Once upon a time, local food in Baltimore meant sauerkraut and Berger cookies, pit beef and crabs slathered in Old Bay. Today, it still means all that, but also fermented radishes and pigs that spend their lives foraging for acorns in the woods. As each new restaurant flicks on the filament lights over the bar, where a bewhiskered bartender mixes a cocktail in a mason jar with herbs grown on the roof, we may be tempted to yawn. But don’t. The pioneers in the local food movement are still going strong, and the standards they set remain fixed. Baltimore is dancing at the edge of the national spotlight for its inventive, quirky, and often bootstrap cuisine. The listings here are arranged by neighborhood. We’re sorry we don’t have the space to cover everything; go forth and discover.
($ = most entrees are $10 and under, $$ = $10-$15, $$$ = $15-$25, $$$$ = $25 and above)
The Chesapeake Restaurant (1701 N. Charles St.,  547-2760, thechesapeakebaltimore.com, $$$) A Baltimore classic revived like a breath of fresh air off the bay. Slurp some oysters at the long marble bar or recline in a leather booth for one of their nightly specials.
Lost City Diner (1730 N. Charles St.,  547-5678, $$) Flew off the radar for a bit, but here’s hoping this retro space-agey diner keeps churning out shakes in the vintage Waring.
Joe Squared (133 W. North Ave.,  545-0444,joesquared.com, $$ Square pizzas, hip music, and heaps of risotto. Plus drink specials to keep the artists happy. (Now also at Power Plant Live, with additional projects in the works.)
Nam Kang (2126 Maryland Ave.,  685-6237, $$)Late-night Korean barbecue for when you don’t care where you drip. Open until 4 a.m. daily.
Sofi’s Crepes (1723 N. Charles St.  727-7732,sophiscrepes.com, $) Hearty flat pancakes with savory and sweet fillings (multiple locations).
Tapas Teatro (1711 N. Charles St.,  332-0110,tapasteatro.com, $$$)Adjacent to the Charles Theatre, offering Mediterranean small plates for boisterous indie-film debates.
Mount Vernon/Bolton Hill
Akbar (823 N. Charles St.,  539-0944, akbar-restaurant.com, $$$)
Classy purveyor of straightforward Indian fare, including the all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet.
The Bun Shop
(239 W. Read St.,  989-2033, $) Sweet and savory buns from all over at this artful venue, where Vietnamese coffee will keep you perked up till the 3 a.m. closing.
Belvedere 13th Floor (1 E. Chase St.,  347-0880, 13floorbelvedere.com $$$) This once-rollicking bar has transformed into a classy supper club with comfy seating, stunning views, and easy-listening live music.
b, a Bolton Hill Bistro (1501 Bolton St.,  383-8600, b-bistro.com, $$$) A neighborhood favorite with a focus on seasonal, regional goods. Worth a trip for the rest of us.
B&O American Brasserie (2 N. Charles St.,  692-6172, bandorestaurant.com, $$$) Skillful preparations of local meats, seafood, and cocktails may be inspired by the railroad barons?but with a decidedly modern twist?in a dimly lit and elegant setting.
The Brewer’s Art (1106 N. Charles St.,  547-6925, thebrewersart.com, $$$) Craft brews in the busy bar, dinner in the high-ceilinged, Gilded Age townhouse, or loud music and drinking in the dungeonlike bar downstairs. Your pick.
Dooby’s (802 N. Charles St., doobyscoffee.com) Fancy fair-trade coffee brewed to your preference, pastries, craft beers, and the ambitious goal of becoming a Mount Vernon social hub.
Dukem (1100 Maryland Ave.,  385-0318, dukemrestaurant.com, $$) Baltimore’s quieter version of D.C. Ethiopian features shared platters of key wot (beef stew), lamb fit fit, and all manner of beans and lentils, to be scooped up with spongy injera bread.
The Helmand (806 N. Charles St.,  752-0311, helmand.com, $$) Grilled meats, eggplant, and the beloved baked pumpkin are prepared and served with panache in the Afghani tradition, by folks who know what they’re doing.
Joss Café and Sushi Bar (413 N. Charles St.,  244-6988, josssushi.com, $$$) Like its better-known Annapolis sibling, this Mount Vernon spot creates inventive rolls and enticing cocktails.