Friday, January 25, 2008

What's Wrong with the Baltimore Food Scene?

This isn't a rhetorical question. It's also not one of those questions that I pose because I already know the answer, and I just want to write about it and seem smart.

No, I'm asking it very seriously.

More specifically, what I wonder is: why doesn't the Baltimore food and restaurant scene get more attention nationally?

I've been thinking around this for six or so months now, but my curiosity really came to a head just the other day, as I was finishing up my read of the February issue of Food & Wine. The magazine includes a quick article on the Superbowl party plans of Cleveland chef Michael Symon. I've heard a lot about Cleveland lately, and it's sort of surprising (Bourdain even visited last season).

I've also been hearing a lot about other smallish markets, like Richmond and Raleigh-Durham. Attention to cities like Portland and Seattle doesn't surprise me, considering their cultural climates. But Cleveland and Richmond? They just don't strike me as natural foodie cities.

So what is it that sets those places apart from Baltimore? Especially Cleveland - I think of them as somewhat similar. They both seem like working class towns in the midst of a renaissance.

Except for college, I've spent my whole life in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. I don't know much else. Obviously, I understand the difference between the food scene in DC and the one in Baltimore. But Baltimore's food and restaurant culture seems to me like it's very similar to the rest of the city: smallish but quirky and kind of cool. Comfortable in its own skin as a smaller alternative to nearby DC, Philly and even New York.

But I'm not sure that the rest of the country sees Baltimore the same way - if at all. I know we're on the radar in terms of other cultural aspects - between David Simon/Ed Burns, John Waters, and Barry Levinson, we can obviously hold our own, film-wise. We're obviously a creative town.

So, at the risk of sounding Seinfeldian, what's the deal with the food world? Do we not deserve the same level of national attention that, say, Cleveland gets? Is Baltimore really just not up to par in terms of quality or creativity?

Or do we just have a PR problem on our hands?

Or, alternatively, am I wrong? IS Baltimore getting the kind of national attention I think it deserves?


Anonymous said...

I so love Baltimore and have visited several times and find that the food scene there seems to be doing well. However, like many things in Baltimore, there seems to be not enough attention given to the PR department. Or maybe its just not marketing to the right audience. Whatever the case, I think that Baltimore is so unique that is worthy of a visit. I loved it so much, I want to retire there.
David, NJ

Kit Pollard said...

Wow, David, that's high praise!

Actually, since I wrote this post, a couple of Baltimore restaurants have gotten some national press. Woodberry Kitchen and Cinghiale were both mentioned in national food magazines - and I attribute that to the PR behind those restaurants.

I wish the Bmore food scene had a collective PR effort. I really do think that would make a difference...


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