403 South Talbot Street
St. Michaels , Maryland
Tel: 410 745 9111
The Left Bank joins the Eastern Shore in this familial bistro. Owners Phil and Sue Stein installed Parisian ambience into a century-old house, with marble-topped tables, a zinc bar, and walls with mirrors and vintage posters. The seasonal menu created by chef David Stein, their son, fuses French provincial, Mediterranean, and regional Maryland flavors with savory starters such as sweet corn and crab chowder and a chilled peach soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt, cucumber relish, and honey-chipotle sauce. When crab is in season, don't miss the lemon-pepper soft-shells with succotash and country bacon, or the broiled crab cake with corn and Cheddar polenta and tasso ham. Though wine pairings are sometimes suggested for each course, it's tempting to cast off with a Chesapeake martini: vodka, gold tequila, Clamato juice, a dash of Tabasco and horseradish, all of it garnished with…a shrimp. This is a dinner-for-two place, though the formal upstairs loft can accommodate larger groups. There is also seating on the front porch, but be warned that traffic on Talbot Street, the town's main drag, can be busy on summer weekends. With just 75 dining room seats and an eight-seat raw bar, reservations are suggested.
Open Thursdays through Mondays from 5:30 pm.
1000 Lancaster Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 332 7373
Charleston is the anchor of chef Cindy Wolf and husband Tony Foreman's restaurant empire, which also includes the nouveau Spanish Pazo. Located between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point in Harbor East, Charleston's menu of earthy Lowcountry cuisine with a sophisticated French influence changes daily. In summer, you'll find dishes like roasted sweet corn, bacon, and tasso chowder or grilled sea scallops with zucchini-flower beignets. Colder temperatures bring hearty fare, such as buffalo tenderloin with crispy grit cakes. Diners choose from three to six items to build their own tasting menus, including selections from the 600-label wine cellar. This is very much a grown-up place in cuisine, price (the prix-fixe menu starts at $74), and attire (jacket and tie recommended). The top-notch staff creates a charming sense of occasion, seamlessly laying out the procession of new flatware between courses and discreetly changing napkins when you step away from the table. The decor similarly mixes class with comfort, with cozy booths and cranberry-colored chairs setting off the dark wood and low lighting. Free valet parking is available.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.
804 Hammonds Ferry Road
Linthicum Heights , Maryland
Tel: 410 636 1777
While several old-line Baltimore crab houses pack in the out-of-towners, locals make a 15-minute drive from downtown to an unlikely suburban spot two miles north of BWI Airport. It can't be for the view—a busy intersection with a pair of gas stations and a donut shop—or the rec-room decor and cafeteria-weight cutlery. Here, it's all about the crab—thick, saucer-size balls of lump crabmeat big enough to choke a shark and bound together with little more than a whisper. The accomplished waiters can handle big parties with aplomb inside the 300-plus-seat space, but expect to wait for a table in the summer, even on a Monday or Tuesday night. Or do the next best thing: Order online for home delivery. G&M ships nearly two tons of crab cakes a week. Yes, they're that good.
Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.
Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 889 3399
Institutional cooking rarely gets raves, unless that institution is the Baltimore Museum of Art, where chef and cookbook author John Shields has run this elegant, relaxed space since 1998. Despite the serious surroundings, the white-linen tablecloths wink at stuffiness—they're covered with butcher's paper and accessorized with crayon-filled cups. Shields, a Baltimore native, has created a regional seasonal menu with heaps of Chesapeake seafood and Eastern Shore produce. Down-home entrées include pulled pork in a citrusy barbecue sauce with sweet-potato fries, rockfish stuffed with crab and topped with toasted-pecan butter, and, of course, crab cakes, which come with a choice of sauces, such as orangeૻchipotle pepper or mango-chutney aîoli. In fair weather, outdoor tables are set up overlooking the BMA's Sculpture Garden, which holds works by Alexander Calder and Henry Mooreૼthe place to be for a weekend brunch of crab-cake eggs Benedict. Reservations recommended.
Open Tuesdays through Fridays 11:30 am to 9 pm, Saturdays 10:30 am to 9 pm, Sundays 10:30 am to 8 pm.
1606 Thames Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 276 4700
Grilling next to Saints & Sinners tattoo parlor in Fells Point, upscale Kali's is the seafood option of choice for special-occasion couples, business dinners, and clued-in visitors. You'll know exactly what market-fresh fish you're getting: The daily catch is kept on ice near the entrance to this old industrial building, which has received the total pressed-tin and ornamental-iron makeover. Chef Damon Hersh's menu nods to the Mediterranean: Start with a poached pear and caramelized-walnut salad with Feta, then move on to thick grilled sea scallops with mushroom risotto, or a pork chop stuffed with walnuts, figs, Feta, and apricots. Side rooms and a second floor divide the 200-seat capacity into closer quarters; two tiny, romantic tables are tucked onto a narrow balcony, while three others are hidden in a patio garden. Service is efficient and informed: In addition to the menu, friendly waiters offer knowing advice on duckpin-bowling alleys and the neighborhood's best harbor views.
Open daily from 5 pm.
401 Fourth Street
Annapolis , Maryland
Tel: 410 263 1617
Local carnivores pass right by Ruth's Chris down the block in favor of this restrained Eastport restaurant, where the hushed leather booths are nearly as indulgent as the aged, broiled-and-butter-topped U.S. Prime steaks. The portions are Flintstones-size—a New York strip, one of the smaller cuts, weighs in at 18 oz.—the local artisanal bread is piping hot, and sides such as spinach à la George (sautéed with onion and lemon) are tasty enough to take center stage. The wine list is encyclopedic, featuring "vertical offerings" from 20 vineyards in Napa. Lewnes' is the ideal splurge for when you need a break from all those crab cakes.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm, Sundays 4 to 10 pm.
22 South Harrison Street
Easton , Maryland
Tel: 410 822 3204
A fine-dining restaurant, gourmet coffee bar, and chocolatier, Mason's has mastered the small-town art of multitasking. Set in a Victorian home that's been in the Mason family since its 1887 construction, this friendly spot opened in 1966 as a candy shop. It spread its wings after a 2000 renovation and the hiring of executive chef Daniel Pochron, who previously worked at über-chef Michel Richard's Citronelle in Washington, D.C., as well as in kitchens in Germany and Switzerland and on the island of Mustique. That pedigree explains the mix of Continental-inspired fare such as schnitzel, roasted chicken with wilted leek and corn mashed potatoes, and crabmeat salad with chilled gazpacho sauce. Mason's has a homey, bistro-style atmosphere, but in warm weather it's best to reserve one of the six umbrella-shaded tables in the garden. After dinner, sidle into the candy shop for homemade chocolates or a sack of m&m's, which are sorted by color and sold by the pound.
Open Mondays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
1425 Aliceanna Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 534 7296
In a city noted for its ethnic restaurants, this Fells Point place is the sweet spot for tapas. With the help of architect Patrick Sutton, restaurateurs Cindy Wolf and husband Tony Foreman of Charleston fame have remade a large Civil War–era machine shop into a 350-seat Iberian lounge. They've kept the original post-and-beam construction and evoked a hip, baroque style with exposed-brick walls, a second-floor balcony ringed with a wrought-iron balustrade, and immense candelabras. The result is romantic but not reserved: The room can handle a tête-à-tête or a girls' night out for 12. Executive chef Michael Costa's rustic, regional approach is on full display in the tapas menu: everything from fried calamari with lime salt, chili, cilantro, and aïoli to Manchego cheese with apples and walnuts to spiced veal-and-pork empanadas with a salsa verde. If the choices seem overwhelming, try the prix fixe table menus; groups of six or more can order Costa's signature arroz "La Bomba,'' a hearty rice dish with spit-roasted chicken, chorizo, saffron, and fresh rosemary. Complimentary valet parking.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 5 pm to 1 am, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 2 am, Sundays 5 to 11 pm.
802 South Broadway
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 702 5828
There is gourmet ice cream, and then there is Noah Dan's rich, organic gelato. Made on the premises of this stylish Fells Point storefront, the frozen treats reflect Dan's obsession with quality ingredients. All milk, cream, and eggs are sourced from grass-fed cows and free-range chickens raised on a Mennonite organic dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Organically grown cane sugar and fresh fruits kick up the sweetness. Esoteric flavors include rhubarb and minty-lime Mojito; classic tastes incorporate sinfully rich ingredients such as Papua New Guinea vanilla beans and Bronte pistachios, a rare variety grown on the slopes of Sicily's Mt. Etna. There are a few stools inside the airy shop, but on a summer eve, grab a park bench out front and scoop away.
Open Mondays through Thursdays noon to 11 pm, Fridays 11 am to 1 am, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 11 pm.
909 Bay Ridge Avenue
Annapolis , Maryland
Tel: 410 268 8009
Working out of a winsome 1912 bungalow in Eastport, a residential section of Annapolis, chef Jim Wilder specializes in New American comfort food in a comfortable setting. The scent of fresh-baked bread wafts from a compact kitchen that places a premium on local, seasonal ingredients—grilled peaches with blue cheese and field greens in the summer, salmon with apple-horseradish crème fraîche in the winter—with a few signature favorites, like the butternut-squash soup with Maryland lump crabmeat. The three-course prix-fixe menu is a great value at $39; a $28 three-course menu with smaller portions is also offered Monday through Thursday. The dining room is warm but simple, with honey wood floors, Shaker-style chairs, and crisp white linens. Out back there's a snug patio for warm-weather dining. Be sure to make reservations on weekends.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 3 pm and 5 to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Sundays 9 am to 3 pm and 4 to 9 pm.