Baltimore is that notorious East Coast misfit, possessing neither the timeless glamour of New York, nor the polish and pleasantries of Washington D.C. Yet like a phoenix from the ashes, Baltimore is making a comeback from years of social plight and industrial decline as vibrant creative hub of art, food, and literature.
Regarded by many as an example of the “real” Baltimore, Lexington Market is a thriving historical market situated in the heart of downtown. Foodie highlights include Mexican Delight, famous for its gargantuan burritos and fried ice cream, and Berger Cookies – a Baltimore specialty.
Once an infamous speakeasy during the Prohibition Era, The Owl Bar is a cavernous dark wood saloon that has retained its vintage nostalgia. The food is indulgent, the draught beers extensive, and they do a phenomenal brunch.
Duckpin bowling was conceived in Baltimore, and is a variation that involves shorter, squatter skittles and a smaller ball. Patterson Bowling Center has been operating since 1927, and is officially recognised as the oldest duckpin bowling center in the country. The best part? It’s BYOB, and you’re allowed to bring food in.
One way to tackle urban decay is to paint over it, or so the pioneering artists at Slumlord Project have found. The idea is to create large murals of street art on the side of vacant or dilapidated buildings, to expose the neglect and highlight who’s responsible.
As the only restaurant in Baltimore to be recognised as one of the top 100 restaurants nationwide, Woodberry Kitchen is supremely popular, and it’s easy to see why. In the reclaimed industrial setting, owner Spike Gjerde has created a menu of eccentric appetizers and homely entrées; don’t miss the clams with chorizo and oyster butter, or melt-in-the-mouth pecan pie with toasted oat ice cream.
A throwback to 19th century Baltimore, when proprietors the Garrett family ruled the B&O Railroad, the Evergreen Museum & Library offers a glimpse into the lives of Baltimore’s rich and famous. This Gilded Age mansion contains 48 decadent rooms where you can peruse the family’s eclectic belongings, including artworks by Picasso, Degas, and Utrillo.
Bolton Hill is a neighbourhood of architectural gems in midtown Baltimore, populated with tree-lined streets and the townhouses of notable residents. Look out for the blue plaques of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Hall, and President Woodrow Wilson – and many others besides.
Faidley’s is a spot inside Lexington Market, which has achieved such worldwide celebrity that it deserves a mention all of its own. Selling award-winning lump crab cakes since 1886, this place is an institution.
A unique and revolutionary concept, the American Visionary Art Museum exhibits the work of amateur community artists. Integral to the movement of visionary art, the AVAM is a masterpiece in social biography, and has been recognised as the leading national museum for art of this kind.
A Baltimore twist on the classic American diner, Papermoon is every bit as weird as it sounds. The lurid rainbow-coloured exterior continues inside, where an army of plastic toys hang from the ceiling and walls. The menu is vast, replete with every diner delight you could possibly dream of – from pancakes and grilled cheese, to burgers and sundaes.
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Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to… whose guides cover all the best hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, sights, shops and spas.