Explore Washington D.C.

Star Power Lights up the Baltimore Restaurant Scene

Celeb chefs take a gamble, savvy locals up their game, and Charm City diners win.

Aaron Sanchez and John Besh
Aaron Sanchez and John Besh team up on restaurant Johnny Sanchez (Courtesy Horseshoe Casino)

Teaming Up

Johnny Sánchez, a collaboration of former Iron Chef contestants John Besh and Aaron Sánchez, marries farm-fresh ingredients to authentic Mexican fare inspired by the street food of Guadalajara. The two describe their new venture as a “spirited taqueria,” a social setting with live Latin music, views overlooking the city and dishes for sharing like the signature tostados (think blue crab and roast pumpkin). Sánchez, a Chopped (Food Network) judge, serves time-tested Mexican dishes like his grandmother’s Cabrito tacos (slow-roasted goat), while Beard-winner Besh adds New Orleans flair and a love of local sourcing. A private tasting room pours mezcals and tequilas.

Guy Fieri and Duff Goldman
Guy Fieri and Duff Goldman at the Horseshoe Casino opening (Courtesy Horseshoe Casino)

Fiery Fieri

“The Mayor of Flavortown” returns to Baltimore, a favorite site of his Food Network episodes, with the new Maryland-inspired Guy Fieri’s Baltimore Kitchen and Bar. The restaurant nods to the city’s “diners, drive-ins and dives” with a casual menu of American favorites, unique flavors and quirky platings. Fieri celebrates a love of the Chesapeake with dishes like the B-More fries (left) and Old Bay wings. Tattoo-inspired decor complements a lively atmosphere and a bar serving liquid nitrogen-chilled shots.

Lump crab cake dip waffle fries topped with Old Bay
Guy Fieri's lump crab dip waffle fries topped with Old Bay (Courtesy Horseshoe Casino)

A-List Aggio

Native son Bryan Voltaggio wears many toques—exec chef and co-owner of six restaurants, Beard award nominee and Top Chef finalist, author (Volt.Ink with brother Michael), father of three and advocate for ending child hunger. His new enterprise is upscale Italian Aggio, its kitchen overseen by Dan Izzo, wines by Keith Goldston.

This second Aggio (D.C. has the first) offers rare options—ambience that allows for conversation and graceful service that delivers each elegant course to guests in unison. As Sinatra and pals softly croon, the glam evening gets underway with cocktails, some named in honor of that Mad Men-cool Rat Pack.

Highlights of a recent meal (á la carte or as six-course tasting $95, wine pairing $65): beets with tonnato sauce and pine nuts, cuttlefish Bolognese with squid ink pasta, lamb ragu with pecorino, halibut with pickled cauliflower, branzino with cashew purée, New York strip with bone marrow custard, dazzling desserts like a layer cake of olive oil, Sicilian pistachio cream, sorbet and meringues. Expect surprises: even the spaghetti and meatballs take on Voltaggio sophistication.

Braised meatballs in ragu pomodoro with chitarra (© Bonjwing Lee/courtesy Aggio)
Aggio braises meatballs in ragu pomodoro, then serves them with chitarra (©Bonjwing Lee, Courtesy Aggio)

Charming Cakes

Duff Goldman, Baltimore’s own “cheflebrity,” typically serves delectable desserts as grand works of edible art made by Charm City Cakes, the bakery of Food Network fame. For the first time, fans of Duff and his sweet treats buy cake by the slice at Horseshoe Casino’s Jack Binion’s Steak. With butter-fried bananas smothering yellow cake that’s stuffed with chocolate buttercream filling, the N’awlins Bananas Foster is a must-try.

N'awlins Bananas Foster (Courtesy Horseshoe Casino)
Duff Goldman's N'awlins Bananas Foster on the menu at Jack Binion's Steak (Courtesy Horseshoe Casino)