Baltimore food is as quirky as the city itself, influenced by its working-class culture and position on the Chesapeake Bay. The city has embraced multiple food cuisines, from Southern and Italian to Greek and Korean, but these seven dishes are pure Baltimore, and worth a try when you’re in town.
Crab cakes are the first dish that comes to mind when anyone thinks of Baltimore. Maryland blue crabs make up approximately half of America’s entire blue crab harvest, making Baltimore the best place for fresh crab. Crab cakes are soft yet crusty fishcakes made with breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, eggs, and seasonings like Old Bay, the city’s favorite. So many great places have their own spin on the recipe, but don’t leave the city without trying one! Start with our “10 Places to Find the Best Crab Cakes in Maryland” list—six of the 10 are in Baltimore.
Since Baltimore is flush with fresh crab, you’ll find it in just about any Baltimore food. Crab soup? Check. Crab pizza? Check. Crab tacos, dip, pretzels, and eggs benedict? All real, and usually accompanied by Old Bay Seasoning. So, don’t just try crab cakes—try as many crabby dishes as you can! Local favorites include steamed blue crab, soft crab sandwiches and fried hard crab, a crab shell stuffed with crab cake and fried, shell and all. And if you’re in town for an Orioles game, make sure to grab a Stuggy’s Crab Mac n’ Cheese Dog.
Though not as popular as it was in its heyday from the 1900s–1970s, the coddie is still kicking around Baltimore area restaurants and is plenty yummy. This “poor man’s crab cake” is made with salt cod and potato, deep fried and sandwiched between two saltine crackers with mustard. It makes for a tasty snack and is still available at places such as Attman’s Deli, Faidley’s Seafood, Mama’s on the Half Shell, and Vikki’s Fells Point Deli.
Pit beef stands supposedly popped up along the Pulaski Highway in the 1970s, but the true origins of this Baltimore staple are somewhat murky. Still, however it started, the tradition lives on in a delicious way. Pit beef is prepared by cooking a round roast over hot charcoal and slicing it parchment-thin, and then piling it on a roll with onion and horseradish, barbecue or tiger sauce. Chaps Pit Beef’s version is “Guy Fieri’s Favorite Sandwich,” but you can find excellent pit beef places all over Baltimore and the surrounding areas, such as Pioneer Pit Beef in Catonsville.
As The Wire once said, it’s not really trout or from a lake, but Baltimore locals know this fried fish dish well. The “trout” in question is actually Atlantic whiting, which is rolled in cracker or cornmeal batter, deep fried (bones and all), and then served on white bread with hot sauce. It’s old-school, blue-collar takeout typically carried out in aluminum foil and a paper bag. You can find it in fried chicken places all over the city, as well as spots like Lexington Market and Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood, Lake Trout, and Kimmy’s Restaurant & Carry Out.
The Berger Cookie® is to Baltimore what the Black-and-White is to New York. Henry Berger brought the recipe over from Germany in 1835, and the recipe is said to be nearly the same to this day: a cakey shortbread cookie, hand-dipped on top with a thick layer of chocolate fudge. Though now sold online and all over Maryland and Delaware, Berger Cookies® are still most associated with Baltimore. To experience the Berger, check out Berger’s Bakery stand in Lexington Market and the Berger-stuffed Baltimore Bomb Pie at Dangerously Delicious Pies.
Going back to the 1800s and gaining popularity during the Great Depression, the Baltimore snowball is not a snow cone or Hawaiian shave ice, but a thing all its own. Snowballs are made of finely shaved ice—just chunky enough to hold up on a summer day—and then soaked with flavored syrup and topped with marshmallow fluff. Traditional flavors include egg custard and tutti frutti, but there are plenty to try. Look for snowballs at roadside stands like Icy Delights, One Sweet Moment, and Walther Gardens all summer long.