Here is your ACN-Approved Healthy City Guide to the best vibrant living Baltimore, Maryland has to offer!
These days, Baltimore City – affectionately known as Charm City – is a pretty happening place. If you know where to look, you’ll be pleased to find a boatload of culture, art, parks, live music, yoga and delicious food. When it comes to folks doing awesome, creative things in the name of health, wellness and real food, there’s a lot going on here. With a little insider guidance from yours truly, you’ll be rubbing elbows with like-minded health-conscious peeps in no time.
Where to Eat
Belvedere Square Market. A bit misleading, since Belvedere Square is more like a dozen places to eat than just one, but this is my absolute favorite hang out/meet up spot in the city! Atwater’s offers hearty soups and creative sandwiches (with vegan/veggie options), organic flours, artisan cheeses, local milk and baked goods. The Field Greens Salad is my go-to. Another must-see here is PlantBar, a smoothie and juice bar that also offers fresh produce, a selection of prepared foods (sweet and savory), and fun specialty items like Fire Cider, Brad’s Raw Kale Chips, and “Coconut Bacon”. You’ll definitely want to stop by Hex Ferments for a sampling of incredible kraut, kimchi and kombucha. And please, do not leave without treating yourself to some Pure Chocolate by Jinji. Jinji’s to-die-for chocolate creations are raw, organic, gluten-free, vegan and contain absolutely no refined sugar! The date popper and the peanut butter-stuffed fig dipped in dark chocolate are my all-time faves.
Woodberry Kitchen. Best restaurant in Baltimore, in my humble opinion. It’s a special occasion kind of place and a favourite of Baltimore farm-to-table foodies. As a 100% whole-food plant-based person, I remember feeling respected and appreciated here when I’d ask about vegan options. Now that I’m eating a little differently, it’s comforting to know that Woodberry Kitchen is as concerned about quality as I am. They’re committed to sourcing locally and seasonally, and to honouring “the abundance and traditions of the region while helping to secure its future”. They’re always busy, so be sure to call ahead for reservations. They have a great weekend brunch and specialty drinks, too! A lot of pride and care goes into everything they do – and it shows. Chef Spike Gjerde was just named a 2015 James Beard Foundation semifinalist in the category of Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
The Helmand. Located in the heart of the Mount Vernon cultural district, The Helmand is traditional Afghani dining at its finest. The first time I realized there was something special going on here was at a friend’s birthday party. As the server was explaining the multi-course supper options, he mentioned that they could easily do all-vegetarian or all-vegan versions of each of the courses. I didn’t even have to ask! The food and service here are equally excellent.
Great Sage. Okay, okay, this one’s not really in Baltimore City, but the 30-minute drive is so worth it! Seriously. All vegan, all the time. The food is fantastic, everyone understands you, and the atmosphere is lovely. I love this place so much. They source locally, and a whopping 95% of ingredients are both organic and GMO-free, including their cooking oils. They also host regular benefit nights for animal welfare non-profits and health organizations. Dr. Neal Barnard (The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete), and Gene Baur (Farm Sanctuary) – to name a few – have been guest speakers here. The menu? “Vegan with flair.” Though I’ve yet to be disappointed in anything I’ve tried there, I have a hard time not ordering the burger. And save room for dessert! The Chocolate Lava Cake with Coconut Ice Cream is amazeballs.
Agora Market. This place is a bit of a hidden gem: a peaceful, sweet little café (located on the first floor of The Inn at The Black Olive) offering a variety of organic breakfast and lunch items – plus groceries and a selection of organic, biodynamic wines! Green juice, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and even a few raw food options are all available here. Eat in or carry out, and then take a leisurely stroll along Thames Street (just up the block, along the water) in the historic Fells Point neighborhood.
Zia’s Café. Just north of Baltimore, in the college town of Towson, Daniela Troia’s Zia’s Café offers wholesome, delicious options for all kinds of eaters. (Troia is also the woman behind PlantBar at Belvedere Square.) Paleo, vegetarian, vegan and raw foodists will all find something to love here. They’ve got fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, fair-trade coffee, soups, salads, sandwiches and sweets. The focus is on real, local, organic ingredients – a winning combination for sure!
Parts & Labor. Meat-lovers and veggie-lovers alike will love Parts & Labor. Part full-on butcher shop (up front) and part restaurant (around the side), Parts & Labor has been serving up the finest quality locally sourced meat and produce around since 2014, a welcome addition to the Remington neighborhood. I was only eating vegetables when they first opened their doors, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that their veggie sides make excellent meals in and of themselves. Delicious! Another win for Woodberry Kitchen Chef Spike Gjerde.
Tabor. This little BYOB Ethiopian restaurant is another favourite. The food is great, the owners are friendly and there are lots of veggie options! Greens, split peas, lentils, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, salad and more. Tear off a piece of injera, scoop it all up and pop it in your mouth. It’s down-to-earth, affordable, and fun for a date or an easygoing get-together with friends.
Pitango Gelato. Best gelato ever! Head on down to Fells Point for a tiny cup of happiness. Pitango is committed to quality. They source organic, wholesome ingredients. No chemicals, colourings, or artificial ingredients. Choose one flavour, or ask for a combo of two or three.
Sweet 27. Sweet 27 is a multicultural bar and restaurant committed to providing delicious local, natural, organic and homemade foods. Vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, gluten-free peeps, and soy-free friends will all find something here. I’m a fan of the veggie tacos. And bonus: Sweet 27 is also a gluten-free bakery, with dairy-free and vegan offerings on hand! The German Chocolate cupcake is insane.
Juice Bars. On the road and feeling like you could really use a big glass of green juice? I know the feeling. Beyond Belvedere Square, Great Sage, Agora Market and Zia’s Café, you’ll also find great fresh-pressed juices at Grind House Café & Juice Bar in Charles Village, Jukai Juice in Hampden, Liquid Earth in Fells Point, and Pure Raw Juice in Locust Point. Cheers!
32nd Street Farmers Market. My favorite market in the city! The 32nd Street Farmers Market, often referred to as the Waverly Farmers Market, might not be the biggest in town, but it’s got a TON to offer and it’s open year-round. Swing by on a Saturday morning to pick up all the fresh local produce, seafood, meat, coffee, gorgeous flowers, soap, honey, hummus and baked goods you need. Before you leave, be sure to snag one of Farm to Face’s giant falafel wraps, a cup of kombucha from Hex Ferments and a sweet gluten-free treat from the wonderful folks at Harmony Foods. Take a few minutes to wander through colourful Charles Village before heading out. Such a lovely spot!
Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar. Staying closer to downtown? Miss the Saturday market? No problem! From April through December, the Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar has you covered. Seasonal fruits, veggies, seafood, meat and more – plus loads of fun vendors offering a wide variety of delicious edible and otherwise gorgeous goods. Vegan options also on-hand!
Belvedere Square Market. This is easily my favorite casual gathering place in the city. With its eclectic mix of retail shopping and dining, Belvedere Square’s got a little bit of everything, and it just keeps getting better.
Milk & Honey Market. This tiny Mount Vernon market is a great neighbourhood source for locally produced food, farm-fresh organic produce, sustainably raised meats, and both local and imported artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. They’ve even got a few household and body care items on the shelves. The market is also a little café, a popular study space for local students, with a few veggie/vegan options on hand.
MOM’s Organic Markets. If you’ve never been to a MOM’s Organic Market, you might want to check out the Lutherville/Timonium location just north of Baltimore City. It’s a special company, to be sure. They’re local, organic, green, composters, conservationists and recyclers (you can recycle just about anything at the store!). They practice what they preach. They’ve even banned plastic water bottles. Pretty awesome, right? A Baltimore City (Remington) location is set to open by the end of 2015.
The Healing Path. Sometimes you just need a massage! Massage, reflexology, acupuncture, facials, counseling and chiropractic care are all on tap here. Several locations to choose from.
Blue Green Acupuncture & Bodywork. It’s not a spa, but it will soothe your soul. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, aromatherapy, massage, zero balancing and reiki. I’ve met the owners, and they are wonderful, warm and experienced practitioners.
Kadampa Meditation Center. Modern Buddhism, peace-loving meditation center, with workshops and a great community.
Yoga and Fitness
Charm City Yoga. With locations all around the city, you won’t have to worry about missing your favourite yoga classes back home! This place is the real deal: awesome instructors, transformative classes and a supportive community. Check the schedule for the community classes (a steal at $6). If you’ll be in town for a while, they offer a $25 unlimited yoga pass for 30 days when you buy online. Vinyasa, Hot Vinyasa, Astanga Primary Series, Astanga Mysore, Kundalini, Hatha, Pregnancy, Beginner, Gentle, Restorative and even Vipassana Meditation are all available. Can’t make a community class? I’ve LOVED classes from Sarah Cook, Heather Hax, Camille Moses-Allen, Elizabeth Scollan, Maggins Kenney, Tami Jacobs, Will Walter, and owner/founder Kim Manfredi, to name a few!
Baltimore Yoga Village. With their commitment to promoting peace, health, integrity and spiritual growth, Baltimore Yoga Village has created a thriving community of yogis and yoginis. Yoga classes, meditation, Nia and a variety of awesome workshops (pranayama, Sanskrit language, acroyoga, traditional chanting, yogic philosophy) are available. Check the schedule for drop-in classes at one of two locations, in Hampden or Mt. Washington.
REV Cycle Studio. If you like spinning, this cycling studio has a mission to inspire courage and help others build healthier, happier lives by providing the best possible indoor cycling experience. Class options include 45-minute, 60-minute, barre, hip-hop, beginner, sculpt and more.
Pop Physique. Hardcore barre, located in the heart of Mount Vernon.
Earth Treks. Just a little ways north and south of the city, you’ll find Earth Treks Climbing Centers. The Columbia and Timonium locations both offer large climbing walls with hundreds of routes, bouldering areas, training, and gear shops.
Running. A few of my favorite places to run outdoors in Baltimore are Lake Montebello, Robert E. Lee Park, along/around the Inner Harbor, Sherwood Gardens, and around the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus.
Art. If you’re an art lover, check out the always interesting American Visionary Arts Museum (an especially unique space), the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Walters Art Museum while you’re in town. Another great place to check out is the Creative Alliance in the Patterson Park neighbourhood, a community based non-profit organization that presents and promotes all genres of art in Baltimore. Loads of interesting events going on there!
Music. There are quite a few spots to hear great live music in Baltimore. If you’re here during WTMD’s First Thursdays (the awesome local radio’s free concert series that runs May through September), don’t miss it! Another awesome venue to visit is An Die Musik Live for incredible classical, jazz and world music. The ambience is unique: comfy Queen Anne chairs in a relatively intimate setting. A very cool experience. The Ottobar and The 8×10 are great for a slightly more local/alternative scene. And for larger concerts/musicians, check out Pier Six Pavilion and Rams Head Live.
Dance. Save Your Soul nights at Lithuanian Dance Hall are a TON of fun! All-vinyl soul music dance party. What’s not to love, right? Another cool spot for something a little different is Mobtown Ballroom in southwest Baltimore. Lindy Hop, Jazz, Bellydancing, Swing, Soul, Aerial and Blues dancing. Fun, right? Mondays and Fridays are Dance Nights. No partner or experience required.
Theater. Catch a first-run specialty film, Hollywood movie, foreign film, or cinema classic at Baltimore’s Charles Theater, a very cool, old-time movie house located in an intriguing historic building on Charles Street. We love to grab crepes before the show at Sofi’s Crepes next door (I love the gluten-free veggie crepe with added avocado). And if you’re into live theater, definitely check out Single Carrot Theater (an innovative, passionate local company), which is right next door to Parts & Labor.
Get to Know the Neighbourhoods. Baltimore is a very neighbourhood-based city. Each section has its own identity and charm. Spend some time exploring “The Avenue” in funky Hampden, colourful Charles Village, historic Fells Point, the cultural district of Mount Vernon, or modern Harbor East. Watch (or play) a game of bocce ball in Little Italy. And for some green space, head to Fort McHenry to watch the boats coming in and going out – and a great view of the Baltimore skyline! Venture (by car) outside of the main drag to Housewerks for a peek into Baltimore’s industrial past. Housewerks houses and sells salvaged (reused/recycled) architectural and industrial artifacts, furnishings and decorative items. Super interesting spot!
Hiking, Biking, and Boating. Head just outside the city to Loch Raven Reservoir for some hiking or biking. You can even rent a canoe or a little boat and paddle out into the middle of the reservoir to just breathe and disconnect. Up for a fun last-Friday-of-the-month adventure? Grab your bike and join a massive group of cycling enthusiasts for a ride through the city, culminating with a big old fiesta at the route’s end.
Where to Stay
Inn at the Black Olive. On the border of Harbor East and Fells Point, you’ll find the Inn at the Black Olive: a luxurious boutique hotel offering an authentic organic experience. The hotel has fresh flowers and air filtering plants, vegetable-based zero VOC paints and stains, and handmade vegetable dyed carpets. The rooms are cleaned with steam and natural cleaners for a chemical-free environment, and they have housemade organic herb infused sea salt and organic spa products. The Food Babe stayed here during a trip to Baltimore once and wrote a wonderful review!
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. Right in the heart of downtown, Fairfield Inn & Suites is Baltimore’s first LEED-certified hotel, with a zero-carbon footprint, wind-sourced, renewable energy, and a smoke-free, fragrance-free environment. Bikes are provided for guests staying in Eco Suites. Rain water is also used for the hotel’s landscape irrigation.
Baltimore Hotel Monaco. This one’s located right in the heart of Mount Vernon, the cultural district of the city. I have several friends who’ve stayed here and loved it. Guests can enjoy complimentary hotel bikes, helmets and locks, as well as yoga mats in every room. The hotel offers in-room spa services, including aromatherapy and massage, organic skincare and a fitness center.
Airbnb. I love this, as it’s a great way to meet new folks, get personalized advice from locals, and connect with fellow Culinary Nutrition friends! If you’re someone who likes to do their own cooking while traveling, Airbnb is perfect. You can pick and choose the right place for your specific needs.
Are you from Baltimore? Taken your own healthy adventures there? What did we miss? What are your favourite health spots?