Baltimore has always been a great food town, but most would agree that this past year has seen a maturing of the city's dining and drinking scene. Baltimoreans no longer need to travel elsewhere for such hot trends as kegged cocktails, Brooklyn-esque butcher shops, Japanese whiskey and plates featuring flavorful swipes of this and dustings of that. Here we've compiled a list featuring some of the city's hottest newcomers as well as a few old favorites. Click here to weigh in on these (and any other of your Baltimore favorites), and you'll automatically receive eight weeks of free NYTimes.com access. But first, take a look at the slide show below for inspiration:
At this Federal Hill newcomer, you'll find expertly crafted versions of such classics as the Aviation and Sazerac alongside house originals, including The Witch's Word spiked with Journeyman rye and a nasturtium tincture or the Autumn Mule flavored with applejack and housemade ginger beer. Chef Sarah Acconcia's menu includes elevated comfort dishes like short-rib French dip and pork-shoulder pot roast.
31 E. Cross St.; 443-438-4039
Executive chef and co-owner Cindy Wolf was just named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Award category of Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, ensuring this well-regarded fine-dining room's spot on our destination-dining radar. The French-meets-Lowcountry menu might pair foie gras with a cornmeal cake, and shrimp Creole can follow up a decadent starter of caviar service.
1000 Lancaster St.; 410-332-7373
Chef Chad Gauss dishes up traditional Americana with a twist from the open kitchen of this sleek yet rustic spot on Hampden main drag. The meaty, bacon-heavy menu is cheekily broken up into "little," "small," "big" and "in between," allowing diners to graze or pig out. This restaurant notably offers free valet parking at dinnertime, which — if you've ever tried to find parking in Hampden — is incredibly useful.
1017 W. 36th St.; 410-366-0606
The name hints at the retro-industrial feel of this Canton space, which features dim lighting, banquettes upholstered in a rich, vintage-looking red and gold fabric, and antique fixtures and tools. The farm-to-table menu might include such seasonal, New American dishes as braised beef cheek with sunchokes and uni cream or fried chicken wings with Old Bay-mustard dust and crab mayo. Craft cocktails are a must-try here.
2322 Boston St.; 443-759-936
No Baltimore dining list would be complete without a bona fide crab house, and this one is a crowd favorite with locals. Here, you get crabs — from Maryland in-season and from the Gulf in the off season — the way they are meant to be served: in a pile on a butcher-paper tablecloth with a view of the water.
3301 Boston St., Suite 102; 410-276-8900
The folks behind Ouzo Bay opened this ode to Japan at the end of last year in the former Pabu spot adjacent to the Four Seasons. The waterfront space with harbor views serves beautiful sushi and maki — made with fish reportedly flown in from the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo — as well as both appetizers and entrees featuring A-5 Wagyu. Adventurous diners will want to let the chef choose by opting for one of three omakase options.
725 Aliceanna St.; 443-220-0477
This Fells Point eatery is a fine example of a classic Maryland oyster house, honoring the ocean with seafood towers, a raw bar, oyster stew and crab cakes — even New England gets some love with a family-style clam and lobster boil. Upstairs offers views of the water, while a charming patio is the place to be in warmer weather.
1728 Thames St.; 443-449-7726
Chef-owner Spike Gjerde, another semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, lent his Midas touch to this butcher shop/restaurant combo, which opened last April. And while Gjerde's flagship Woodberry Kitchen and its siblings, Artifact Coffee and Shoo-Fly, are also quite worthy of a try, this instant hit in Remington has diners flocking for its expertly prepared steaks and chops.
2600 N. Howard St.; 443-873-8887