Do you remember where you used to go with your family to celebrate special occasions, or to grab a late night snack with friends? 

Maybe piling into your parents’ station wagon for an ice cream run to Windy Valley, or waiting for your burger to be delivered right to your counter seat by a Lionel train at the Hamburger Junction? 

Perhaps it was a “Coffey Salad” at The Pimlico, cheese bread at Maison Marconi’s, chocolate tops at Silber’s, or grabbing a coddie and cherry Coke at the corner drugstore. Nothing brings back memories quite like a snack or meal you enjoyed with family and friends back in the day.

But a lot has changed since the days of comfort food and limited dining choices. During the past 15 years or so, the foodie culture has gone mainstream as patrons’ palates have expanded, becoming more sophisticated and diverse.

As a result, today’s epicurean environment has evolved and become more approachable. Upscale/fine dining used to mean a subdued yet swanky atmosphere, white-glove/full service and candlelight. Nowadays, a superior dining experience may include gourmet fried chicken sandwiches and barbecue at a picnic table at a local farm, or house-distilled whiskey and charcuterie at a modern-yet-rustic eatery.

No matter your preferences, dining out is at the top of the list when planning social activities. Why? Because going out to eat establishes connections with friends and family, bringing us all together to create meaningful memories. 

Baltimore’s developing food landscape and a more educated philosophy is due in no small part to social media, especially Instagram and Facebook. 

An informal poll of food bloggers, influencers, friends and local chowhounds has helped us create this Baltimore culinary guide. 

Enjoy and cheers! >>>

Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-Free

Harmony Bakery (dedicated GF/Vegan) It was more than 40 years ago, but Puffins Restaurant owners Don and Renee Gorman were ahead of their time, offering an amazing and healthy menu. Now you can find them, along with their daughter, Lisa, at this fab little spot in Hampden that serves the best gluten-free bagels on the planet. Lots of sweet and savory vegan options, too, and the yellow cake with chocolate icing is to die for! 3446 Chestnut Ave., Baltimore. harmonybakery.net

Ekiben An Asian fusion menu features steamed-bun sandwiches, rice bowls and small plates. Keep an eye on their social media for pop-ups showcasing accomplished local chefs.1622 Eastern Ave., Baltimore. ekibenbaltimore.com

Land of Kush (Vegan/Vegetarian) Popular dishes at this vegan and vegetarian soul food cafe include black-eyed pea fritters and vegan, Old Bay crabcakes. 840 N. Eutaw St., Baltimore. landofkush.com

One World Café (Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free) Located near Hopkins’ Homewood Campus, diners can enjoy Kung Pao Tofu and vegan sloppy Joes in a casual setting. 100 W. University Parkway, Baltimore. facebook.com/One-World-Cafe-191474677552909/

MULTI-CULTURAL

INDIAN

Sneha Indian Cuisine Offering customary Indian fare, Sneha presents a menu that includes gluten-free, vegan options and signature dishes including dosas, samosas, and a lunch buffet. 6600 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville. snehaindiancuisine.com

ETHIOPIAN

Tigi’s Ethiopian Restaurant & Market Located in Ellicott City, Tigi’s showcases mild-to-spicy meat and vegan selections as well as samplers. 8459 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. tigisethiopianeatery.com

MODERN SOUL FOOD

Ida B’s Table Recipes focus on using local ingredients and West African flavors, showcasing signature dishes including heritage bowls and fried chicken skin. 235 Holliday St., Baltimore. idabstable.com

GREEK/MEDITERRANEAN

Cypriana This upscale, Tuscany-Canterbury restaurant offers Cypriot (Greek) and Mediterranean fare like fresh fish, kebabs, street food, house-made pita bread and gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. 105 W. 39th St., Baltimore. cypriana.com

CARIBBEAN

Old Major Named after a pig from George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm,” this neighborhood bar in Pigtown/Washington Village serves up bold flavors like jerk and curry chicken plates, West Indian chickpeas and a fried plantain and cinnamon rum dessert. 900 S. Carey St., Baltimore. oldmajorbaltimore.com

MEXICAN

Mezcal Mexican Restaurant and Bar With two locations, this family-owned restaurant offers authentic Mexican cuisine with a large selection of quesadillas, tacos, burritos, chimichangas and a Mezcal sampler so you can try a bit of everything. 9958 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills and 6 W. Ridgely Road, Lutherville. mezcalrestaurants.com

KOREAN

Honey Pig Offering a solid menu of smoky barbecue cooked on a tableside grill, rice, noodles and dumplings and kimchi, Honey Pig was voted best 2019 international restaurant by the Restaurant Association of Maryland.10045 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. honeypigbbq.com

IN THE RAW

18-8 sushi Located in The Rotunda, the recently opened sushi eatery offers bento boxes, protein entrees and a serious list of rolls. 727 W. 40th St. Baltimore. 18-8sushi.com

Sushi Ya The well-rounded menu presents traditional Japanese cuisine including teriyaki, tempura, noodles, rolls and a sushi and sashimi bar. 9616 Reisterstown Road in Valley Centre, Owings Mills. sushiyaowingsmills.com

B-MORE ICONIC

Many restaurants have signature dishes, and then there are some that have star dishes that attract patrons time and time again. Baltimoreans know about Berger Cookies, Goetze’s caramels and Thrasher’s french fries. These are some of the culinary equivalents.

Coddies @ Eddie’s of Roland Park : If you’re looking for Baltimore-style coddies, THIS is the place to go. My mother used to say these are the closest to the ones she had as a child — deep-fried potato cakes with salt cod served at room temperature on Saltine crackers with a dollop of yellow mustard. ALWAYS yellow mustard! 5113 Roland Ave. and 6213 N. Charles St., Baltimore. eddiesofrolandpark.com

Cap’n Crunch @ Blue Moon Café and Blue Moon Too: Cap’n Crunch french toast is dipped in batter, encrusted with Cap’n Crunch cereal and topped with fresh fruit. Sweet, crunchy and well deserving of the attention it gets. Lines can be long, but it’s worth the wait.1621 Aliceanna St.
and 1024 Light St., Baltimore.
bluemoonbaltimore.com

Big Ass Sandwich @ Boulevard Diner: This ginormous sandwich is comprised of pot roast, pit beef, corned beef, fried onions and three-cheese sauce. Oy! 1660 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk. boulevarddiner.com

White Trash Tacos @ Southern Provisions: This way-popular dish consists of fried chicken, slaw, pimento cheese and jalapeños on corn tortillas. Oh, and order a side of spicy crack fries. 3000 O’Donnell St., Baltimore.
southern-provisions.com

OFF THE EATEN PATH

Blackwall Barn & Lodge Located in Gambrills, this unique property offers farm-fresh, family-style (not plated) dining in a rustic (lots of natural wood, wine crates, farm flowers) atmosphere. They offer a Sunday Country Brunch (think country fried chicken and waffles) and a seasonal dinner menu with staples such as beef short ribs, Australian lamb chops and scallop and shrimp risotto. 329 Gambrills Road, Gambrills, MD. barnandlodge.com

By The Docks Located down the street from the iconic Bengies Drive-in Theatre in Middle River, this well-liked seafood restaurant is known for its 8-ounce lump crabcakes and a serious (Saturday and Sunday) brunch. (Reservations are suggested.) 3321 Eastern Boulevard, Middle River. bythedocks.com

HOTEL RESTAURANTS — IT’S A THING NOW!

At one time, hotel restaurants were simply a place to offer food to the weary traveler. Now, many showcase destination eateries and options for a fun staycation.

ROYAL SONESTA HARBOR COURT HOTEL

Explorers, An American Gastropub The safari-themed gastropub offers American comfort food, whiskey and bourbon-focused cocktails plus small plates and late night menus. And every Sunday through December they have a Baltimore Ravens Football Brunch with “Purple Ravenade” cocktails. 550 Light St., Baltimore.
sonesta.com/us/maryland/baltimore/royal-sonesta-harbor-court-baltimore/explorers-american-gastropub

HOTEL REVIVAL

Topside Topside rooftop bar and restaurant provides a panoramic view of historic Mount Vernon and boasts a lush, indoor Garden Room that’s open year-round. The seasonal, seafood-centric menu offers small and large plates, cocktails and a rotating selection of local craft beers. 612 Cathedral St. in Mount Vernon, Baltimore. jdvhotels.com/hotels/maryland/baltimore/hotel-revival-baltimore/dining/topside

BALTIMORE MARRIOTT WATERFRONT

Apropoe’s Presenting Maryland-inspired, seasonal, comfort fare, using sustainable ingredients from local farms and their rooftop garden, this Edgar Allan Poe-themed eatery serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bar bites menu. Options include crabcakes, Chesapeake Bay mussels, bourbon flights and pumpkin gooey cake. 700 Aliceanna St., Baltimore.
modules.marriott.com/hotel-restaurants/bwiwf-baltimore-marriott-waterfront/apropoe-s/5626681/about

NEIGHBORHOOD GEMS

COCKEYSVILLE

Fazzini’s Taverna Traditional Italian eatery with made-from-scratch pasta and sauces and Neopolitan-style wood-fired pizza. 9811 York Road, Cockeysville. fazzinis.com

PIKESVILLE

Bravo Restaurant Enjoy locally sourced, scratch-made, Eastern European plates, and live entertainment. Potato pancakes, bellinis and borscht — oh my! 1430 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore. bravorestaurant.net

Serengeti Located at Greenspring Shopping Center, this kosher steakhouse has African flavors such as Tunisian spice-rubbed chicken and Ethiopian vegetable stew. 2839 Smith Ave., Baltimore. serengetibaltimore.com

Jilly’s Bar & Grill The vibe is casual and it’s a great place to connect with friends and grab a turkey club, wings, wraps and a solid margarita. 1012 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. runinos.com/places/jillys-pikesville-maryland

BUTCHER’S HILL/UPPER FELLS POINT 

Water for Chocolate Recently reopened after an expansion, WFC offers sexy, comfort food such as sweet potato polenta cakes, cauliflower steak and parmesan grits, raisin bread french toast and roast vegetable goat cheese quesadillas. Their Dope Juice (house sangria) is served in a 32-ounce growler. 1841 E. Lombard Ave., Baltimore. www.waterforchocolate.com

HAMPDEN

Birroteca Baltimore (There’s a second location in Bel Air) Birroteca offers family-style dining in a charming, casual setting. Their recently launched seasonal menu includes pork loin saltimbocca and burrata and beets but you can still get fan favorites like crispy duck, Brussels sprouts and their signature artisanal pizzas. My go-to dishes are the sea bass and New York strip steak — yum! Lots of craft beer and cocktails and a focused Italian wine list pair well with the dishes. 1520 Clipper Road, Baltimore. bmorebirroteca.com

FEDERAL HILL

The Outpost American Tavern This Fed Hill neighborhood bar and restaurant serves contemporary pub food and has become a fave hangout spot for neighbors and visitors alike. Check out their Facebook page for lots of special events.1032 Riverside Ave., Baltimore. theoutpostbaltimore.com

NEW & NEW-ISH KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Brendali Italian Ristorante 2 As the name suggests, this is Brendali’s second location; the first one is in the Federal Hill/Locust Point neighborhood on Light Street. The new-ish eatery is a welcome addition to the Pikesville dining scene and is located in the spot previously occupied by Mari Luna Latin Grille. Offering classic Italian fare (pasta, pizza, veal), they are garnering largely positive reviews. 1010 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. brendalipikesville.com

BRD (pronounced BIRD) This popular fried chicken joint recently opened its second location in the heart of Federal Hill on South Charles Street. The menu features various flavors of oversized fried chicken sandwiches and crispy wings (Jamaican Jerk, Bmore Buffalo, sweet Thai chili, Japanese BBQ), BRD Bites (BRD’s take on chicken nuggets), hand-spun milkshakes and sides such as battered, double-fried fries and carrot slaw. AND they’re open seven days a week and will stay open until 3 a.m. for all of you night owls. 1104 S. Charles St., Baltimore. eatbrd.com

Coelum Café, Bar and Market (pronounced koy-loom/Latin for heaven) This Canton hotspot is garnering rave reviews for its inventive dishes such as duck confit with bone marrow smashed potatoes and salted caramel crème brulee. 800 S. Kenwood Ave., Baltimore. coelumbaltimore.com

The Urban Oyster The Locust Point spot offers an artistic menu but the chatter about town is all about the (chargrilled) oyster trifecta — barbecue, cheese Louise and teriyaki. 1704 Whetstone Way, Baltimore. theurbanoyster.com

Randi Rom is president of RJ Rom & Associates. She is a freelance columnist and writer who represents some of the region’s top restaurants and food-related events. Contact her at randirom@comcast.net.