Baltimore Coffee Shops & Diners

Baltimore is known for many things, but the mainstay of culinary Baltimore can be found in the humble diner or coffee shop,  which in this city is anything but ordinary. Baltimore diners and coffee shops are exceptional for two things: affordable food and eccentricity. There are diners where the tables are fashioned from recycled doors, each chair is a yard-sale mismatch, and  where decorated mannequins take the place of plastic plants.

Baltimore defines its own design aesthetic. The quirkier the destination, the more likely you’ve stepped into someplace special, where the staff might be hard to spot taking a break at a table of locals. If you’re in one of these diners during a busy part of the day, you’re more likely to be  shown the door than a dessert menu, but that’s just part of the charm. Some outsiders have been quick to label these places tacky or gaudy but anyone who has given in to the Baltimore experience knows there’s something deeper running through these dives that can’t be found in the many fast food chains and cookie-cutter restaurants.

Pancakes, omelettes, and greasy-spoon fare make up much of the menu. Baltimore specialities may include Maryland Cream of Crab (which one Baltimore diner I’ve visited includes with the claws … shells and all) and Key Lime Pie.

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Dining in Baltimore

Baltimore is known as a working-class city, a city of neighborhoods. In its early days, this was especially true: immigrants from Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany, Ireland and other areas established themselves in close-knit communities. While the city has evolved, and is no longer so blue-collar or so insular, it is blessed with diversity and this is reflected in its dining establishments.

Little Italy, located between Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and historic Fells Point, is a cozy neighborhood of Italian restaurants and trattorias. Here, you’ll find authentic Italian pastas and an old-world atmosphere.

Greektown, located along Eastern Avenue, is full of authentic Greek coffee houses, bakeries, and restaurants serving the best in Greek fare.

Historic Fells Point, a short walk or ferry ride from the harbor, is a neighborhood of cobblestone streets, hip boutiques, antique shops, and plenty of pubs, nightclubs, and eateries. You’ll find everything from crab houses to Irish pubs to Mexican, Chinese, and Louisiana -style cooking.

The Inner Harbor Pavilions is the place to go for casual dining at a variety of national and local chains. Here you can find pizza, dozens of varieties of cheesecake, and a food court with local delicacies and baked goods.

Elsewhere in Baltimore, you’ll find virtually any type of cuisine you want to try: Afghan, Indian, Cajun, Cuban, Japanese, French, Russian and plenty more.  It’s a diverse city offering a diverse and tasty dining experience.

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Maryland Is For Crabs

A visit to Baltimore is a visit to the home of the blue crab and to those who consider it a delicacy. It’s nearly impossible, in fact, to avoid running into a crab house in Baltimore, There’s one in every neighborhood,  each proclaiming itself to be the maker of the best crab cakes in Maryland.

Situated as it is on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay and alongside the Atlantic Ocean, Maryland is very much a seafood state. In addition to steamed crabs, softshell crabs, crab cakes, crab fluffs, fried hard crabs and crab soup, you’ll find restaurants offering everything from steamed shrimp to mussels to oysters to fish.

Don’t be afraid to try it. Sure, crab LOOKS like a giant spider  (and, in fact, crabs are related to their spidery cousins). But it’s actually quite a treat - the kind of food that encourages messy social gatherings with plenty of chit-chat.

Some Maryland crab treats to try:

  • Steamed Crabs - A Maryland seafood staple, steamed crabs are blue crabs steamed in their shells with Old Bay seasoning or a similar seasoning.  To eat, you have to remove the hard shell, clean the crab out, and pull out the tasty white meat.  It’s messy, but fun. Best to do with a large table, plenty of newspaper to protect the tabletop, and lots of friends.
  • Softshell Crabs - This one is not for the squeamish. Softshell crabs are crabs in their molting stage, when their shells are soft instead of hard. Marylanders love to fry them up still in the shell and eat between bread for a nice softshell crab sandwich.
  • Jumbo Lump Crab Cake - Nearly every Maryland seafood restaurant offers its own version of the crab cake and every one of them thinks its version is best. Those made with jumbo lump meat (the most expensive and tastiest Maryland crab meat) are the winners. Look for crab cakes that break apart when your fork touches them: the less breading to hold the crab cake together, the more meat and the more delicious the meal.
  • Crab Fluff - The Maryland crab fluff is close cousin to the crab cake, but with a light, fluffy stuffing that is battered and deep-fried to a golden-brown.
  • Fried Hard Crab - Basically a steamed crab that is still in its shell, fried and deep-battered. You have to eat the crisp stuffing and shell first, then break apart and clean and eat the crab just like you do with steamed crabs. Bring your crab hammer!
  • Crab Imperial - A dish of jumbo lump crabmeat combined with mayonnaise or a sherried white sauce, Crab Imperial is rich-tasting and unforgettable.
  • Crab Soup - There are two versions. Maryland Crab Soup is the spicy kind, made with the same Old Bay seasoning used for steamed crabs, as well as plenty of crabmeat and vegetables. Cream of Crab soup is a white, creamy soup made with plenty of cream and plenty of crabmeat.
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La Tasca

La Tasca is a careful blend of everything about Spain. Warm décor, authentic cuisine and friendly hospitality. All these go together to create a unique and genuine atmosphere.  La Tasca has been described as being “so authentic that you won’t find anything better in Spain”.

Enjoy our sangria and savory Spanish tapas on the waterfront in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Upstairs and downstairs patios are available with capacity for parties and events up to 400.

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