Before last week’s spotlight on Wit & Wisdom, we had skirted the water’s edge in the downtown Baltimore neighborhood known as Harbor East and ended up at the James Joyce. Today, we’re going to continue our tour by hanging a right at the corner of President and Fleet Streets and heading east for a few blocks. Ok, ok, you can stop at Starbucks first to grab a latte, but be quick–we’ve got quite a few places to check out this week.
Exeter Street is the next cross street on our stroll down Fleet. If you turn right at the Whole Foods and walk partway down the block, you’ll find Chiu’s Sushi. Chiu’s has all the familiar maki rolls, tempura, and teriyaki dishes, and is a more economical alternative to satisfy your craving for raw fish than Azumi, which we mentioned last time. Taco Fiesta is a bit further down the block. This local favorite makes everything from scratch every day, including their seven fresh salsas. Burritos, tacos, and other street food items are made to order, fast, and budget-friendly. They also have margaritas, of course, but give me the homemade horchata, a drink made from rice flavored with cinnamon. I won’t stop you if you’d rather just grab something from the counter at Whole Foods, or if you want to browse at Bin 604, a wine shop owned by restaurateurs Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf. If it’s a Thursday or Saturday, you may be able to get in on a wine tasting or class. For a fee, of course, but totally worth it.
Back on Fleet Street, there’s a trio of restaurants in the next block. Or, depending on when you’re reading this, two restaurants. Tagliata, an Italian chophouse by the same people who brought us Ouzo Bay and Azumi, is scheduled to open this summer. In the meantime, their Ten Ten American Bistro is open across the courtyard, although slated to close sometime this year for rebranding. Currently, they do things like fried brussels sprouts, deviled eggs, tacos, burgers, and more composed entrees including salmon, crab cakes, or pork chops. Sunday brunch includes crab cake benedict and bottomless beer-mosas (yes, beer & oj), which sounds like a plan to me. The third restaurant is Bagby Pizza, named after the building in which it resides. The Bagby Furniture Company Building, on the National Register of Historic Places, was built between 1902 and 1907 as a furniture factory. My gorgeous dining room table was made there during the last handful of years they were in business, which gives me a feeling of kinship with Bagby Pizza. That, and their delicious thin crust pizza. When I grew up in the area, there was a sad dearth of good pizza, so I’m happy to go back to my old stomping grounds and find a tasty pie. The pizza at Bagby’s has a super thin crust that is still sturdy enough to hold myriad toppings. Customers can design their own pies, but the signature pizzas are pretty swell. My fave is the Sweet & Spicy with roasted red peppers, red onion, asiago, applewood smoked bacon, mozz, and provolone on a base of spicy tomato sauce, all drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze. Bagby’s also has pastas, salads, and sandwiches, too, including porchetta and chicken parm.
Up in the next block are a couple of chain restaurants like Nando’s Peri-Peri, a South African-Portuguese chicken joint that is headquartered in London, and sweetgreen, which serves customizable and vegan-izable sustainable salads and grain bowls. Cava Mezze is a chain, too, albeit a local one with (so far) five locations in the DC-MD-VA area. As their name indicates, Cava Mezze specializes in Mediterranean-style small plates like the familiar hummus, falafel, and spanakopita, but also unique items like the Crazy Feta Hush Puppies made with their jalapeno-infused whipped “crazy” feta cheese, and crispy pork belly with a sour cherry glaze. They have a nice selection of vegan and gluten-free items, too.
There’s a Dinosaur BBQ around the corner on Eden Street, the NY-based chain’s only location south of Newark, NJ. While the menu is predictably meat-centric, with all the low-and-slow smoked pork, brisket, and chicken carnivores desire, along with steamed shrimp for good measure, there are also two vegetarian sandwich options. The smoked portobello comes with smoked green chiles and melted Swiss, and the “FGTV” has fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. I like places that offer something for everyone, because even I would rather have a vegetable sometimes. Wait–who am I kidding? Bring me all the meats!
While we’re heading south on Eden Street, we may as well continue on, cross Aliceanna Street, and stop into Teavolve for some refreshment. Choose one of dozens of loose leaf teas to sip by the pot, or an espresso drink. Wine and cocktails are available too, as is casual fare like paninis, burgers, wraps, and crepes. If you’d rather save your calories for a fancier supper, head across S. Spring Street to Bar Vasquez. This newest restaurant in the Foreman Wolf stable specializes in Argentinean cuisine. Beef is big in Argentina, but Bar Vasquez also serves goat, lamb, duck, pork, chicken, and seafood. While that Asado Mixed Grill sounds amazing (24-oz bone-in rib steak, sweetbreads, Argentine pork sausage, morcilla, scallions, peppers, and chimichurri for $78–bring a friend or two), folks less-inclined to pig out on a plate of meat can feast on any of the tapas-style starters, empanadas, or Argentinean pizzas known as fugazza.
I think we’ve almost exhausted the notable eateries in the area, so the next time we pick up on our walking tour from Fells Point to the Inner Harbor, we’ll be hitting the neighborhood of Little Italy.
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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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