Top Ten Baltimore Dishes of 2016

1. Fettuccini with lemon and pistachios at Hersh’s (1843 Light St., [443] 438-4948, hershs.com)

There are many factors that may be keeping you from discovering Hersh’s pasta section. Maybe it’s the fact that the comfortable neighborhood joint is hidden away on the southside, requiring a drive past Federal Hill’s drunken bar scene. Or maybe it’s because their pasta’s overlooked among their more popular pizza and cocktail offerings. But do yourself a favor and find it. Made in-house daily by Chef Josh Hershkovitz, the noodles are toothsome and always leave us asking how something as modest as flour, eggs, and salt can turn into something so fulfilling. While they’re all stellar, the fettuccine with lemon is especially compelling. Layered with a bright acid from the lemon juice, earthiness and added texture from crushed pistachios, saltiness via a dusting of pecorino, and a touch of heat from crushed red pepper flakes, it’s a soul-satisfying thing of beauty. (Ryan Detter)

2. Fatty Addie at City Limits Sports Bar (1700 E. Fort Ave., [410] 244-8084, citylimitssportsbar.com)

Human meme Guy Fieri is endlessly mocked for his frosted tips and ability to gorge on fatty foods. If we’re being honest, this burger is perfect for Guy. In between the bun, it’s your standard bacon cheeseburger, with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. But the thing that puts it on the bus to Flavortown is that the bun is really two grilled cheese sandwiches. Think about all that cheese and meaty heartiness. It’s stacked so high that you have to wonder how you’re even going to get your mouth around this thing, but fear not, it can be done. And once it’s gone, you can feel the blood slowing in your veins. (Brandon Weigel)

3. Beef pho at Pho Viet (104 St. Paul St., [410] 244-1428, facebook.com/phovietnoodlehouse)

The last time I stopped by Pho Viet for lunch the “real feel” outside was 7 degrees, and the wind untied my shoelaces and almost grabbed my hat off my head. At the end of the year, before our next president takes his term, we brace for an era—er, season—of cold and wind, and we must fill our bellies with warm, flavorful broth, meat, and noodles. While we still have the opportunity to choose, well, anything—even, say, whether or not to add the jalapeños and the bean sprouts, or precisely how much hoisin or Sriracha we want in our broth—we must take them, no matter how small or symbolic or illusory those choices seem. We’ve got a long four years—er, few months, of winter, ahead of us, and luckily the beef pho at Pho Viet also comes to us cheap (less than $10) and satisfying. (Rebekah Kirkman)

4. Fried salmon platter at Cafe 1137 (7216 Windsor Mill Road B, Windsor Mill, [410] 265-5497)

This unpretentiously foodie take-out spot located in Windsor Mill offers a number of meat-focused combination platters, fried or grilled, all of them with garlic herb rice (which is thicker and gooier than normal rice), a small pile of lump crab meat, a piece of Cajun bread (basically spiced and buttered toast), and the Cafe 1137 sauce, which is a kind of tart and sweet thing, like aioli, plus Carolina mustard, and maybe even Big Mac sauce. The fried salmon platter—it’s not so much “fried” as “seared” but Cafe 1137 never flatter themselves by saying “seared salmon”—is a satisfying pig-out that highlights what Cafe 1137 does best: It combines the best impulses of chalkboard menu bougie places and plain and simple yet fucking delicious take-out spots in every neighborhood. (Brandon Soderberg)

5. Short rib steamed bao at Mi & Yu Noodle Bar
(1016 S. Charles St., [443] 388-9295, miandyunoodlebar.com)

The steamed bao is the unsung hero of this local ramen joint. The soft, freshly steamed bun is slathered with your choice of savory umami or spicy Sriracha mayo, topped with pickled radish and carrot slaw, red onion, fresh cucumbers, and cilantro, then stuffed with your favorite protein—anything from buttermilk fried chicken to adobo duck with duck jus to fried tofu. While roast pork belly is the standard choice for many steamed buns, the braised, miso-glazed short ribs are the only option here if you’re really about that low key luxurious lifestyle. Savory threads of tender short ribs create a tasty bite with the tangy, pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and chewy steamed bun. Luckily, Mi & Yu serves their steamed bao in pairs, so you can share with a friend or devour both of them yourself for a surprisingly hearty meal. (Casey Embert)

6. Grilled octopus at The Elephant (924 N. Charles St., [443] 447-7878, theelephantbaltimore.com)

When The Elephant first opened, we were impressed with the revitalized resurrection of the historic restaurant in Mount Vernon. And while not everything coming out of the kitchen holds up to the surroundings, one sure-footed-stunner was the sherry braised octopus draped in a rich, spicy, ancho chile sauce. The key trait to good octopus is tenderness and this is one of the best we’ve found in the city. The texture of the tentacle curled around the plate was delicate without being mushy, with the ancho sauce adding a bold flavor that complemented a protein that can, more often than not, lack any discernible flavor. We enjoyed it this summer but imagine its lush sauce would complement the colder months even better. (RD)

7. Beef Cheek Stew at The Brewer’s Art
(1106 N. Charles St., [410] 547-6925, thebrewersart.com)

When the weather gets cold there are few things better than a good, heart-warming soup or stew. The Brewer’s Art, whose menu is always full of good cold-weather fare, takes it to another level with their beef cheek stew. Built around a beef stock that you know spent some serious time in the pot getting its deep, dark flavor, the stew has all the components you expect: hunks of tender carrots, hearty turnips, and tender diced potato. But the real kicker is Chef Andrew Weinzirl’s use of beef cheek, an oft-overlooked cut that yields impossibly-tender results. Just put the knife aside, because you won’t be needing it. The savory cherry on top? The truffled mushroom butter that all but assures that you will be mopping your plate clean with the slices of sourdough bread provided. (RD)

8. Muskrat from Faidley Seafood
(203 N. Paca St., [410] 727-4898, lexingtonmarket.com/vendor/faidleys-seafood)

Lexington Market has dozens of delicious dishes, nay, hundreds. But some of the best are dishes you make at home. It’s almost muskrat season and we can’t not mention the seasonal delight of going to the fish market at Faidley’s and asking if the fresh muskrat are in and then picking up a couple (last year they were $8 each). Yeah, there’s something gross about it. Two things: musk and rat. But it is also better every time you make it (my wife and I have been cooking it since 2011). Slow cooking is best. And once muskrat season is done, you can get the shad roe and bring it over to the counter and they’ll cook it up for you. If you can imagine, it is even more intense. If these traditions go away, they will never come back—until after the Trumpocalypse when we’re all forced to eat rats! (Baynard Woods)

9. Carne de res quesadilla at Clavel
(225 W. 23rd St., [443] 900-8983, barclavel.com)

There’s a powerful simplicity in many of Clavel’s offerings—an artful paring down of a dish to three or four ingredients, resulting in a harmony we don’t often find on more showy menus elsewhere. Time-honed tradition is part of it, too. Take the quesadilla: The menu boasts that the tortilla is “made from a 5th generation recipe,” piled with melted queso chihuahua. You can choose from several fillings if you’d like to add meat (or the two vegetarian options) for a couple bucks more—and while we love the tender, tangy cochinita pibil, our favorite is the carne de res (seared sirloin tips) which comes topped with salsa chamán (roasted ancho chiles, tomatillos, garlic). Dab a few spoonfuls of the creamy, mild salsa on top of that, and let the sublime soak in. (RK)

10. Mac and Cheese Ramen Dog at Ejji Ramen
(529 E. Belvedere Ave., [410] 435-8688, ejjiramen.com)

The hot dog is America’s favorite way to take international cuisine and make it American, because just about everything tastes good on top of a hot, juicy tube of mystery meat. The chefs at Ejji Ramen, the noodle stall in the back of Belvedere Square Market, know this well, and took this template to the next level with their Mac & Cheese Ramen Dog (only $5). Japanese ramen noodles loaded with cheese sauce and crispy tempura encase a beef dog, perfect for dipping in the zesty apricot wasabi mustard that comes on the side. Split it or enjoy it as a meal on its own—it’s like three distinct dishes wrapped into one. (Maura Callahan)

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