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Chomp On the Charm City Circulator Culinary Tour

I've been writing for a number of years about food — from childhood reminiscences to rants about pet peeves. My life revolves around food and I know I'm not alone. There are others just like me waiting to hear about the perfect shrimp salad sandwich or German chocolate cake and it is for those folks as well as me that I write about food.  
Opportunities for food-filled stories abound in our fair city and one has been on my mind since the free Charm City Circulator buses started running. The concept: to put together a story on places to eat based on the stops of the new Charm City Circulator Banner Route. I ran it by my friend and BmoreMedia Editor Julekha Dash while, naturally, dining on a good meal.

Now it is impossible for me to dine at all of the restaurants in one day or even a week but I considered myself Marco Polo setting out to create the culinary map for other adventurous diners. 
Why? For a number of reasons; a culinary guide for tourist and locals; a hunt for the undiscovered food finds; and a cost effective and ecological way to travel downtown while filling your belly.
On July 4 I embarked on my adventure, which took me from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry. It was now my mission from the late legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier to let you know what culinary finds await on this new route.
With 100 degrees as the high for the day the purse was loaded with two bottled waters plus maps, notepad and a list of restaurants corresponding to the Banner Route stops. I was unsure what I would find since many areas of Baltimore were still without power since the June 29 derecho.
The goal was to find free parking in Locust Point to avoid paying a meter or parking lot downtown. Coming around Key Highway, I noticed a new street leading to the McHenry Row shopping center. Not only were there four new dining establishments there but undercover parking for my car – bazinga! Pen in hand, I jotted down all the food establishments at McHenry Row: the Green Turtle, Red Parrot Asian Bistro, Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches and Yogi Castle for dessert.
While waiting for the next bus to Fort McHenry at Whetstone Way and East Fort Avenue, I eyed L. P. Steamers Crab House across the street. Food find No. 1: steamed crabs, mussels, shrimp and other seafood that you can dig into on the rooftop with a harbor view. This was not the day for it, but a good option on a more pleasant  afternoon if you are in the mood for crabs.
What a relief getting on the air-conditioned bus. It was a short ride to Fort McHenry where we waited a couple of minutes in the turnaround to head to the Inner Harbor. 
Let me not forget the Wine Market restaurant on Fort Avenue with their farm-to-table, contemporary cuisine attached to a wine shop -- or is it vice versa? As we rounded down on Lawrence Street, I spotted Big Matty's Diner – formerly Rallo's --  and HarborQue, which offers a selection of North and South Carolina barbecues.
We pass Harborview with Tabrizi's Mediterranean cuisine, the American Visionary Museum with Mr. Rain's Fun House restaurant, the Rusty Scupper and Morton's the Steakhouse. It also stops at Pratt Street's Kona Grill and Sullivan's Steakhouse.
As the bus stops at Conway and Light directly across from the Harborplace Light Street Pavilion and Baltimore Visitor Center, I exit. I wanted to go to the Visitor Center to see what other maps or promotional materials were available pertinent to my exploration.  Though tempted by Rita's Italian Ice, I decided to eat lunch before dessert at the new Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Could this chain restaurant stand up to the Louisiana food I know or what I cook? With high hopes I set out.
There were crazy people eating outside in that heat, but not I.  It was onward and inward to Bubba Gump's bar where I indulged in their Cajun Shrimp. At first glance it looked like the shrimp were overcooked because they formed an "o" in shape rather than a "c". The shrimp, not large in size but a decent portion size were fine, the sauce garlicky and spicy with enough bread for dipping.
While heading back to Fort McHenry my notes revealed  there were a number of restaurants, pubs and bars a couple blocks off the Banner stops that deserve culinary consideration. Captain Larry's Bar and Grill, Baba's Mediterranean Kitchen, Barracuda's Locust Point Tavern, J. Patrick's Irish Pub and more. [For a detailed list of restaurants and stops, see the sidebar.]
With the heat taking its toll it was time for this culinary exploration to end. Not finished with my Banner Route culinary exploration and in the name of Escoffier I shall return to dine another day. Hopefully, I will see you there. 

Dara Bunjon has a passion for food – its origins, preparation and consumption. Her passion became her business Dara Does It. Her rants, raves, reviews, reminiscences, and recipes can be found regularly on her Dining Dish and Dara Does It blogs. 


A Charm City Circulator arrives at L.P. Steamers.

David Sechler, 16, of Lancaster, Pa. eats his first blue crab ever at L.P. Steamers.

HarborQue is "big on pig."

Brian Simpson pours barbeque sauce on his beef brisquet at HarborQue.

Scott Wildrick digs into a pit beef sandwich at HarborQue.

All photographs by STEVE RUARK
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