COURTESY OF RENEE SCAVONE
Ethel’s charming set up provides the perfect place to enjoy an outdoor lunch.
I will begin this article by confessing that I have never been to New Orleans.
But I have been liking all of my friends’ French Quarter spring break Instas, and I’ve seen The Princess and the Frog at least 15 times. So I feel qualified to speak about Creole food.
Regardless of whether it totally maps out as an authentic “Creole” restaurant, Ethel’s Creole Kitchen in Mount Washington has phenomenal food and a wonderful atmosphere.
Disclaimer: Ethel’s is a little pricey, and it’s kind of a hike. So it’s best saved for special occasions. That being said, the meals are definitely worth the price, and Mount Washington is perhaps the cutest neighborhood in all of Baltimore.
You can get there by taking the LocalLink 94 bus route from its Remington stop (at Remington Ave and 31st Street) to its stop at Kelly and Sulgrave Avenues. In total the trip should take 20 minutes.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll have to make some major decisions about seating. The restaurant is big on their open-kitchen floor plan, which means you can actually check out the chefs cooking your food.
However, because I’m both bougie and a tree-hugger, I literally never eat inside. Why would you, when there’s a second-floor balcony? As I’ve been saying for the last month, spring is right around the corner here in Baltimore. What better way to enjoy it than by sitting outside for your meal?
Bonus points come from the fact that the restaurant is right by a groomer. You can watch people walk their pets in the street below.
Yet, no matter where you sit, the restaurant is clean, cozy and well-lit, featuring cute decorum; check out their collection of artistically crafted acoustic guitars. It’s all very Bourbon Street, or at least I assume.
Also between you and me, the last time I ate lunch there, one of my fellow patrons was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She said she was coming back for dinner.
But no big deal.
Beyond all that, still, is the food. The entrées are very New Orleans meets Baltimore — andouille sausage and crab cakes, cajun spice and Old Bay.
As I mentioned, the meals can be a little pricey, but I’ve never had a bad bite. Plus you get Southern-style portions. That is to say: a lot of food.
While I mostly view appetizers as a distraction, I have to give a special shout out to their smoked bluefish. It has made the jump from pre-meal to meal for me many a time and has just the right amount of spice (served with the house jalapeño jam) and smoked-fish saltiness.
It’s worth noting that you are probably going to be consuming a lot of salt. Embrace it.
Of course, if you haven’t filled up on appetizers by the time real dinner rolls around, you’ll find a number of wonderful dishes. There are your signature Creole jambalayas and gumbos, as well as things like crab cakes and fried oysters.
As someone who doesn’t eat red meat and always feels guilty asking for substitutions in her meals, I cannot offer a truthful review of the aforementioned two Cajun dishes because they contain sausage. However I will fully vouch for their shrimp boat.
Not only do you get the joy of eating something that’s called a “boat,” but it’s honestly enough food to split between two people (and you’ll for sure want to, given that it’s $24).
But, if you’re some sort of sadist who’s only going to order one thing, you absolutely cannot miss their cornbread. I apologize to grandmothers and elderly church women everywhere when I say that I will never, ever eat better cornbread.
Seriously. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Finish off with their chocolate silk pie. If you can’t complete it, it’s worth the to-go box.
Finally, word on the street is that they have an excellent bar and strong drinks. While the pricing is also a tad on the high side for this, it’s still cheaper than actual New Orleans (and with fewer drunk college kids hanging out).
So, for those of us who spent spring break in Baltimore, fret not: You can still have your own New Awlins experience right here in town.