With the opening of Mt. Vernon Marketplace, upscale food halls (think grown-up food courts) have become the next big thing to hit Baltimore’s culinary scene. Located on the site of the historic Hochschild Kohn’s department store warehouse, the Mt. Vernon gastro hub provides a stylish way to eat—and shop—from a multitude of vendors all amassed under one roof. From the industrial-chic vibe to the hustle-bustle atmosphere and free (!) parking, this market mecca is yet another example of why we heart Baltimore. Here are some highlights:
Pinch: This adorable D.C.-based stand makes delicate dumplings, steamed or fried, from scratch daily. We mixed and matched with pork and cabbage, lamb and shredded carrots, and a vegan version crammed with cabbage, carrots, and cilantro (six dumplings for $8). Sides ($2 apiece) are anything but a footnote. Consider some combination of pickled daikon, crisp garlic cukes, and boiled peanuts. Chopsticks are on hand if you want to go pro. Lines can be long, but don’t cave. Sit. Stay. (And play Ping-Pong at Pinch’s table.)
The Big Bean Theory: Beans might be good for your heart, but at this legume-themed spot, they’re also good going down. With winter here, we sampled several house-made soups, including a soul-satisfying cup of yellow split-pea ($5) thickened with butternut squash, parsnips, and carrots; then picked up a quart of Mama’s Rock ’n’ Moroccan Stew, $13, (a tomato-based blend packed with roasted vegetables) for the road. Hours later, it was the star of the dinner table.
The Local Oyster: For a while now, we’ve been following local oysterman Nick Schauman, a one-man bivalve band, and his traveling stand rife with sweet Skinny Dippers and Choptank Sweets (a few bucks a shuck). Thankfully, at this cute countertop, Nick’s stand is now standing still. Schauman has added shrimp, mussels, clams, and even lobster to his lineup. Paging Poseidon.
Cultured: This countertop-cocktail bar is the breakaway effort of Andrew Cole, the former chef from Hampden’s Corner Charcuterie Bar. Create your own charcuterie board or consider a well-composed sandwich. We scarfed down The French Venetian ($9) with spicy house-cured soppressata, nutty Ossau Iraty (French sheep’s-milk cheese), and tangy sun-dried tomatoes, all stuffed inside a lovely loaf from Stone Mill Bakery.
›› Mt. Vernon Marketplace: 520 Park Ave. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Prices: vary according to vendor. For more information, go to mtvernonmarketplace.com.