When you walk into Dovecote, you’ll be greeted warmly and enthusiastically, and it’ll be genuine. Dovecote, in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood not far from Druid Hill Park and the Maryland Zoo, is run by Aisha Pew; her mother, Gilda Pew; and Cole (who goes only by a first name). Its motto is “CommUNITY First, Cafe Second,” and it shows. They offer quick bites, like quiches and muffins for breakfast and soups and salads for lunch.
BTW: They offer free produce from the urban farm just around the corner to those in need.
Dovecote Cafe, 2501 Madison Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21217
Miss Shirley’s (Roland Park)
No matter which one of the Miss Shirley’s locations you visit (there are also outposts at the Inner Harbor and Annapolis), during weekend brunch time, you’ll see lines out the door. It’s cool, though: Everyone waits patiently for this Southern food spot’s heaping helpings of shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and stuffed French toast. Get your table and settle in with a big mimosa or a Born-on-the-Bay-O bloody mary.
BTW: The Gravy Train Southern Skillet is delicious and too rich to eat alone.
Miss Shirley’s, 513 W. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, Md. 21210
Gypsy Queen Cafe
Here’s what you do: Through its website or social-media accounts, you hunt down Gypsy Queen’s distinctively colorful food truck, wait out the line and then you get yourself a crab cone. Chefs Annmarie Langton and Tom Looney serve up a hefty Maryland-style crab cake (that means it’s mostly crabmeat held together with little binder) on a bed of fries and topped with spicy aioli, all served in a cone.
BTW: If you want the sit-down experience, the owners recently opened Gypsy’s Truckstaurant in the Hampden neighborhood.
Gypsy’s Truckstaurant, 3515 Clipper Mill Rd. Baltimore, MD 21211
Need a thought-provoking read to go with your vegan meal? Head over to Red Emma’s. This worker co-op serves up all kinds of options for folks who don’t eat meat, including kale salads, bagels with vegan cream cheese, fishless filets and “chick’n” salad sandwiches. You can peruse their large collection of works by local and national writers tackling topics like race, policing and capitalism.
BTW: The pancakes with vegan butter are delicious enough to please non-vegans.
Red Emma’s, 1225 Cathedral St. Baltimore, Md. 21201
Ida B’s Table
When Ida B’s Table chef David Thomas came out on top on an episode of the Food Network show “Chopped,” no one in Baltimore was surprised. The restaurant, which he runs with his wife, Tonya, hasn’t been around long but has already established itself as a destination. Thomas describes his style of cooking as “modern soul food.” He’s done his research, mixing old and new references to African American food and culture, to create an experience you won’t forget.
BTW: You can’t go wrong with the octopus po’boy sliders (grilled octopus, chipotle coleslaw, sweet potato remoulade, brioche) and sampling a cocktail.
Ida B’s Table, 235 Holliday St. Baltimore, Md. 21202
Steve Chu and Ephrem Abebe are the talented duo behind this cool Asian fusion restaurant in Fells Point. Get dishes like the Neighborhood Bird (Taiwanese curry fried chicken thigh topped with spicy sambal mayo, pickles and herbs) or the Tofu Brah (tofu, peanut sauce and slaw) on a steamed bun or over a bed of sticky white rice.
BTW: Even if you think you don’t like vegetables, you’ll love the tempura broccoli.
Ekiben, 1622 Eastern Ave. Baltimore, Md. 21231
End your night at this cute ice cream shop in Hampden, where a husband-and-wife team experiments with flavors like Old Bay Caramel and Cornflakes-and-Milk. The Charmery’s slogan is “happiness through ice cream,” and they mean it — they’ve even offered movie-themed ice cream events. They also serve sodas, milkshakes and floats.
BTW: You can see the day’s flavors via a live cam feed on their website.
The Charmery, 801 W. 36th St. Baltimore, Md. 21211
Feel like you’re stepping back into a 1920s speakeasy that manages to feel cool, but not pompous. When W.C. Harlan in Remington first opened, it didn’t even have an online presence. Amid candlelight, cocktails are crafted by folks who clearly know what they’re doing.
BTW: Clavel, a mezcaleria and taqueria by the same innovative couple, Lane Harlan and Matthew Pierce, is within walking distance and is also a local favorite.
W.C. Harlan, 400 W. 23rd St. Baltimore, Md. 21211