Baltimore – first impressions

While Chris’s parents are in town, Chris wanted to do a side trip with them somewhere like we did last year via car, so we went to Baltimore this long weekend. Although Maryland isn’t that far away from New York City, the last time I was there was in 2011, when we went to Ocean City for Thanksgiving weekend. When I think of Maryland, I immediately think (of course) of the famous Maryland blue crabs, amongst other local and delicious seafood such as oysters and fish. But when I think of Baltimore, stereotypically, the other things that come to mind are the fact that Baltimore, also known as B’More or “Charm City,” is also unfortunately always featured as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. It is usually in the top five when it comes to violent crime as well as property crime. In addition, from what I’ve heard from friends and colleagues who either have lived or are living there, it’s a city that is deeply segregated by race; there are very clear “White” neighborhoods vs. “Black” neighborhoods. The other thing about it is that in some ways, driving and walking through parts of the city today certainly felt a bit like Detroit: you could have a really nice hotel right next door to a dilapidated, totally abandoned building with its windows fully blown out and the doors boarded up. That seemed to be quite the norm walking from street to street in the downtown area where we are staying.

The city clearly wants to attract more tourism, though. While walking in the tourist area right by the waterfront, we went into a huge new building that served as Baltimore’s visitors center. Inside, they had a lot of tourism information (obviously), as well as many interesting artifacts, displays, maps, photos, as well as free Wi-Fi and very clean restrooms. I’d never seen such a well done, modern, and clean visitors center in the U.S. like this one before.

The same area also had a lot of fun play structures and areas for young children. Most were for kids slightly older than Kaia, but she did get to enjoy Federal Hill and the swings up there. While up on the hill, a huge mosaic of the Aurora Borealis caught our attention, which was covering the American Visionary Art Museum facade: the mosaic features over 2,300 square feet of recycled bottles, glass, and mirrors, and was created with the help of incarcerated Baltimorean youth.

The other highlight of the day was definitely our first meal in Baltimore, which we ate at Nick’s Fish House. Given how popular this restaurant appeared on Google Reviews (5,700+ reviews at 4.5 stars), I wasn’t sure if we’d even get a table and might get turned away given we’re a party of five with no reservation. I got especially nervous when Chris went to park the car and we got in line to check in with the hostess, who I heard turned away the party of 4 ahead of us and said there was no table available for a party of their size for at least an hour. When we got to the front, the hostess got really oogly eyed when she saw Kaia… and somehow, out of nowhere, a prime table overlooking the water (that she apparently overlooked with the party ahead of us…) was available on her table diagram, and we were immediately seated! We really scored with this one, and I wonder if we can attribute it to Pookster’s cuteness!

So the last time (or really, only time) I’d had memorable, delicious crab cakes with lots of crab and little to no filler was when we were in Ocean City, Maryland, in 2011. And today, I was reminded of how good (and relatively inexpensive) they were because today, we had what is likely the next best crab cakes to the Ocean City ones: we got two fat Maryland blue crab cakes, and they were just STUFFED with crab and almost no filler at all! I couldn’t believe how meaty and juicy each piece was, and it was so, so fresh. The crab meat was flavorful and sweet. Kaia only had maybe two pieces of crab and preferred her mac and cheese, but I intentionally left two bite sized pieces of crab cakes until the very end of my meal so that I could properly savor them. These crab cakes were not cheap, but they were most definitely worth it. In addition, the fish and chips were done perfectly: the fish was done just enough to be flaky, juicy, and moist, and the outside was fried well — crunchy and not greasy. This place was incredible!

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