Where to Eat and Drink in Baltimore
Charm City's Remington, Hampden and Woodberry neighborhoods are trendy and tasty.
Three contiguous neighborhoods in northern Baltimore have gone from hardscrabble to hipster. Remington, Hampden and Woodberry—roughly five miles from the Inner Harbor—were known for their mills in the 18th and 19th centuries; the area went from grinding flour to being the world’s largest supplier of cotton duck, the material used to make sailcloth. The mills eventually gave way to warehouses and other factories, which slowly disappeared as the city saw a decline in population and industrial jobs in the 20th century. Over the last 20 years or so, and more intensely in the last five, the three neighborhoods have been undergoing renewals, and with them have come a host of unique, artisan-driven restaurants and watering holes. Some are housed in defunct factories and industrial spaces, so you get to eat well in engaging and repurposed surroundings. Here are the highlights of each neighborhood.
The revitalization spotlight has been aimed most recently at Remington, a diverse entrepreneurial community adjacent to Johns Hopkins University. Foodwise, the hottest newcomer is R. House, a 50,000-square-foot food and drink hall that opened in December in a refurbished 100-year-old automobile warehouse with roll-up garage doors and funky seating for 370, inside and out. Ten up-and-coming chefs proffer their handcrafted specialties, ranging from Korean barbecue to fried chicken, Hawaiian poke and Venezuelan arepas. “It’s a cool food court run by chefs,” says R. House’s general manager, Peter DiPrinzio.
Parts & Labor, which occupies space built in 1924 to house and repair Model T’s, and later to sell tires, opened in 2014 as a restaurant and butchery from James Beard Award-winning chef Spike Gjerde. (A consummate locavore, Gjerde also co-owns Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, Woodberry Pantry, Artifact Coffee, Grand Cru and Bird in Hand. His first foray into Washington, D.C., is a restaurant and coffee shop in The LINE, an Adams Morgan hotel slated to open May 1.) In Parts & Labor’s squat green-and-pink building on North Howard Street, butchers break down huge hunks of locally procured animals in an open kitchen. Steaks and chops are sold in a shop in the restaurant’s vestibule, along with small-batch products such as Snake Oil, a hot sauce made by Gjerde from heirloom fish peppers. Not surprisingly, the menu leans heavily toward meat, which you can watch the kitchen staff grill and plate as you sit on a sheepskin-covered chair (from a local farm, of course). At lunch, the corned beef tongue and braunschweiger sandwich, a mouth-gaping load wedged with onion and hot mustard on rye bread, will leave you fortified for the day. Or choose from six types of grilled sausages—fat, crusty and juicy links set in warm hoagie rolls. Thin ham-like slices of grilled bacon, called rashers, are smoky and lean in the RLT (rashers, lettuce, tomato), which is especially good served with herb mayo on thick and wheat-y grilled spelt bread.
For a latte after lunch, walk across the street to Charmington’s, a coffee shop that serves organic coffee and locally produced food and was the site of a 2015 meeting hosted by President Barack Obama. (The Baltimore Sun reported that he was promoting a proposal for paid sick leave, which the café already gives its staff.) The neighborhood hangout is made even more interesting by the fact that it’s located in Miller’s Court, the former site of the H.F. Miller & Son Tin Box and Can Manufacturing Plant, where the seamless tin box was invented. The renovated complex now houses the offices of nonprofit organizations and offers $300-a-month discounts on apartment rentals to Baltimore’s K-12 teachers.
Two old standbys in Remington are also worth a visit. The Papermoon Diner’s foyer is flanked by glass-enclosed shelves holding hundreds of PEZ dispensers, and the dining areas are packed with jumbled displays of action figures, doll heads, mannequin parts and more. As my mesmerized 8-year-old niece put it, “Everything here is either broken or naked.” The comfort food plays second fiddle to the surroundings, but you can’t go wrong with the meatloaf sandwich, a sizable slab topped with melted cheddar and roasted red peppers.
Fans of pastry chef Duff Goldman, whose Ace of Cakes reality show ran from 2006 to 2011 on Food Network and who currently hosts and/or judges four of the network’s programs, will want to check out his Charm City Cakes headquarters, a short walk from the diner. The cavernous bakery is primarily a work studio for orders, and is only open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, when you can buy cupcakes, see a display of elaborate (but fake) cakes, and buy Charm City Cakes merchandise.