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Dining in the City of Steamed Crabs

Culinarily speaking, Baltimore means crabs. Indeed, the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab is the town's unofficial mascot (although in most incarnations it's steamed a cheery bright red). Each year tens of thousands of tourists flock to Baltimore to feast on the tasty crustaceans, so it's no surprise that there are scores of great seafood houses all over town...

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Dining in the City of Steamed Crabs
by David Kiefer

...You can find two of the city's best-known without traveling far from the downtown area. Phillip's (410-685-6600), one of the oldest names in Baltimore seafood, moved out of Harborplace to a "Crab Deck" location just a bit further east at 601 E. Pratt Street. They claim "Harkening back to Traditional Eastern Shore Crab Houses" a child-friendly establishment with crabs and plenty of other moderately priced seafood offerings: Steamed Crabs - Raw Bar - Crab Cakes - Shore Classics.

Locust Point + Steamers = L.P. Steamers (410-576-9294) is south of downtown; on Fort Avenue between the historic Federal Hill neighborhood and Fort McHenry. Not glitzy, like the "name brand" Phillip's, it provides a more authentic "Bawlmer" steamed crab experience. Plus, the crabs are better (Webmaster opinion).

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Of course, even Baltimorians don't live by steamed crabs alone. In fact, three of the city's best new seafood restaurants don't offer crabs at all. Two of these upstarts can be found just to the east of downtown in Fells' Point, Baltimore's old maritime district.

The Black Olive (410-276-4700) looks like a tiny Greek café, and specializes in the freshest whole fish grilled to perfection and filleted at tableside. A couple blocks away, Kali's Court (410-276-4700) serves great grilled whole fish as well, and also offers one of the city's best bars, and a lovely patio for al fresco dining. A little farther to the east, in the Canton neighborhood, you'll find Atlantic (410-675-4565), a spacious art deco-styled dining room, where the imaginative seafood entrees are served with a nouvel twist.

But if seafood's not your thing, don't despair--Baltimore offers plenty of other gastronomic treats.

There's Hampton's (410-234-0550) for instance. Located at the Inner Harbor, in the luxurious Harbour Court Hotel, this restaurant was rated by Conde Naste as one of the best in the country. Here you'll experience four-star dining at its finest. It's expensive, but the meals--such as the Mushroom Ravioli with Fontana cheese--are absolutely astounding.

To the north, in mid-town's Mount Vernon neighborhood you'll find two more of Baltimore's finest: The Brass Elephant (410-547-8485) and Tio Pepe's (410-539-4675). These are the grand old men of Baltimore dining, both featuring excellent continental cuisine, elegant surroundings and sure-footed wait staffs.

For more moderately priced meals, you can't go wrong at any of the city's many Asian restaurants. Try the Ten O Six (410-528-2146) in Federal Hill for Thai flavored cuisine and the Inner Harbor's Purple Orchid (410-837-0080) for a delicious blend of Asian and French cooking.

Just north of mid-town, the Charles Village neighborhood is home to Niwana (410-366-4115), which offers wonderful Korean dishes like Be Bim Bop as well as one of the city's best sushi bars.

Other great mid-priced restaurant include Nacho Mama's (410-675-0898), a fun Mexican eatery in Canton that features giant enchiladas and incendiary chili, The Silk Road (410-385-9013) a lovely Afghani establishment in Mount Vernon, and Akbar (410-539-0944), a Mount Vernon favorite specializing in Indian cuisine. There's also Federal Hill's Joy America Café (410-244-6500), which offers South American and Tex Mex delights (try the ceviche sampler), and Brewer's Art (410-547-9310), a chic Mount Vernon eatery featuring home-brewed beer and hearty European fare (the tapas platter is wonderful).

You can also try East Baltimore's Ikaros (410-633-3750) for first-rate Greek cooking, and Fells' Point's Ze Mean Bean (410-675-5999) a delightful little coffee house serving amazing borscht and other Eastern European treats.

Then there's Little Italy--a 12-block expanse just northeast of the Inner Harbor that offers over 20 fine Italian restaurants. Favorites include Sabatino's (410-727-2667), Aldo's (410-727-0700), and Della Notte (410-837-5500), but it's really not fair to name only a few. Perhaps the best way to choose, faced with such bounty, is to take a leisurely stroll through the quiet streets, and just pick the place that tickles your fancy. Rest assured, you can't go wrong. A word to the wise-weekends are very busy in Little Italy.

And finally, there's no place like Mamie's Café (410-366-2996). Set in the Northwest neighborhood of Hampden, Mamie's combines the down-home comfort of a Norman Rockwell painting with the funky attitude of a John Waters movie. The décor is pleasant, the staff friendly, and the food--everything from crab cakes to meatloaf--is just the thing to mend the soul of a weary traveler. Mamie's is Baltimore at its quaint and quirky best. 

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