I have been on a lovely East Coast vacation this week, venturing to Chicago and New York for the consecutive weddings of two very good friends, sandwiching some family and friend time in between. On my way to NY from Chitown, I stopped in Baltimore for a few days and visited one of my best friends who is attending nursing school at Johns Hopkins, and whom shall be known as Miss Palindrome from this point forth. I have been to Baltimore countless times as I have several close friends and family members that live there, and my father and brother both attended Johns Hopkins as well. While my brother was in school at JHU, he raved about a new restaurant called Woodberry Kitchen. We tried to go there for his graduation dinner a couple of years ago, but alas there were no available reservations (so instead we went to The Brewer’s Art, which is another fantastic Baltimore staple). So for this trip I made sure to make a reservation for me and Miss Palindrome well in advance – and boy, am I glad I did!
Woodberry Kitchen is located near Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, and it can be a little difficult to find if you don’t have proper directions. Miss Palindrome and I went on a Tuesday night at 6pm so we didn’t expect the place to be too crowded, but almost every table was filled by the time we left. It is certainly one of the more well-known foodie hotspot in Baltimore. The interior is very nicely decorated, with rustic elements, a long bar, an open kitchen and a second floor with more seating. There is also a large patio with extra seating, as well as some private dining rooms. All the waiters wear jeans and a plaid button down, while the waitresses wear skirts or dresses with floral aprons tied around their waist. I definitely got a hipster vibe from the staff, but I’m not complaining because the service was very good.
Miss Palindrome and I were a little overwhelmed by all the delicious-looking options on the menu. We wanted to order a few different things to share, but neither of us were too hungry because we had a late lunch at The Point in Fells (another great Baltimore restaurant). After much discussion and with some guidance from our waitress, we decided on the following items: scallops in the raw, oven-baked “rock” oysters, ramp toasts and the hen flatbread. We couldn’t finish the flatbread because we ordered too much food, but it made for a nice midnight snack later on.
Before I get into the entrees, let me say that I was thoroughly impressed by the bread and butter. There was a selection of sourdough, baguette and honey wheat all made in house, served with delicious local butter that was bright yellow and served at room temperature (I hate when the butter is too cold to spread!). I couldn’t get enough of it.
Our first dish to come out was the Scallops in the Raw, which was a special on the menu that evening. The scallops came in a large, shallow bowl and were garnished with herbs and scallions. The waiter poured a hot broth over the scallops table side, to add a slight cooked element to the dish. The scallops were tender and flavorful, and melted in your mouth. I definitely could have had all five to myself, but 2.5 was good enough.
Woodberry Kitchen offers a few different selections of Chesapeake Oysters, some raw and some baked. We opted for the Rock Oysters, grilled with rocket, cream, asiago and breadcrumbs – similar to Oysters Rockefeller, but much lighter in style. They also served an in-house hot sauce with the oysters that was perfectly spicy and tangy. I tried the oysters with and without the hot sauce, and I found that one drop was the perfect amount. Miss Palindrome and I enjoyed the oysters so much that we slurped out the leftover broth in the shell – elegantly, of course.
Next out was our ramp toasts, which was a last minute addition to our order but perhaps one of our favorite dishes. The ramps were blended with ricotta and tarragon and spread on a piece of rustic wheat toast, served with a slow-cooked egg on the side. I cut the toast in half, and delicately split the egg over each piece. I would have enjoyed the toast even without the egg, but the addition was a nice (though somewhat messy) treat. The saltiness of the egg yolk blended perfectly with the ramp spread, and I devoured it in only a few bites.
Last but not least, our smoked Guinea Hen flatbread with spinach, carmalized onion, green garlic, cheddar, and honey. Miss Palindrome described it perfectly as “like a fancy BBQ chicken pizza.” I agreed with her sentiment, and I loved the crust in the flatbread. We had a hard time deciding which flatbread to get, and our waitress urged us to go for the hen. I really liked it, but the taste was so familiar that I sort of wish we had gone for something more complex, like the asparagus and ramp flatbread. Oh well, there’s always next time!
Overall, I was very impressed with Woodberry Kitchen, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see a place like this doing so well in a city that isn’t exactly known for locally-farmed restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love Baltimore and it is definitely a food city with some of the best seafood in all of the U.S. It’s good to see that they are embracing the Locavore movement, and I hope to see more restaurants like Woodberry Kitchen popping up around B-more!