A Brief Guide to Baltimore

 

So i’m a New Yorker and all that jazz. I grew up in a place where, as Alicia Keys put it “Noise is always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean.” While I’ve moved around quite a bit since leaving for medical school, I have always considered New York my home. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Until I got married and had to move to Baltimore properly pronounced “Bawlamore.”

Say it with me, BAW LA MORE! And the people who live there prefer to be called BAWLAMOREANS.

No, this is not a joke. This is fact.

So imagine a NYC girl trying to adjust to suburban life, where sidewalks don’t exist and everything closes at 9pm! #FirstWorldProblems. Luckily, I was able to find a few neighborhoods which reminded me of home but the one thing that seriously left me homesick (besides missing my family and friends of course) was the lack of decent restaurants. Seriously. It was a problem. I’ll admit that i’m happy to be back in NY but we still visit Bawlamore on a regular basis. Honestly, i’ve almost developed a fondness for the city’s culture and rhythm.

Starting this weekend from April 14th through the 16th, the Baltimore convention center will be hosting over 20,000 Muslims attending the annual ICNA-MAS convention. I figured I should add to the numerous lists of the most popular local restaurants, tourist attractions as well as my personal Bawlamore favorites. I don’t claim to be a foodie or an expert on Baltimore but I have my favorite spots in a city I called home for 4 years and so that’s exactly what i’ll be sharing. The rest you can Yelp.

Food

Miss Shirley’s Cafe

Miss Shirley’s Cafe is the best Southern-style food in the city. You have to try it at least once. There are 2 locations in Baltimore but the Inner Harbor location on Pratt street is of course is closest to the convention center. With that said, be warned that obviously their Sunday brunch hours are the busiest time. (Not Halal)

Their spring menu is now available which offers Blackened Shrimp Gritters and Shrimp Gumbo. Yum!.

What do I recommend? Everything we’ve had there is worth the wait but my absolute favorite is the Blackened Shrimp & Grits with green fried tomatoes. Just ask them to leave out the bacon obviously. And while you’re there, please order yourself some Funky Monkey bread. You’ll thank me later!

Blacked Shrimp and Grits from last weekend!

Halal Gyro Cart

For the best Halal Gyro in town, i’d recommended the brother on 2 Hopkins Place. His cart says “Mediterranean.” ” It used to be my husband’s go to gyro spot after Jummah at Masjid ul-haq in Baltimore. Honestly, I started loving this gyro cart more than the NYC carts!  He will have a spot near the convention center so keep an eye out.

Maiwand Kabob 

Maiwand Kabob has great food Persian food. Yes the website states it’s Afghan food but it’s Persian. I definitely recommend it though. Their bread is freshly made and kabobs always have great flavor.

  • Maiwand Kabob 40 south street, Baltimore MD 21202 (410) 244-6810

Villagio Cafe

  • Villagio Cafe has great reviews on Yelp. I’ve never tried it since we’re loyal Maiwand Kabob customers.
     

The Bun Shop

A trendy dessert and coffee shop that actually stays open till 11pm! So of course it’s satisfied many “late night” cravings. (Not halal)

  • The Bun Shop 239 W Read St (Tyson St), Baltimore, MD (410) 982-0147

 

Amina’s Halal Thai

A somewhat annoying 45 minute drive from Baltimore, Amina’s Halal Thai is one of the best halal Thai restaurants i’ve been to and a must try if you don’t mind the drive from the inner harbor. If you’re planning on visiting the Dinayet Turkish Center and Mosque, definately have a meal at Amina’s.  There are 2 locations but we prefer the Rockville location.

CRABS

Moving onto what my husband considers the most important part of this post. The section on crabs! Maryland is known for their Blue Crabs. Food is deeply embedded in every city’s history and culture and for Maryland, crabs are an fundamental part of life. Crabs are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing excites my husband more than a good crab omelette for breakfast.

Caught in the Chesapeake Bay, they are the most sought after shell-fish in the Atlantic. While it’s true that many of the crab restaurants you might frequent in Baltimore are serving crabs imported from Texas or Lousiana, the culture of a crab house is authentic to Baltimore. So what kind of tour guide would I be if I didn’t at least recommend a few authentic Maryland Crab houses!

 

Picture of one of my husband’s many cans of Old Bay along with his sentimental Mallet

 

There are plenty of fancy crab restaurants in the inner harbor of course. But because we’re all about a good crab cake without the frills, we continuously stay loyal to G&M Restaurant, located in Linthicum, MD. Everyone in Baltimore has their exclusive opinion on what constitutes a perfect crab cake. Yes, Bawlamoreans take their crab cakes quite seriously and in my husband’s humble bawlamorean opinion, G&M has some of the best crab cakes. I can’t recommend anything else on the menu because we go here strictly for the crab cakes, which always has great lump crab meat and very little fillers. I could go on and on about crabs (no joke) but I don’t want to put you to sleep.

  • G&M Restaurant  804 N Hammonds Ferry RD, Linthicum Heights, MD (410) 636-1777

Also very popular in the Inner Harbor area is Faidley’s Seafood.

If you’re adventurous enough to experience a Maryland Crab House, grab your mallet and yellow can of Old Bay and check out this ultimate guide to Maryland Crab Houses. From this list, the town of Canton would be the closest to the convention center.

Shake Shack on Pratt Street is a popular spot. However, I urge you to do your own research and decide for yourself if their meat is truly halal.

The following link is of an article that argues Shake Shack in the United States is not halal. I see many Muslims eating their burgers and so I wanted to share this article.

There are a number of halal, mostly Pakistani restaurants near the Islamic Society of Baltimore in Catonsville MD, which has quite a large Muslim community.  You can do a quick search on Zabihah with the zip code 21228. I never became a fan of any of them honestly but you can find a decent kabob or chicken roll from Kabob Hut if you need a quick bite near the Masjid.

  • Kabob Hut  6502 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, MD 21228 (410) 747-5222

Although closer to Virginia, the University of Maryland College Park area has a few good halal restaurants as well. I would recommend the following two for tasty fast food options.

  • Pizza Roma 9805 Rhode Island Ave, College Park, MD 20740
  • Krazi Kabob 4427 Lehigh Rd, College Park, MD 20740

 

Masajid

Masjid ul Haq in Baltimore which is the closest to the convention center.

Address is 514 Islamic Way, Baltimore, MD.

Phone (410) 728-1363

Facebook page

Islamic Society of Baltimore. Located approximately 20 minutes from Inner Harbor, ISB is the largest masjid in Maryland. It is also well known as the first masjid President Obama visited back in 2016.

Facebook link for ISB

Diyanat Center, also known as the Turkish American Community Center is located in Lanham, Maryland, about 45 minutes away from Baltimore. The masjid and center was completed  in 2016 and receives its major support from the Turkish Government.

 

Visiting the entire center makes for a spectacular outing but the breathtaking architecture of the masjid is beyond words. Here is a link to a Muslim Matters piece describing the architecture of the masjid in detail. I highly recommend a visit the Diyanet center when you’re in Maryland. It’s definitely worth the drive! You could couple this visit with dinner at Amina’s Halal Thai like we always do 🙂

The most amazing masjid complex built in the Western Hemisphere 

Website http://diyanetamerica.org

Diyanet Center Facebook link

Address: 9610 Good Luck Road, Lanham, MD 20706

(301) 459-9589

Finally, i’m including a link to the Baltimore Area Muslims Facebook page for any additional questions.

Touristy things to do in the Baltimore Inner Harbor

Visit the National Aquarium right on the harbor. Friday evenings is half price for Maryland residents.

Take a cruise on the bay

Visit the Maryland Science Center

Take the kids to Port Discovery Children’s Museum

Shop at the Gallery

Baltimore Museum of Art 

Visit John Hopkins University Campus

Graffiti Alley and a few other unusual places to check out

Paterson park is great for a stroll or some down time.

Edgar Allan Poe House

“Fun” Fact: The Baltimore Ravens Football team is named after Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven.”

For more ideas and tourist information, click here!

If you’ve made it this far, you must really be excited to visit Bawlamore! I hope these links and suggestions are useful inshaAllah. One thing I will mention is that while I have fond memories of living in Baltimore, it’s definitely not the safest city. There are many dangerous areas filled with crime and drugs. Even the inner harbor area which can seem lively at night can be quite dangerous in the late hours. Please be very careful when exploring the surrounding neighborhoods and never walk the streets alone, especially at night.

Have a wonderful weekend visiting my old hometown and please leave me a comment below if you discover your own gem in Bawlamore. I’m always up for trying something new!

Sadaf

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