Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Good crabcakes and Bad Decisions in Baltimore

Crabcakes at Faidley's in Baltimore
I stopped by my hometown for a too-infrequent visit last week and discovered an outstanding cocktail bar with an interesting concept.

Bad Decisions' cocktail menu is handwritten in an elementary-school notebook. There's only one; if somebody else is looking at it, you have to wait. It seems like it could be a gimmick, but it's not: these are real recipes -- I saw one bartender follow it for an apparently unfamiliar drink -- of cocktails both classic and creative.

Over several nights of visits (the bar is in Fells Point, near many downtown hotels including mine), I ordered a couple things off the menu but then went o-makase, which worked out fine. Bad Decisions is almost the perfect cocktail bar: unpretentious like most of Baltimore, but also exacting in execution and a fan of small-production East Coast whiskies and other unique ingredients.

It's packed like the rest of Fells Point during Friday and Saturday night primetime, but during weekdays I had nice chats with the bartenders. It would be perfect if the kitchen were open late. Fortunately the 68-year-old Sip and Bite diner is only a couple blocks away, and it's open all night and -- being in Baltimore -- has surprisingly decent crabcakes.
When ordering steamed crabs, get the biggest ones available

Those aren't the crabcakes of the headline, though. Don't let the high-end hotels mislead you about crabcakes at fancy restaurants. For the real thing, head to Lexington Market during the day for a crabcake at Faidley's, probably made by that woman in the photo up top for the last who knows how many years. Yes, it's in the Wire, which got the food scene in Baltimore right.

What wine does one drink with crabcakes, or steamed crabs? Most locals have beer. I usually have ice tea (or water at Faidley's) because the wine options at places with great crabs are pretty limited. Once I had a bottle of terrific Australian Riesling with a dozen; more often bubbly is my go-to. I wonder what Robert Parker drinks with crabs. Kistler, maybe? Well, that's his decision.

Me, when I'm next in Baltimore, I will continue to make Bad Decisions.

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