I didn’t give much thought to the source of restaurant food until I began working in food, even if only tangentially, a few years ago. While I have never worked in a restaurant, I learned at least that restaurants buy their ingredients – meats, vegetables, flour, butter, prepared foods, what have you – in different ways than I might at a grocery store.
While that might seem obvious, the workings of the alternate system are not. There are many suppliers that will deliver products, some even deliver a host of restaurant necessities including napkins, ketchup bottles, to go containers, etc. There are also restaurant depot stores that sell bulk produce among other items like gas ranges, prep bowls, dish sanitizer – you name it.
Point being, there are a lot of ways to purchase produce, and many restaurants gravitate towards a “one stop shop” to buy everything they need. It is not easy to incorporate local food into this model, on either end of the supplier/purchaser equation. Local meat and produce is more subject to seasonality, is often grown in varying quantities or varieties, and requires more effort on the part of the cook and restaurant to find, utilize, and educate and sell to customers.
Buy local this weekend by supporting locally owned restaurants that prioritize buying local year round. It requires their extra time and initiative, just like an individual shopper at a farmer’s market, to support small, local farmer’s. Sure, shopping at Walmart/Harris Teeter/Shoppers is easy – but our local economy thrives when we all participate. Plus, we all know it is more delicious!
While it is still difficult to purchase all items locally, below are some Baltimore Restaurants that have made a serious commitment to local purchasing in one way or another. These are only some I’m sure, as I stuck to restaurants I’ve eaten at or heard many good things about. Happy (almost) Weekend!
p.s. Pardon my attempts at restaurant phone photos, it’s never been one of my strengths. Pictured: Hersh’s summer market tomato crostini – that didn’t last long!
Baltimore Locally Focused Restaurants
Low Key Lunch & Brunch
- Atwater’s has a small fleet of stores around the city serving eggs, soups, sandwiches, and brunch. They also bake a variety of tasty breads and treats and have started producing local cheeses and jams. The original Belvedere Square location also sells ice cream, made from Trickling Springs Cream, and has a pleasant coffee bar.
- Artifact Coffee is part of the Foodshed concept family that boasts Woodberry Kitchen at its helm (more on that below). They have a very cool coffee bar and tea selection coupled with soups, salads, and sandwiches liberally including all manner of pork. Artifact is also located in an old warehouse (mill?) in the mill district in Hampden, and architecturally it’s an awesome space.
- Red Emma’s is a “communist” bookstore and cafe that is worker-owned and has a strong commitment to social justice events, education, and principles. They have a good, wide selection of vegetarian and vegan food.
- Dooby’s – coffee, craft beer, Korean food, and pastries make for a seriously awesome coffee shop. Located in Mount Vernon, Dooby’s also makes the rounds at Baltimore City Farmer’s markets and offers catering.
- Dovecote Cafe is in Reservoir Hill, and regrettably, I haven’t made it over there yet. But, I do know they buy local produce and host a weekly mobile farm stand from Whitelock Community Farm. Their baked goods and lunch fare also sound incredibly delicious, and I hope to visit soon!
- Stall 11 sources a lot of produce from a hydroponic, urban farm that its parent company operates in Baltimore City. I haven’t personally been here, but ~word on the street~ tells me their grain bowls, salads, and other creative fare is fairly good. They also have a market stand at the Baltimore Farmer’s Market on Sundays, but it sure does kick off a lot of propane – fried cauliflower seems to be their biggest hit, but I’ll admit the smoke from their portable fryer didn’t put me in the mood to snack.
- Bottega serves generally Italian fare and house-made pasta incorporating seasonal vegetables and herbs, many grown in the city. Their menu is ever changing, and you can also BYOB!
- Clavel is the darling of Baltimore’s food scene and has been since opening. They deserve every accolade-everything is beautiful and delicious. The focus of the food is Oaxacan, but locally sourced when ingredients are locally available.
- Dylan’s Oyster Cellar in Hampden sources some oysters and seafood locally, which despite our proximity to the Bay and coast really is a challenge for a lot of reasons. They also purchase local veg. I enjoy their simple oyster bar concept quite a bit – you can find them on the Avenue in Hampden.
- Parts & Labor is part butcher shop and part local restaurant with a host of well prepared locally sourced meats and local beer, wine, and cider. They are also part of the Foodshed group.
For an Occasion
- Aromes in Hampden is an elegant “New American and French” restaurant with a menu that evolves weekly to include seasonal offerings. They are proudly farm to table, and BYOB, which I find exciting for a fine dining restaurant as it’s possible to bring your own fine beverages without a hefty markup.
- Gertrude’s, operated by Chef John Shields, is a veteran restaurant sourcing locally and celebrating Chesapeake Bay Cuisine. Shields is a longtime supporter of local farmers, especially at the 32nd Street Farmer’s market, and prepares classic Maryland dishes that are excellent and showcase local products.
- Woodberry Kitchen is Baltimore’s premier farm to table restaurant and continues to innovate its menu, drink offerings, and even value added pantry products to offer a vision of what local sourcing can provide. The size of their restaurant family, the umbrella Foodshed group, allows them purchasing power that can truly sustain local farms and is a significant income for small farmers. They moved to an a la carte menu several years ago, and are a worthy location for both upscale celebrations and occasions as well as more casual, special dinner affairs.