BALTIMORE HAS ENDURED its fair share of troubles in the past several months, but a visit over Labor Day proves that the city is alive and well — and in a couple of cases, at least, flourishing.
For more than 10 years, my husband, Jim, and I have been motor boating or sailing to Baltimore, most frequently tying up at Harbor East in the marina. How that has changed. Formerly housed in a trailer, the marina office (and showers and bathroom facility) is now on the ground floor of a Johns Hopkins office building. Right next door is a Four Seasons hotel so popular it is building more floors to accommodate guests. The number of stores and restaurants has grown accordingly. Madewell, the denim division of J. Crew, and an enormous outpost of home-grown Under Armour athletic wear are newcomers, adding to the mix of individual stores like Sassanova (shoes) and Amaryllis (jewelry). Dining out at Ouzo Bay offers the option of fresh fish by the pound and an outstanding view of the harbor from its wraparound patio. Several new apartment buildings are going up, eager to capture that same view.
A counterpoint to Harbor East’s posh is the Fell’s Point neighborhood, a walkable few blocks east along the waterfront. Here’s where to find locally owned boutiques and grittier restaurants, including Bertha’s Mussels, a place to sample eight kinds of the bivalve, along with daily specials of the same; and Jimmy’s, an old-school diner that’s a favorite for breakfast. Prices are refreshingly good on shoes and handbags at Poppy & Stella. One of the few chains here, Hats in the Belfry sells a selection of hats that would look right at home in Downton Abbey.
Although I’ve yet to explore them myself, I’ve heard good reports about the growth of Canton and Federal Hill. Next trip.
What best captured the zeitgeist of Baltimore for me was the sign on the door of tattoo parlor Saints & Sinners in Fell’s Point, attesting to the city’s healthy sense of humor and gritty spirit. You go, Baltimore!