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Get your claws on some superb seafood


Richard Ouzounian
Toronto Star

BALTIMORE, MD.–Every Canadian snowbird has a different itinerary when they head south this time of year. If you're going to Florida and tend to favour the Atlantic coastal route, think about spending time in Baltimore.

Once ironically nicknamed "Charm City," it has developed over the last few decades into a place with a sophisticated downtown as well as some beautifully preserved historical districts.

There are museums, galleries, theatres and excellent dining. Most of it focuses on crustaceans, because crab is king in Baltimore.


OBRYCKI'S CRAB HOUSE & RESTAURANT; 1727 E. Pratt St.; 410-732-6399: Embrace your inner Marylander at this charming, comfy place which has been around for more than 50 years. They serve a wide variety of dishes, but what you really want are blue crabs, spicy and steamed to perfection. They spread butcher paper on the table, hand you a wooden mallet, then pour out a mess of crabs. You smash, you eat, you sigh with delight. Ice cold beer helps the process considerably.


JIMMY'S RESTAURANT; 801 S. Broadway; 410-327-3273: If you want to go to a "real Baltimore" place, this is it. A real assortment of characters can be found here starting at 5 a.m., when they open. and if you go that early, you'll be sharing your ham and eggs with the party-hearty crowd on their way to bed. There are potatoes (fried or hash-brown) served with virtually everything.


FAIDLEY'S SEAFOOD; 400 W. Lexington St. 410-727-4898: This is one of the crown jewels of the Lexington Market, a Baltimore stomping ground since 1782. All they serve are crab cakes that are reputed to be the city's best – which is no small boast in this town. You can only get them to go, but it's worth the effort to find a place and enjoy them, along with some delicious treats from the three dozen other food vendors found in the market.


PETER'S INN; 504 S. Ann St. 410-675-7313: Another place to encounter Baltimore on its own terms is this feisty local favourite. It may look like a slightly sketchy tavern in the historic Fells Point district, but venture inside and you'll find a warm and friendly place with a crowd as eclectic as its menu. You're sure to find some superb local seafood (remember that scallops from Chesapeake Bay are another regional treasure), but the kitchen here also turns out dishes like a Bar-B-Q Pork Shank with Cheddar Cheese Grits that are sheer delight.


THE BLUE MOON CAFE; 1621 Aliceanna Ave.; 410-522-3940: The only thing wrong with this place is that everybody loves it, which makes it a bit hard to get into. It could be the friendly crowd or the consistently ace coffee, but the mouth-watering food also has a lot to do with it. The cinnamon buns are justifiably famous, the huevos rancheros will set your mouth on fire and – if you're not sick of crab – then tuck into a scrumptious order of Crab Benedict, the traditional brunch favourite, with lump crabmeat instead of back bacon.


LA SCALA; 1012 Eastern Ave.; 410-783-9209: Yes, Baltimore has a Little Italy and although not as big as Manhattan's or Boston's, it's well worth a visit.

This recently renovated favourite is a bit more elegant than some of its neighbours, but still radiates a nicely personal feel. Their Fettuccine Verdi ai Quattro Formaggi is a knockout pasta dish and La Valdaostana Originale is a one-pound veal chop stuffed with prosciutto and fontina cheese. Any room left after? Go around to Vaccaro's (222 Albemarle St.; 410-685-4905) for cannoli that definitely belongs in the hall of fame.




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