If you will be attending RAPS’ upcoming Regulatory Convergence, 24–28 October in Baltimore, it’s time to let you in on a little secret that may not stay secret much longer. Baltimore is quickly becoming one of the East Coast’s premier cities for great food.
With its working class roots and reputation for crabs and Old Bay seasoning, but little else food-wise, the city has not traditionally been thought of as a dining destination. That all started to change several years ago. The biggest question about Baltimore’s dining scene these days seems to be only whether Charm City is an emerging foodie town or one that has fully emerged.
Baltimore’s Culinary Emergence
In 2013, when Baltimore Magazine asked, “Is Baltimore a Foodie Town?,” the magazine observed, “Baltimore has long been known for its old-time crab houses, pit-beef stands, and lake-trout shops. But in the last few years, the city has been making strides in breaking out of the stereotype and being recognized for a growing culinary palate.” The same year, Fodor’s Travel said of the city’s dining scene, “there's a foodie renaissance underfoot,” due in part to its burgeoning embrace of the farm-to-table and locally sourced food movements.
Fast forward a couple of years and Baltimore’s dining scene is building not just momentum, but a growing reputation. This year, the Thrillist named Baltimore to its list of The 7 Most Underrated American Food Cities In 2015, and noted that more than 40% of the 50 eateries on Baltimore Magazine’s 2015 best restaurants list didn’t even exist five years ago. Earlier this year, chef Spike Gjerde won a prestigious James Beard Award—known as the “Oscars of the food world”—the first bestowed upon a Baltimore local.
Local Chefs on the Baltimore Dining Scene
RAPS recently caught up with the executive chefs from four popular Baltimore restaurants to talk about the city’s dining scene and what Convergence attendees can expect. Zachary Mills of Wit & Wisdom, Chris Amendola of Waterfront Kitchen, Andy Gaynor of Azumi and Carlo Vignotto of La Tavola shared their thoughts on their own restaurants as well as the city’s other myriad and growing restaurant options.
“I’ve been here 30 years and the food scene has changed from, like, really one-dimensional and simple to really complex,” says Gaynor. “The dining scene here in Baltimore is definitely growing,” says Amendola. “There are a lot of great restaurants here in Baltimore, a lot of good chefs.”
The locally sourced food movement has been a key element in Baltimore’s growth as a restaurant town, and the city’s penchant for experimentation also has played a role in many local menus. “We have a lot of farm-to-table restaurants coming in and a lot of people are pushing the envelope with different types of tastes,” says Gaynor. Whether you’re into trying something new or looking for a favorite dish well-executed, it’s not hard to find something to your liking in Baltimore. “Everybody’s working very hard to do really delicious food,” says Mills “You can find something different on every block in this city.”
Many Options: Upscale or Casual, Nearby or Across Town
If fine dining isn’t your thing, you still will find plenty of great food in more laid-back, casual settings. And of course, if it’s Maryland’s famous crabs you’re looking for, you will easily find a number of great options.
Regardless of what type of food you want, you won’t need to venture far unless you want to. There are many restaurants to choose from within easy distance of the conference hotels and the convention center. RAPS’ popular dine-arounds offer several such options, along with a chance to network and connect with fellow Convergence attendees.
Dine-Arounds Offer Food, Face Time
Year after year, the dine-arounds are always popular with conference attendees. They offer an opportunity to spend some quality time with colleagues and fellow attendees, old friends and new acquaintances alike, outside the conference setting. You simply sign up at RAPS Central for the specific restaurant you like, and all dine-around participants meet up and depart from the Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom Foyer (on the hotel’s 2nd floor) immediately following the RAPS Cocktail Hour on Tuesday, 27 October. Baltimore dine-around locations include:
In addition to all the above-mentioned restaurants and Baltimore Magazine’s 50 best restaurants list, other great resources for restaurant recommendations and information include the Thrillist, Trip Advisor and Yelp. Uber also has ranked the top dining destinations for Baltimore riders based on its own data.
To find out more about the Regulatory Convergence or to register, go to RAPS.org/convergence. To learn more about what to do and see in Baltimore, visit RAPS.org/2015/baltimore.