Budget-Friendly Food with Flair in Baltimore
By Emily Grund
Baltimore is an overall budget-friendly travel destination. However, sometimes when people travel on a budget they miss out on the food a city has to offer and settle for fast food or hotel buffets instead. I highly suggest you don’t do that in Baltimore.
No matter the meal time of the day, Baltimore has a unique restaurant with appetizing food for an affordable price. Trying out the diverse food is just as fun as exploring all the sights, and an important part of understanding Baltimore’s diverse culture.
If you’re the kind of person that wakes up needing a full meal to start the day, Miss Shirley’s is the place to go. The packed full menu, with southern inspired dishes, will leave no one hungry and everyone happy.
The sunny atmosphere and friendly wait staff is sure to please even the grumpiest morning people, and with a quick cup of coffee you’ll be able to survey their extensive menu.
Before arriving, it was suggested that I try the Benne Seed Chicken ‘N Waffles. My first reaction at the idea of chicken and waffles was to scrunch my nose with disgust, but I’ve eaten fried bugs before so I couldn’t really judge.
The description for this dish was “Benne Seed Fried Boneless Breast of Chicken Pieces & a Honey-Mustard Aioli Drizzle on White Cheddar Green Onion Waffles with Peppadew-Jalapeno Butter.” I was also advised to get syrup on the side for the waffles for a perfect combination of sweet and salty.
And indeed, the dish was delicious, very filling, and worth taking a chance on. I admit I would have never tried this combination if I had searched the menu on my own, but take advice from the locals on this one.
Another favorite was the Funky Monkey Bread, described as “Cinnamon-Scented Pull-Apart with Bananas, Chocolate & Pecans, Dusted with Powdered Sugar.” This dish can be found on the Wake Up Your Taste Buds section of the menu which has the most budget friendly options. This gooey piece of heaven was worth the $9.99 and could easily be counted as a full meal due to its size, or shared among friends who have a sweet tooth.
If you’d rather have a more formal brunch with an affordable menu, Langermann’s has the answers. Classic brunch cocktails that range from $3.50 Mimosas to $6 Irish Coffees will make you and your wallet happy as you start your day. And although the restaurant has an elegant expensive feel, you’ll be happy to know that most brunch options are under $10 while also being extravagant in appearance and taste.
As all travelers that go to Baltimore must do, I decided to have crab cakes included in my brunch. I ordered the Eggs Chesapeake described as “Seared Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes Topped with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise Sauce atop Toasted English Muffin.” That plus coffee and a Bellini and I was a very happy camper.
Alternative Lunch and Appetizers
With so much to explore in Baltimore during the day, a casual lunch may be the best transition in between activities. The inner harbor has several benches to sit on, and there are plenty of parks to sprawl out in the grass to enjoy the sun, so why not take your lunch with you? With places like Cross Street Market you can.
Cross Street Market in South Baltimore is located in a young professional neighborhood, with hip stores, and classic red brick buildings lining the quaint streets. A nice break from the bustling city, there is a shift in the atmosphere when you enter this part of town.
The market itself reminded me of a European market that’s lined with fresh seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables. Other stands sell cell phone accessories or sun glasses which is also common in other international markets. In the mornings, this place is bustling with people trying to get fresh pastries and coffee before work, by afternoon the local feel is still vibrant with people on lunch breaks to get fresh sandwiches.
I get a turkey sandwich from Big Jim’s Deli with chips, soda, and a Berger cookie (Baltimore’s famous chocolate cookie) which is inexpensive and perfect for a picnic. A picnic from Federal Hill offers stunning views of the harbor and the city making for a very romantic spot. The cool breeze off the water is relaxing, and the sound of children playing on the playground give the entire scene an authentic feel.
If perhaps you miss lunch, but have some time to spare before a dinner reservation the perfect spot for appetizers and cocktails is Talara in Harbor East, a new upcoming neighborhood in Baltimore. During Happy Hour Monday through Friday from four to seven their Nuevo Latino tapas and cocktails are $5, making it the perfect place for people on a budget.
The atmosphere is vibrant and energetic and the restaurant offers several themes and discounts throughout the week. They offer free Salsa lessons on Monday nights, half off bottles of wine on Tuesdays, buy three Seviches get one free on Wednesdays, and half off cocktails for ladies night on Thursdays.
The five dollar tapas and cocktails are appetizing and well worth their value. I was a big fan of the Chorizo Wrapped Scallop, Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese Polenta and impressed with the strong and tasty Mango Mojito.
Affordable and Elegant Dinner
A romantic night out is generally on the to-do list during a vacation, and that usually includes a nice dinner. If you don’t want to break the bank to get this experience, Baltimore offers a few options that fit the bill.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room is chic and located right down the road from Talara in Harbor East. As the name portrays, this place has some great seafood. The overall menu is a bit pricey, however they offer a Spring Market Menu which is a seasonal three course prix-fixe menu for $29.95. The options are fantastic, with a house salad, Caesar salad, or clam chowder to choose from for the first course.
I opted for the clam chowder which was thick, creamy and filled with large clams. For entrees they offer Cioppino, Cape Hatteras Swordfish “Black & Bleu,” or Baked Stuffed Carolina Rainbow Trout Stuffed with Baby Bay Shrimp, Blue Crab & Brie Cheese.
I chose the swordfish, and was given a healthy serving to say the least. So as you may be able to tell, you won’t be going hungry.
Before I tell you the grand finale of what’s available for dessert, I highly suggest if you’re going to splurge on a side dish make it the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese with Smoked Gouda Cheese & Seasoned Breadcrumbs.
It isn’t included with the prix-fixe menu but it’s worth having to share with the table. If there’s room, and you should make room since dessert is included in the price, choose from Fresh Mango Sorbet, a Tin Roof Sundae, or Warm Chocolate Cookies and Milk. Stuffed to the brim, the sorbet was the lightest option for me and it was delicious just like everything else. The prefix menu also offers wine suggestions for $8, to round out your romantic evening on the cheap.
Marie Louise Bistro, located in Mt. Vernon, is a quaint French bistro with a homey dining room feel upstairs, and a café lounge downstairs. Another romantic spot, their menu offers French, Italian, and Mediterranean food for under $20. Like the other restaurants I’ve mentioned, just because they have low prices, does not reflect in the quality of the food.
The Steamed Clams with Garlic Butter for an appetizer was delectable and the left over broth was perfect for dipping bread. For an entrée I tried their prawn risotto special, which was beautifully presented as well as delicious. Their dessert tray was filled to the brim with several homemade choices, and once again I left satisfied and full.
All of these restaurants were just a preview of what Baltimore has to offer, and I’m sure there are several other budget friendly restaurants to choose from. The wide range from funky to elegant means there’s a restaurant for any occasion and within your budget. So don’t pass up authentic food for fast food in Baltimore, the money spent on food will be worth the experience and your taste buds will thank you.
Emily Grund is an Editorial Assistant at GoNOMAD in our South Deerfield office.
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