Baltimore's Culinary Touring Scene

Jennifer Waldera

Alright, Baltimore food lovers, let's all confess. We adore and savor our food, and we can't get enough of the ever-growing food scene in Baltimore, from farm to table concepts to food truck gatherings to the top notch cocktail program trend, but...? We get stuck in a rut sometimes. The duck fat fries at that favorite happy hour spot, the creative cocktails at the hip spot up the street, or just favorite comfort foods at our favorite dive sound their siren song, and we find ourselves once again attached to bar stools or table seats that, were they cushioned, would have our imprint in them.


Is there anything wrong with having a Cheers-style go-to spot where everyone does, indeed, know your name? Absolutely not! In fact, it's an incredible testament to your restaurant of choice that their food and service are worthy of returning on the regular. However, since the food revolution in Baltimore that has supported the influx of a massive amount of restaurants and bars, it would seem that we who have such a great appreciation for various food types and preparations should step out of our boxes to explore what Baltimore has to offer, whether it's a newer spot named a top place to get a reservation by OpenTable, or an older and quainter restaurant that we just haven't visited yet. That said, it can be a trying task to sort through the choices and determine just which establishment has the food, drinks and ambiance worthy of dropping hard earned cash.


Having a boatload of options is a good problem to have for any self-proclaimed foodie. But when you realize that just one small neighborhood like Fell's Point has approximately 122 restaurants and bars, choosing a destination can quickly become overwhelming or time consuming. So just what is a food lover in Baltimore to do when climbing out of our personally created food ruts?


Enter: Food Tourism.


Food tourism is part of an exploding national trend through which locals and visitors alike can learn about a city through exploring its food. Could there be any better way to learn about where to dine than by sampling at a multitude of restaurants while learning about the intricacies of the cuisine?


Baltimore is fortunate that, in addition to its growing population of restaurants, it has also become home to an established food tour organization, Charm City Food Tours. In the last several years, Charm City Food Tours has expanded throughout the city to provide public or private tours for groups from 2 to hundreds in nearly every neighborhood in the city you would want to explore.


Food touring via Charm City Food Tours gives the chance to dine at up to five restaurants in three hours’ time while learning about the preparation of the food and often the historical significance of the cuisine being offered. Experienced guides, who are as food loving as you are, share fascinating information about the food and the restaurant's background or historical significance, while the wait staff and restaurateurs are also engaging and happy to answer questions.


In addition to having the opportunity to enjoy the cuisine, drinks, service and ambiance of several restaurants, food tourists also have the chance to enjoy information from their tour guides who also share cultural, architectural and historical information as the group walks to the next dining experience.


Initially, the idea of being guided around parts of your own city may seem absurd and unnecessary. You're from here! You were born here! You KNOW this town. Let me assure you, you will be astounded by how much you learn about the city in which you live. Many of us know that Fell's Point might have been decimated by the construction of a 16 lane highway through it in the 1970's. But do you know the very cheeky public location where you can find those blueprints? On a tour through Fell's Point, you will likely find the answer. You'll also get tips on where to find other incredible food, amazing specials, and any other information you want from your tour guide who knows the area and its culture and history better than Buck Showalter knows baseball.


Overall, after visiting a handful of new restaurants, and being given even more information about others along the walking tour, you have the opportunity to experience a wide range of cuisines and experience the area you choose to tour in a different light, even if you've had the fortune to visit it a million times before.


At the very least, the three hours you spend on the tour will give you a greater relevant perspective of the restaurants in a given neighborhood. What foodie doesn't love that? Better yet, after a tour you'll surely be armed with fun historical tidbits or restaurant “in” information that will make you look like the Anthony Bourdain of your town when you host visitors or take out that date you've been trying to figure out how to impress.


 However; dare I say it, you may actually find your next go-to restaurant....


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