Baltimore, Maryland

Coolstuff Team
July 5, 2024

Our sister to the south may have some terrible PR, but we’re here to fix that. On a recent trip to Baltimore, we fell in love with this creative and independent city that’s full of great food, shopping, and architecture. While there are many getaways within just a few hours of the city, take this as a sign that Baltimore should absolutely be on your list. Read on for our favorite picks in, “Charm City.” 


Hotel Ulysses

A moment of transparency: the primary reason we were interested in a visit to Baltimore was because we absolutely had to check out the Hotel Ulysses. Our first taste of the Ash vision was back in January of 2020 when we enjoyed quite a number of cocktails at their New Orleans outpost, Hotel Peter & Paul, and we chased that vibe a little closer to home at Ulysses. 

For us, this is the perfect vacation hotel – from the many (and perfect) in-building bars and restaurants to the impeccably designed rooms. Everything about this hotel manages to feel fresh while paying homage to the sometimes-rowdy past lives the walls have lived. Call this your home in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood and thank us later. 



As we mentioned above, Hotel Ulysses has impeccable dining options on-site, and Ash-Bar is the leading concept on the property. Tucked back into the walls decked in burled wood, Ash-Bar serves up breakfast, lunch, dinner, and apertivo hour as well as a weekend brunch. In many ways this kind of felt like Baltimore’s version of The Odeon. The warm crab dip and duck-fat fried potatoes are both don’t miss items on the menu.

Cafe Dear Leon

East of Baltimore’s touristy harbor district lies the quaint and neighborhoody Canton. This is one of two places in Baltimore that draws a line and is totally worth the wait. By the grace of god, we managed to snag the last two BLTs in the display case and tucked into them at the outdoor cafe tables while sipping on inventive but not too sweet coffee concoctions. If you’re up for a walk, Cafe Dear Leon sammies would be well enjoyed on Canton Waterfront Park.

Little Donna’s

First things first: Little Donna’s is a perfect restaurant. This cozy bar and cafe may read as one big tribute to the food of Chicago with it’s tavern pies and pierogis, but there’s something more special going on here. From the start, the laid-back staff and crisp cocktails kept the mood high and the vibes only amped up throughout the night. And for all you ranch-on-pizza lovers out there, Little Donna’s encourages its slices to be dipped into their housemade ‘icebox ranch.’ 

Loch Bar

Sometimes in a waterfront city, a waterfront meal is what the doctor ordered. Loch Bar has tons of prime harbor-front seating but is far enough from Fell’s point to avoid the touristy crowd. If you haven’t scratched your Maryland crab itch yet, this is a perfect place to tuck in to a crab stew. 

Cafe Campli

This Italian spot just outside of downtown draws inspiration and recipes from the Abruzzo region of Italy. One great thing about Cafe Campli is that they are open for lunch, which was surprisingly difficult to find while in Baltimore! 


We’ve arrived at the point in our guide where we call out the second place in the city that consistently draws a line in order to dine. While we weren’t brave enough to face the queue, Clavel still makes our list for one important reason: it’s tacos were recommended by every single Baltimore confidant. A unanimous rec! 

Quality Snowballs

If you’re walking down Hampden’s main drag, West 36th Street, you’ll notice a little haven built within a shipping container. That would be Quality Snowballs – a snowcone-adjacent dessert option that is exactly what a hot day needs.


Ceremony Coffee Roasters

Roasted nearby in Annapolis, Ceremony has earned its place as one of the most respected independent coffee roasters in the US. Luckily for all of us, they have a few cafes in Baltimore. We loved the large and airy Mt. Vernon location for a morning brew.


Maybe its the music of Baltimore natives Beach House that make us feel this way, but when we’re in town we want a cozy and dark bar. Faddensonen, with it’s nordic flair, offers exactly that and if you wish the exact opposite in their large beer garden. This is a great place to wait out the line at Clavel two blocks away. 

Good Neighbor

What an absolute vibe of a coffee shop. Yes you can get a great coffee, yes they serve wine in the evenings, but Good Neighbor also has a plant shop in the back, a sprawling courtyard, and even retails Le Labo soaps and candles. This Hampden cafe is where the cool kids are spending their days.


Located off the lobby of Hotel Ulysses, Bloom’s is a true step back in time. The sultry, mirrored lounge serves up tiki-inspired cocktails and often hosts drag and burlesque shows. It’s lucky that we stayed upstairs because Bloom’s is easily our favorite place to close out a night of fun in the city – the vibe of this bar feels fit for the singularly infamous Baltimore-based director John Waters.

Le Comptoir du Vin

Located in the industrial Station North, Le Comptoir du Vin brings the dream of France to Charm City. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to enjoy a small-plates meal alongside natty wine at a Parisian cafe, the vibe here is absolutely inspired. Best of all, they stay true to their name and even offer bottles of wine for takeaway purchases.

The Coral Wig

The final concept located near the Hotel Ulysses is this hidden bar in the alley behind the hotel. Operated by the same folks of famed WC Harlan, The Coral Wig feels like a romantic hideaway in old Singapore – it’s absolutely tropical but in no way is it a tiki bar. Extra points for playing nothing except Nina Simone during our entire time sipping smokey rum drinks and playing backgammon by candlelight.


House Demiurge

Located in a sweet Mt Vernon alley, House Demiurge is a fun blend of French antiques, vintage clothing, and new treasures like the papier-mache citrus we picked up.

Bottle of Bread

A neighborhood anchor of Mt. Vernon, Bottle of Bread offers a curated and upbeat collection of mostly women's vintage clothing as well as a few home goods and gifts.

In Watermelon Sugar

Located in Hampden, In Watermelon Sugar is one of those places where you could probably find a gift for just about everyone you know. Think candles, books, handmade gifts, BUT then think, “I’ve never seen any of these brands before.” That’s a good recipe.

Antique Exchange Interiors

A few doors down from In Watermelon Sugar lies our favorite antique shop of the city. Across two levels Antique Exchange Interiors had a delightfully impressive selection of antiques and ceramics ranging from Staffordshire porcelain to affordably-priced vintage jewelry.

Modern World

This shoppy shop has a focus in addition to the requisite tinned fish: nonalcoholic bevvys. Wether you’re off the sauce, or simply want something refreshing without a buzz, this is a great stop in the Hampden neighborhood.


The Walters Art Museum

If you visit Baltimore, please do us a favor and visit the museum. Hopefully it was merely an off day, but it made us sad to be some of the only souls inside this (FREE) world-class art museum on a Saturday morning. 

George Peabody Library 

An architectural gem of the city, the George Peabody Library is operated by Johns Hopkins but is open to the public most days. If you want to dream about Balitmore’s gilded age, this is probably the best place to do it.

Charles Theater 

Yes we’ve seen the AMC Nicole Kidman memes, but what’s way cooler is supporting indie cinema. Charles Theater is an impressive movie house in Mt. Vernon that offers a revival series as well as viewings of performances by the Met Opera. The range is palpable: this summer they’re viewing both Paris, Texas and Office Space…

Baltimore Farmers' Market

A farmers' market under a highway overpass might seem like an odd juxtaposition at first, but the more you think about it, the fit is pretty perfect. Happening Sundays throughout the year, this is a very impressive market - we’re proud to say we stocked up on a lot of fruit and veg (and handwoven baskets) before heading back to NYC.

Swann House Gallery

One more surprise from our friends at Hotel Ulysses: they operate a great gallery in the adjacent building they’ve named the Swann House. While we were in town we managed to catch a great show by Nicholas Wisniewski and his relief work with materials from decaying buildings in Baltimore.

Ferry from Canton Waterfront Park

Canton Waterfront Park is a great ferry stop if you’re trying to get across the harbor to Locust Point, but we have a little hack: just stay on the ferry and return to Caton for a free boat tour of Baltimore harbor. You can even catch a glimpse of the now-missing Francis Scott Key bridge.

Fells Point

Fells Point means two things: the place where people go to bars and a land feature within the harbor; we’re recommending the latter. After a large dinner, head down for a sunset walk to the end of the point, sit on a bench, and think about how 95% of America has Baltimore pegged totally wrong.

North Washington Place Park & The Washington Monument

DC may have “the” Washington Monument, but in the opinion of this publication, the one in Baltimore is much more beautiful. Located across the manicured veranda outside the Walters Art Museum and the Peabody Library, this small park reminds us that we used to compete with Europe pretty closely on architectural beauty. Luckily for all of us, Baltimore’s secret is that most of the best stuff has been left untouched.