixture in the neighborhood for almost thirty years, and perhaps best known for its smoked crab cake. It’s my platonic ideal of that Maryland specialty, like the ones my grandmother would make, meaty and flavorful, but Chef Longo’s cakes have a soupçon of smoke. If crab isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other options. Try the duck spring rolls with “Longolian” BBQ sauce or the pumpkin pierogi in gorgonzola cream sauce as an app.
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.
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