If you know anything about me, it’s that I love eating out. I’ll make money primarily to fund my reckless dining habits because the Baltimore food scene is both my greatest joy when it comes to my stomach and greatest downfall when it comes to my wallet.
By far the best thing about Baltimore restaurants is how many different types of cuisine are so readily available to Hopkins students. While the list below doesn’t begin to cover it all, here are some restaurants that will take your mouth on an around-the-world journey. Plus all of them are easily accessible via the JHMI or Charm City Circulator.
Cazbar - Turkey
The best part about Cazbar is that midway through dinner with your friends, the lights dim, music starts to thrum throughout the restaurant and a belly dancer in her mid-30s to 40s will start aggressively moving her hips at your table as you finish up your meal.
If this sounds like a weird dream sequence, it 100 percent could be, but it also 100 percent has personally occurred to me during the times that I’ve visited Cazbar. (They have a belly dancer perform during dinnertime, and it’s always quite the trip when you’re paying for the check.)
Cazbar is a lovely, cozy little Turkish joint right around the Downtown area of Baltimore. The food is to die for, and my friend who orders takeout from Cazbar to Brody literally once a week can attest to the addictiveness of it all — there’s plenty of hummus, kebab, lamb and pilaf to go around!
Try the Mixed Meze Plate (yummy dips like hummus and baba ganoush with pita bread) to share with friends as a start, and then get the Adana Iskender for your entrée (lamb, pilaf and garlic yogurt aka heaven in your mouth).
Dukem - Ethiopia
The one and only time I’ve been to Dukem was on a date with my ex-boyfriend, and it involved us almost getting lost during the couple blocks walk from the Mt. Vernon JHMI stop to the restaurant. Our navigational incompetence aside, Dukem’s food is amazing.
I don’t remember exactly what I got there because I’ve only been there once and it was over a year ago, but I believe it was one of the Combinations Sampler options, and most importantly, it was mindblowingly delicious.
They also give you this spongey flatbread called injera with the strangest texture I’ve ever experienced. And while there are a bunch of meat options to eat at Dukem, there’s lots of vegetarian-friendly dishes too.
Khun Nine Thai
This is hands down my favorite restaurant in Baltimore. At first I was reluctant to even write about it, because my friends and I sing its praises so much that now more and more people go to it, and it’s harder to find seats (I’m not kidding).
Khun Nine Thai is a literal hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, nestled between Dooby’s and The Helmand in Mt. Vernon. Blink and you’ll miss it. At first you step in and you’re like whoa, why is this restaurant so small and dark, but then you realize how A+ everything is.
The fast service, the delicious yet extremely affordable food, and the fact that it is BYOB make it a perfect place to unwind on the weekend for some wine and Thai with a friend.
To attest for the service at the restaurant, I have an anecdote. One hour before I left to go to Puerto Rico last year, I realized I had left my credit card at Khun Nine Thai the day before. I rushed over completely stressed out, and they had it taped to the wall and basically saved me from leaving Maryland without any money to my name. I promise you can trust these people with both your food and your belongings.
The Helmand - Afghanistan
Have you ever wanted to go to a restaurant owned by the brother of Afghanistan’s 12th president? Because same.
If you don’t already know The Helmand, you’re really missing out — it’s won Best Restaurant so many times in the former Baltimore City Paper, that it was given the Paper’s Hall of Fame award in 2013.
The first time I went to Helmand was with a different ex-boyfriend from the one who took me to Dukem. (I swear I’ve only dated two people in college; it’s just that I love food, and thus my relationships tend to revolve around food.)
I’ve gone back many times since. My personal and absolute favorite is the zardalu challow, which is only served on weekend nights — lamb with tomatoes, garlic, chili peppers, turmeric and challow rice.
Also, do yourself a favor and get the table a basket of naan bread to eat with your entree, and start with the Kaddo Borwani, which is pumpkin with yogurt garlic sauce that’s surprisingly good. It also gets pretty crowded on weekends, so don’t forget to make reservations!
Indochine - Vietnam
Stepping into Indochine just feels like a warm hug. This restaurant is incredibly nostalgic for me because my OG friend group from freshman year goes here pretty frequently. It’s usually a Friday or Saturday night, and we’ll roll up in a squad of eight for a piping hot bowl of pho (pronounced ‘fuh,’ people), the ultimate comfort food.
At only $7.95 for the small bowl and $9.95 for the large bowl, the prices are definitely easy on the broke college student’s wallet. You really get a bang for your buck as well with the huge portions. Life hack: Get the large bowl, eat until you feel like your stomach is going to split open and take the rest home in a to-go container for a second meal.
I love food because it brings people together. Indochine is one of those restaurants that doesn’t seem like the obvious stand-out, but it is just for the memories and conversations that are tied to it.
And that’s what it’s all about.