With its perch on the Chesapeake Bay, it's no surprise Maryland is known for having great seafood, but that's only the beginning of our culinary chops. Between modern eateries in trendy neighborhoods, fantastic breweries, up-and-coming distilleries, celebrity-chef-driven food cathedrals and quirky, local sweets and treats, Maryland is a gastronomic destination that begs to be savored.
Chesapeake Seafood Superiority
Crab is king in Maryland, and there's no better place to get your fill in all manner of styles than along the state's Crab & Oyster Trail. Taste favorities from homemade lump crabcakes to the rich cream of crab soup at G&M Restaurant in Linthicum Heights. For the adventurous, a soft-shell crab from Captain Pat's Seafood in Lexington Park is an entree to be relished. The ultimate Maryland food experience, a steamed crab feast at Harris Crab House in Grasonville is certain to feed both appetite and soul.
Oysters---the majestic pearls of the Chesapeake Bay---are always on the menu in myriad ways. Whether you like them fried lightly in cornmeal, raw on the half shell with a squeeze of lemon or poached in a velvety soup, they are never better than when fresh from the bay like at Jerry's Place on Solomons Island Road in Prince Frederick. For a genuine Maryland experience, try them playfully served in shot glasses with your choice of cocktail sauce or a beer.
Shellfish aren't the only bay-to-table delicacy inspiring Maryland menus. The state fish, the rockfish (striped bass) with its delicate yet memorable flavor, is savored all across Maryland. Many take it to another level topped off with Crab Imperial for a truly indulgent meal. Another regional favorite is the "coddie," a small patty of potato and codfish that is breaded, fried, cooled and then traditionally served on a cracker with mustard. Try it at Attman's Deli in Baltimore (serving corned beef since 1951).
Top Restaurants For Foodies
Maryland restaurants have recently stolen the spotlight, James Beard-nominated chefs were recognized for their mainstay restaurants, Cindy Wolf for Charleston and Spike Gjerde for Woodberry Kitchen, while the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, a fun enclave full of artists and entrepreneurs, has become a hotbed of culinary activity. The restaurants and bars that occupy Hampden's famous 36th Street range from upscale (The Food Market) to funky (Golden West Cafe).
Celebrity chefs have bet big on Maryland by opening their own personality-driven restaurants at The Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore. Food Network superstar Giada De Laurentis opened her casual GDL Italian with much fanfare, while internationally renowned firebrand Gordon Ramsay brings a little bit of London to his namesake Gordon Ramsay Steak alongside Guy Fieri's Flavortown at the Horseshoe. For more TV star power, check out the Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse at MGM National Harbor and Bobby Flay's Burger Palace at Maryland Live Casino.
Maryland has its own spin on barbecue. With a smoky, charred exterior and the interior of perfectly cooked prime rib, Maryland pit beef is delightful street food. Sliced thin, piled high on a Kaiser roll and traditionally topped with onion, barbecue sauce and horseradish, this sandwich is a meat lover's dream. It can be found at many a roadside stand or at Fast Eddies Pit Beef in North East. And for chocolate lovers, Smith Island Cake---the official state cake of Maryland---is a simple, indulgent arrangement of eight to ten thin layers of yellow cake with chocolate frosting in between.
Best Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries
To enhance all those delicious delicacies, sip on unique, local brews and beverages. Celebrate Maryland's wine, beer and distilling scene by raising a locally crafted glass of our favorite spirits at one of our internationally recognized wineries or ten wine trails that connect multiple vineyards, meaderies and cider mills. Beer is big business in Maryland with companies like Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Monument City Brewing and Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, and RAR Brewing in Cambridge creating some of the most original and flavorful brews imaginable. The only Guinness brewery in America, the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House offers a tasting room and bar situated in a large warehouse lined with paintings of blue crabs and terrapins holding their signature drafts. For those after something a little stronger, distilleries, such as Old Line Spirits, Blackwater Distilling and Lyon Distilling Company, are making everything from whiskey to gin with a quality unmatched by bigger stills.
Old Bay Traditions
Maryland blue crabs are served fresh from the Chesapeake in abundance from spring to fall and have been a state delicacy since the mid-1800's. Taste this tradition in Ocean City at award-winning Liquid Assets wine bar and bistro for some of the finest bay-to-table dishes and local spirits. Another tradition, Maryland-style rye whiskey, is a timeless, pre-Prohibition antidote brewed with delicate, sweet flavor. Rare & Rye in Ocean City is just one place to give it a try, while world-class waterfront distillery Sagamore Spirit in Baltimore offers a selection of Maryland ryes that's grown since 1909.