Food & Drink

Eat Like a Local in Baltimore

Snack your way through Charm City with Chef Cindy Wolf

Photo: Foreman Wolf

The dining room at Charleston.

“It’s crazy that after twenty years I’m still the chef here,” says Cindy Wolf, owner and executive chef of Charleston, a Baltimore, Maryland, fine-dining mainstay. “I run the kitchen. It’s my life.” And her life’s work is paying off: Wolf has been up for a James Beard Award ten times since opening Charleston in 1997. These days, with ever-evolving offerings, like her full truffle menu throughout the month of January (“Truffles,” she says, “are my holy grail”), alongside new Southern pop-up dinners in the bar, she isn’t slowing down.

Photo: Foreman Wolf

Chef Cindy Wolf

The eclectic nature of Wolf’s food, which might contrast traditional French steak tartare with downhome cornmeal-fried oysters, comes in part from her affinity for travel and her history. Born in Virginia, she spent her childhood in North Carolina, Northern Indiana, and Pennsylvania, before moving to Charleston, South Carolina, where she honed her aspirations to become a chef. After culinary school and a few more years in the Lowcountry, she made her way to Washington, D.C., where she met her former husband and current business partner, Tony Foreman. “I met Tony in 1993,” Wolf says. “We married, and moved to Baltimore where the food scene was settled and wide open.”

In fact, Wolf and Foreman arguably helped cultivate Baltimore’s culinary renaissance. Now, the duo owns seven other restaurants in the city, ranging from an Argentine lounge, to a Maryland seafood joint, to a pair of wine shops. “The market has changed dramatically since we moved here,” Wolf says. Before, the best restaurants in town had been around for thirty years. “Now, we have these wonderful, deeply cultural neighborhoods. There are a lot of microbreweries and tiny restaurants. There’s a big move from tablecloths to casual. It feels very young and alive.” Here are four of her Charm City favorites—and a new place she’s eager to try on a rare night off.

The Prime Rib
1101 N. Calvert St., Baltimore

“Prime Rib is a 1960’s elegant supper club. It opened in 1965, which is actually Tony’s birth year, so he’s been going since he was a little boy. There’s a lot of nostalgia for us there, and they also have great steaks. Rita St. Clair did the interior design, and she did the original interior design for Charleston, so we obviously really love the feeling of it. It’s so old-school.”

Photo: Courtesy of The Prime Rib

The dining room at Prime Rib.

Alma Cocina Latina
2400 Boston St., Suite 108, Baltimore

“This place is owned by Irena Stein, a Venezuelan woman, and she has a Venezuelan chef, Enrique Limardo. They have a great arepa bar. I love [Stein’s] attitude toward what she does. She just wants you to have an experience, where you can leave your daily life and feel like you’re the most important person in there.”

Photo: Irena Stein

Arepas at Alma Cocina Latina.

Andy Nelson’s Barbecue
11007 York Rd., Cockeysville

“This is the best barbecue I’ve had outside of North Carolina where I grew up. The original owner was a beloved Colts football player. (You know, the Colts used to be based in Baltimore and were snatched away in the middle of the night.) He is an absolutely adored man. When I first moved here, he had a stall in a local nursery, so you’d go in the fall to get a pumpkin or something for your garden and get some barbecue from him while you were there. Now he has his own place just down from the garden center where he used to be.”

Photo: courtesy of Andy Nelson’s BBQ

The Bama Chicken Sandwich at Andy Nelson’s Barbecue.

Ostrowski of Bank Street
1801 Bank St., Baltimore

“I grew up in Pennsylvania, so I really love Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. This isn’t a restaurant, but Ostrowski’s is a Polish sausage maker in Fells Point. I go there to get their amazing sausages and sauerkraut.”

3520 Chestnut St., Baltimore

“I haven’t actually been there yet, because it just opened. Chris Amendola is the chef. I’ve known him for a while—he’s about the nicest person you will ever meet. His whole thing is he goes out and forages for food. I have such a huge respect for his foraging, because you have to be really well trained to do it. One kind of mushroom will taste really good and another will kill you, and he knows the difference. I’m super excited to try his place out.”

Photo: Dave Seel, courtesy of foraged

Roasted sunchokes, herb goat cheese (from Charlottetown Farm) and hazelnuts at foraged.