Lexington Market (400 W. Lexington St.) went from a humble farmers market in the 18th century to being the regional gourmet epicenter in the 19th, and finally (after burning down in the mid-20th) to the largest, most famous, and only privately run municipal market in Baltimore. It is also distinguished by a grocery store (if a sparsely stocked and mildly depressing one) and its live events, including bands, art shows, food festivals, and even the occasional fashion show. Actually two buildings separated by Paca Street, the east or "new" market is the larger and most-travelled annex (divided into north and south sections), while the west wing has fewer vendors and no live-entertainment area.
OK, so West Baltimore isn't exactly the part of town that comes to mind when you think about grabbing some killer soosh. But Hanako stuff is really pretty good, we swear. Cooked Japanese (and some less Japanese, more vaguely Asian) food is also good-not too salty, non-mushy noodles, and crisp vegetables.
Of the numerous stalls that offer seafood in its variously cooked forms, the Crab Pot earns special mention because it is one of the few places one can get deep-fried "soft shell" or "belly" clams, a delicacy that can be found in few, if any, other places in the city. They don't have it very often, but if you're on their so-called "clam list," you'll be notified when they do. They also have a raw bar at which you can have a beer.
Dudley's Fries has all kinds of fried shit, including, of course, the "Boardwalk" fries, which are very good, but also all other manner of vegetable matter and even fried Oreos (three for $1.75). Gordon's Jamaican Taste is a newer stall with good, standard jerked proteins, rice and beans, and patties, and friendly service. Help them make enough money to erect a proper sign, y'all!
Mary Mervis gets credit for being the most famous sandwich place in the market, thanks to truly overstuffed classic offerings. Although most of the deli meat is industry-standard (as opposed to store-made), there's just something about the sandwiches-like the triple-threat "Wall Street Turkey," turkey, beef tongue, chopped liver, for just $7.50-that makes them a shade tastier than elsewhere. The ever-present throng of folks trying to get theirs is, therefore, not too surprising.
The numerous produce stands in the north side of the market all have similar offerings and prices, although you might find an occasional deal at one place or another if you look hard enough. A common feature are the huge plastic tubs full of beautifully ripe cut fruit, which the often surly proprietors will scoop out into servings of the best fruit salad available in the city, period.
Park's Fried Chicken is the best of the several fried-chicken places in the market, always ranks in the upper echelon of meat juiciness, and has maybe the best seasoning mix in their coating and very good western fries. Healthy Choice might be sort-of ironically named since their most popular offerings are meatloaf, roasted meats, and standard cafeteria-style sides like stuffing and mashed potatoes. Everything is very homemade-tasting and hearty, and with a pork chop and two sides coming in at $6.37, an excellent value.
As the saying goes, do one thing and do it well. Krause's Lite Fare's thing is turkeys. If you think roasting and carving a turkey once a year is a bitch, try doing dozens every single day. Needless to say, one of the best turkey sandwiches you can get, say, in the middle of July especially for $5.25, which is less than most sandwiches made with processed turkey. But be sure to get gravy on everything.
The Greek community is strangely underrepresented here, if you take the market as a microcosm of the city at large anyway. Mt. Olympus has your standard fare and, yes, very good and quite generous gyros. Pandora's Box has the biggest spread of the many straight-up hot food places here, spanning takeout Chinese, cafeteria-style American, and red-sauce Italian, and despite their odd, unit-based pricing system ($3.50 for a styrofoam box, $3.20 for a 16-oz. container, $2.50 for a single loaded kebab skewer), they generously and firmly pack it in.
A mini-market unto itself, Faidley's Seafood is what makes Lexington Market famous outside of Baltimore. And what makes Faidley's famous are their crab cakes, which are notable due to their use of cracker meal as a binder. Other fried seafood like clams and shrimp are also good, but even better is the raw bar, since, duh, you can get cheap cold beer and really cheap wine ($3.95 a glass). Ringing the complex are cases after cases of fresh seafood, as well as some mammalian proteins like rabbit (sold seasonally) and even raccoon and muskrat (or "marsh rabbit," if you want to be a pussy about it).
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