Get Outdoors: Baltimore's Alfresco Dining Scene

Hit the patio at these favorite restaurants where pretty views match pretty plates

Great views in eclectic zones give Baltimore restaurants good reason to go alfresco. The Inner Harbor is an ideal point of entry with storied Phillips Seafood and its famously festive crab deck. Other spots to try include Tir Na Nog for Irish fare overlooking dramatic front-row views of historic ships like the U.S.S. Constellation. From there, take a stroll past the National Aquarium and sportswear mega store Under Armour to hopping Harbor East, where sophisticated dining hot spots like Azumi and Ouzo Bay offer upscale, hip dining options.

A quick water taxi ride away, Fells Point has historic architecture, cobblestone streets, a nautical ambiance and a fun mix of shops, trendy restaurants, bars and pubs. Fan of the Netflix series “House of Cards”? Some scenes were filmed here as was a scene from the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com “Sleepless in Seattle.” Pull up a barstool in any of the taverns on bustling Thames Street, or stop into Bond Street Social for shared plates and unsurpassed water views.

Just east of Fells Point lies Canton, named for the Chinese shipping port that brought Captain John O'Donnell wealth more than 200 years ago. Today, the zone retains much of its working class roots, lending a comfortable neighborhood feel at local restaurants like the atmospheric Annabel Lee Tavern.

In Federal Hill, pubs and eateries line the streets, along with Cross Street Market, a block-long enclosed marketplace. Nearby, SoBo Café offers Mediterranean comfort foods made from scratch emphasizing fresh seasonal ingredients, served—where else?—on high-top tables along the sidewalk.

Explore more of Baltimore’s photogenic side with our guide to alfresco dining.

—Intro by Alice Shapin and Anne Kim-Dannibale

Seafood galore

Fells Point’s Thames Street Oyster House offers tables in front for water views and people-watching, and in back for courtyard lingering. Besides oysters, clams, fish and octopus, diners dig into chopped salad with lobster and such sides as sweet and sour beets and “beach” fries seasoned with Old Bay. Pair them with beer from a wide selection, and end with lemon ricotta doughnuts, house-made sorbet or dulce de leche bread pudding.
1728 Thames St., 443.449.7726, www.thamesstreetoysterhouse.com

The Edgar Allan Poe-themed tavern Annabel Lee in Canton

Follow Poe

Paintings of famed hometown scribe Edgar Allan Poe and quotes from his Gothic poem grace the walls of darkly romantic Annabel Lee Tavern in Canton. Here, locals flock to several tables along the sidewalk and share ample portions of duck fat fries, barbecue chicken and applewood-smoked bacon nachos, mac and cheese made with local Resurrection beer, crab cakes and crispy fish tacos.

Keeping with the theme, try Edgar Allan Paté for dessert, with three kinds of chocolate and served with Madeira raspberry sauce and whipped cream. Liquid assets include specialty cocktails and several microbrewery beers.
601 S. Clinton St., 410.522.2929, www.annabelleetavern.com

Phillips Seafood restaurant's patio with Inner Harbor views

A cracking good time

At local institution Phillips Seafood, recipes go back generations. On its famed deck, perched out into the harbor, it’s crabs, crabs, crabs—piping hot hard shells, soft shells and, of course, plenty of classic crab cakes. Landlubbers have lots of tasty choices, too, like steaks, chicken and salads. A live band keeps things festive.
601 E. Pratt St., 410.685.6600, www.phillipsseafood.com

Santa Barbara sea urchin at Azumi in Harbor East

Go East, Harbor East

One of the waterfront’s newest eateries, Azumi transports diners to Japan. Its name means “safe harbor,” an ideal moniker for a restaurant located steps from the water. The patio offers panoramic views and magnificent sunsets. Sushi (most fish flown in from a top Tokyo market), Sawagani crabs (flash-fried miniature freshwater crustaceans topped with a touch of sea salt) and Wagyu beef create equally beautiful sights on the plate. A master sake sommelier offers guidance for newbies and connoisseurs, while desserts riff on classics. Try the hand-made mochi (yuzu, mango and matcha green tea) and Fuji (chocolate molten cake). It’s also a hot nightspot with a DJ spinning four nights a week.
725 Aliceanna St., 443.220.0477, www.azumirestaurant.com

Lamb chops at Ouzo Bay in Harbor East

At nearby Ouzo Bay, diners get a front-row seat to the waterfront as well. Here, a comfy couch or table lays the foundation for tasty Greek cuisine like grilled octopus and flaming saganaki for starters, and lamb or grilled fish for mains. Don’t forget the baklava.
1000 Lancaster St., 443.708.5818, www.ouzobay.com

Be Social

Bond Street Social’s spacious outdoor area is filled with couches and tables set against a backdrop of striking harbor views. Here, the idea that food and drink are best when shared with good company comes to life in comfort foods like mac and cheese, tuna tartare, grilled cheese, crispy smoked gouda sticks, sliders and pizzettas. Gregarious locals also visit for yummy brunch, digging into crab cake Benedict, duck confit hash, omelets and citrus French toast. “Social drinks” brought to the table in large glass infusion jars extend the sharing theme, while liquid nitrogen martinis grab everyone’s attention.
901 S. Bond St., 443.449.6234, www.bondstreetsocial.com

Chesapeake Bounty

The bounty of local farms and the Chesapeake Bay star at Woodberry Kitchen. A patio strung with lights and surrounded by abundant plants and herbs set the mood for Chef Spike Gjerde’s James Beard Award-winning rustic fare. On chillier evenings, diners gather round the fire pit and snack on an abbreviated menu. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Dive into the Chesapeake with oysters, blue crab, rockfish or Tilghman Island crab cakes. Leave room for dessert, like crowd favorite “C.M.P.,” house-made ice cream drizzled with hot fudge and topped with toasted marshmallows and wet peanuts. For brunch try morning flatbreads and pancakes flipped on cast iron pans. Best to come weekdays.
2010 Clipper Park Rd. #126, 410.464.8000, www.woodberrykitchen.com

Alice Shapin
About the author