Baltimoreans are known for their peculiar brand of nostalgia. Ask a longtime resident for directions and they’ll likely explain them based on a series of “landmarks” that used to dot the route. “Go past where the old Caldor’s was.” Or, “You’ll see Luskin’s Hill on your right.” Or, “If you pass the Starbucks that used to be the Bel-Loc Diner, you’ve gone too far.”
When Baltimoreans ask you where you went to school, they don’t mean college. They’re inquiring about your high school because that’s where the hometown (and often lifelong – we’re a loyal bunch) connections were made.
It’s also a favorite Baltimore pastime to ruminate fondly on all of the iconic restaurants that have long since served their last crab cake. It’s not uncommon to be asked on any given day if you remember brunch or late nights at Louie’s Bookstore Café (a hipster spot before those were a thing). If you also had a fondness for the Baltimore Colts, you probably had a strong attachment to Johnny Unitas’ The Golden Arm on York Road.
Or maybe it was a special treat to go to the Pimlico Restaurant, the Chesapeake Restaurant or Hutzler’s Valley View Room as a kid. “I’d kill for the chicken salad from the Women’s Industrial Exchange or the German potato salad from Haussner’s right now” is a refrain heard often in dining rooms across the city.
Luckily, Baltimorean Shelley Howell has written, “Dining Down Memory Lane – A Collection of Classic Baltimore Restaurants and their Recipes” (Baltimore Memory Lane Publishing), and it couldn’t come soon enough. As she writes in the preface to the book, “…I began a more focused search for Baltimore restaurant recipes … recipes from my favorite landmark restaurants that were no longer in business. I was hoping to come across a local cookbook that covered this subject but soon realized that it didn’t exist – thus, the idea for this book.”
Make a mental list right now of some of the restaurants you miss most and your favorite dishes from those restaurants, and we bet you’ll find at least a few of them in this book.
Thinking about downtown’s Martick’s? You got it. The recipe for Morris Martick’s “World’s Best Sweet Potato Soup” is right here (it calls for “an appropriate amount” of butter). Got The Pimlico on your mind? Here’s the Pimlico Chopped Liver and the Pimlico Cake. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip down Charm City culinary history without some crab cake recipes, and Howell includes both Angelina’s Crab Cakes and Obrycki’s Maryland Crab Cakes (Obrycki’s was unique for its eschewing of traditional Old Bay seasoning on its steamed crabs. It should be noted there are still two Obrycki’s locations at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport).
“Dining Down Memory Lane” is organized geographically by Baltimore City and Baltimore County. It includes history and ephemera about each restaurant mentioned along with two or three of each venue’s most memorable dishes (yes, even the Tomato Aspic from the Women’s Industrial Exchange is here).
Not only will this book tug at your heartstrings, it’ll fill your bellies with delicious historical morsels. It should be on every Baltimorean’s kitchen shelf.
Join author Shelley Howell on This Week in Baltimore Eating on Facebook Live at facebook.com/jmoreliving on Feb. 21 at 12:30 p.m.