The Washington Post

A Baltimore food guide for D.C. sports fans

(Katherine Frey / The Washington Post)

I’m confident that Bog readership knows D.C.’s regional foods pretty well. Wings with mumbo sauce, a half-smoke from Ben’s, maybe a bowl of ramen from Toki Underground or Rasika’s legendary palak chaat, plus the sour taste of crushing disappointment in our sports teams. You’ve dined well on these things, and far be it for me to make a list of things you already know about.

(Except for sports disappointment. Lists about that have run in this space more than a few times, and if history is any indicator there are probably more to come.)

But you may not be quite so familiar with the regional foods of Washington’s friendly neighbor 35 miles north. And knowing how much everyone who reads the Bog likes thinking of Baltimore as part of the DMV, I thought you might want a primer.

If nothing else, you can keep this as a reference for mid-July, when you can drive up the road to see the Nats in interleague play at OPACY, or for late August, when the Redskins play a sure-to-be scintillating preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium.

My goal was to highlight foods that are iconic and either genuinely unique, exceptionally good, or both. So some literal icons (sorry, Mr. Boh!) got left off. The selections are based on my own gut instinct from having lived up in Baltimore for a few years (and being the sort of person who really likes eating and reading about food), combined with the input of a few trusted friends with Baltimore ties. I’ve also included a brief blurb comparing each food item to one of the 80 Greatest Redskins. Sports!


The initial impetus for this list was former WaPo Box Seats blogger Jason Woodmansee tweeting in some confusion about “Baltimore style snowballs”.

These are indeed a thing, with a long history as a cheap summer dessert in Baltimore. The ice is shaved finer than for snowcones, but isn’t quite as snowlike as some fancier shaved ices. The ice is flavored with any of dozens of totally fake flavorings, and often topped with marshmallow (in a runny, semi-liquid form). Because it is 2014, this is now also sold in a food truck in Northern California (slogan: “It’s a Baltimore thing!”) as a local, all-natural version in flavors like Meyer Lemon Shiso with homemade marshmallow, but to me that undercuts the entire point of the snack. This should be 80 percent sugar, 10 percent ice and 10 percent artificial coloring, and it should be eaten on the side of a melting stretch of asphalt on a humid summer day.

One place to find it: Snoasis in Cockeysville.

How to order it: Get one in Egg Custard flavor topped with marshmallow for the full traditional experience, along with 8,000 percent of your USRDA for sugar. The other most traditionally Baltimore flavor is probably Skylite, which is light blue in color and tastes like light blue food coloring.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Mike Nelms. Exceptionally specialized skill set; terrific value for money; not exactly well known outside of an immediate circle of die-hard fans — Nelms and a Baltimore-style snowball are virtually indistinguishable.


(Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post)

Baltimore Pit Beef

Here’s another iconic Baltimore food that makes the most of a cheap ingredient (in this case, top- or bottom-round roast) and is traditionally sold at roadside stands (eastern Baltimore’s Pulaski Highway). Pit beef is frequently described as Baltimore’s answer to barbecue, but that’s the kind of statement that brings the wrath of puritanical barbecue fanatics, so let’s leave it at this: It’s beef, cooked over an open pit, then sliced thin and served on a roll with some horseradish, some raw onion, maybe some barbecue sauce.

One place to find it: Chaps Pit Beef (located in Baltimore unless it was annexed to be part of Flavortown when Diners, Drive-ins and Dives dropped by).

How to order it: Rare, with lots of horseradish. (Or just make it yourself.)

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Like linebacker Neal Olkewicz, this sandwich is notable for almost no reason beyond its Maryland roots. The relentless masculinity of a huge pile of rare meat also calls to mind Olkewicz’s lush beard.



(Photo by David Hilowitz is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Lake Trout

In choosing to write about this, I am obligated by food-writing law to point out that this fish is neither trout nor from a lake. It’s yet another cheap ingredient made palatable, although this one is sold less from roadside shacks and more from streetside carry-outs, and most people outside of Baltimore probably know it best from an episode of “The Wire.” This is actually the specialty that should most unify the Bog readership with the folks up in Charm City, because lake trout is actually fried whiting and, as Tim Carman has chronicled over in the Food section, fried whiting should really be considered one of the iconic foods of D.C. as well.

One place to find it: Nick’s Oyster Bar in Cross Street Market. Not the most authentic, but it offers the most other options if not everyone you’re with is into lake trout. Plus it puts you in the same market as Bruce Lee’s Wings, a Redskins-friendly establishment that can provide a little slice of home in that scary faraway land.

How to order it: Boneless, if possible, or else eat carefully, with plenty of hot sauce.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Joe Washington also experienced success in both Washington and Baltimore, and also became famous for his Baltimore exploits via TV.



The last of the make-something-out-of-the-cheap-stuff regional specialties on this list, coddies are fried cakes of cod flakes, potatoes and onions, usually served with yellow mustard and saltine crackers. Like all these other specialties, coddies have a long history in Baltimore that makes them sound far more interesting than they actually are. Because of their origins in the Jewish community, they can be viewed a crabcake substitute for people who aren’t able to eat crab. They are not nearly as good as crabcakes.

One place to find it: Attman’s, the last shop standing in what used to be Baltimore’s legendary Corned Beef Row of Jewish delis. But if you’re at Attman’s and you order a coddie instead of, say, a Lombard Street (hot corned beef, hot pastrami, chopped liver and Russian dressing), you’re really doing it wrong. (There’s also a branch of Attman’s in Potomac now, but going there misses the whole remnants-of-Corned Beef Row experience.)

How to order it: Grudgingly. Also, on saltines with yellow mustard.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Richie Petitbon also has a storied past and excelled in a supporting role, but turned out to be less-than-ideal as a focal point.


(James M. Thresher / for The Washington Post) (James M. Thresher / for The Washington Post)


Let’s get the giggling out of the way first: the name is a Pennsylvania Dutch word for cottage cheese, but in Baltimore (and, apparently, only Baltimore) it refers to a very specific variation on a cheesecake. This rendition is generally made with a base of cottage cheese, on a dough- (as opposed to crumb-) based crust, and served in squares (not rounds or wedges) lightly dusted with cinnamon. This is some pretty arcane, Baltimore-specific stuff, as previously chronicled in the WaPo blog world by Leigh Lambert on the late, deeply lamented All We Can Eat blog.

One place to find it: You could make it yourself — there’s a recipe in that link — but for the full Baltimore experience, hit Hoehn’s Bakery in Highlandtown. They’re also a good spot for a traditional Baltimore peach cake, yet another iconic Baltimore dessert that didn’t make this list.

How to order it: As prepared. Don’t go fancying it up with your weird fresh fruits and complicated spice blends.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Dave Butz, another largely overlooked great with a name guaranteed to make 12 year old boys chortle like Beavis and Butthead.

(Via Faidley's)

Faidley’s Crabcakes

Everyone with an opinion on food in Baltimore likely has a favorite crabcake, and likely thinks that everyone else’s opinion is wrong. For me, the choice has always been Faidley’s Seafood. This is partially because it’s an excellent lump crabcake, and partially because it’s an excuse to send people into the endearing madness of Lexington Market, where Faidley’s has been in operation since 1886. You can also get coddies and lake trout at Faidley’s, along with muskrat, shad roe and other regional delights, but I’d stick to the crabcake.

How to order it: Broiled, and eaten with a fork, not as a sandwich.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Pat Fischer: undeniably great, although not necessarily the consensus GOAT at his position. Also, like Lexington Market, Fischer is appealingly eccentric, and high-energy despite his age.


Matthew’s Pizza

I had never had a pizza like the one served at Matthew’s Pizza before, and assumed for years that it was yet another uniquely Baltimore creation. A 2011 review/overview of the place from genius-level food nerd J. Kenji Lopez-Alt corrected that misapprehension. This, he explains, is a perfectly executed rendition of what’s called a Greek-style pizza: cooked in a deep pan with olive oil at the bottom that essentially fries the bottom crust while the pizza cooks. As I’ve never encountered Greek pizza anywhere else (it’s apparently a New England thing), so I’ll take Kenji at his word that this is a good rendition. All I can personally aver is that it’s exceptionally good pizza. Some people swear by the crab pie, but I prefer the less gimmicky variations.

How to order it: Get the Both Cheese Pie, and eat it there. It’s not a pizza that travels well (although it’s almost worth getting takeout just to enjoy the butcher-paper-wrapped, boxless pies).

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Clinton Portis: somewhat quirky but secretly old-school, and excellent in multiple systems and guises.


(Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post)

Berger Cookies

If pit beef is Baltimore’s answer to barbecue, the Berger Cookie is the response to Philadelphia’s Tastykake pride. And that response is, basically, “Here is a whole bunch of icing with a cookie tucked underneath.” Composed of roughly equally parts of soft white shortbread cookie and chocolate fudge, the Berger cookie is handmade in a factory in Baltimore. It somehow contains enough trans fat that the new FDA regulations put the cookie’s entire existence in jeopardy, which is the hallmark of a good snack.

One place to find it: If you’re reading this in the DMV, you can probably find them at a grocery store near you. If not, Internet.

How to order it: With milk. (Or with the Berger Cookie Chocolate Stout from Full Tilt, if you prefer your cookies with — and brewed into — beer.)

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Joe Theismann: both can be cloying despite general excellence and aren’t to everyone’s taste. Also may both see their respective runs cut short by larger forces.


(By Matt Terl for The Washington Post)

Otterbein’s Cookies

Between the Berger Cookies and these, Baltimore has two drastically different iconic cookie brands that have been producing cookies for something like 250 years combined. Otterbein’s are pretty much the polar opposite of Berger cookies: thin, crispy, somewhat light and available in multiple traditional varieties (sugar, chocolate chip, lemon, ginger, oatmeal raisin). I realize that this isn’t nearly as impressive as two dozen boutique cupcake shops that have been operating for a combined four dozen years, but it’s still worthy of note. Like every other Baltimore-based dessert, these contain enough sugar to stun a hummingbird.

One place to find it: If you’re reading this in the DMV, you can probably find them at a grocery store near you. If not, Internet.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: As these are simultaneously characterized by their differences from and similarities to their peer, let’s say that Otterbein’s cookies are Mark Moseley to Berger’s Joey T.


(Photo by Heidi De Vries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

Resurrection Ale

Brewer’s Art was once one of my neighborhood bars, at an earlier time in my life when having a terrific neighborhood bar seemed vitally important. Brewer’s, on a scenic stretch of Charles Street with a very good restaurant upstairs and a dim, labyrinthine bar area downstairs, fit the bill perfectly, and Resurrection Ale, their flagship beer, was a major reason why. It’s a 7% abv Abbey brown that drinks much, much easier than that, and often turned happy hour into a very late night or early morning. Their other beers (notably the even higher abv Ozzy) are also great, but if I’m declaring one a regional specialty it’s going to be Resurrection.

One place to find it: Both Resurrection and Ozzy are now available in cans in parts of the DMV, but for all the reasons listed above I heartily recommend making the trek to Brewer’s Art itself.

Analogous member of the 80 greatest Redskins: Smooth, gregarious, strong, and liable to leave you lying on the ground, concussed and crying like Danny White in the NFC championship game, Resurrection is the great Dexter Manley in beer form.



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