Is it really the “largest free arts festival in America”? Who knows? But if it is, thank the 50 or so food vendors for inflating the numbers some. Indeed, “Foodscape,” as it’s sometimes nudge-winkingly called, is more about stuffing your face than anything else. Well also music and tchotchkes—and if you look REALLY hard, actual art—but mostly the face-stuffing part.
A festival wouldn’t be a festival without food on sticks—the chicken variety being quite popular in Baltimore. The move to a single concessions provider/manager a couple years ago (Charm City Hospitality) was met with some skepticism, but last year’s event seemed to go pretty smoothly. In fact, we reckoned it was one of the best ’Scapes ever. Evar!
This year, there will be the perennial overrepresentation of Asian and Mediterranean stalls, as well as the usual cheesesteaks, deep-fried candy bars, funnel cakes and stuff (still no fried dough though, wtaf?), overpriced lemonades, and frozen drinks in plastic half-yards. Notably, there will be more seafood-centric vendors, a real BBQ stand, some healthy sandwich and wraps options, and, um, camping-themed and movie-themed concessions areas. We know. We’re scared too.
Pro tips we’ve picked up as Artscape vets:
1. Start off at Mount Royal and Charles, and head west—the area in front of University of Baltimore and the Lyric is usually where the free-sample fairies (cereal, energy bars, smoothies, etc.) tend to patrol.
2. Across the light rail tracks is the hill where you will find a big concentration of food stalls. Forget the tents with picnic tables; they’re always crowded, hot, and funky-smelling. Grab some food and find a curb, or make your way to the beer garden behind Mount Royal Tavern and eat in the alley.
3. Head back down the way you came, and you’ll end up at the other big cluster of food—the big parking lot across from UB on Charles Street. Keep an eye on the bigger stalls, as they will often have TWO active lines, but rampant herd mentality means folks will often line up in just one anyway. A little assertiveness can cut your wait times drastically. But don’t cut in line. Only assholes do that. Last year, hidden in this area was a “Tornado Fries” stall—a relatively recent potato-based trend, wherein a whole potato is spiral-cut and deep fried. Worth the wait.
4. Most important of all, either know someone or some bar in Mount Vernon or Bolton Hill whose bathroom you can use. Because Porta-Potties are for suckers.