Restaurant Review – The Food Market (Hampden, MD)

Exciting restaurants are no longer hard to come by in Baltimore. The Food Market located on the busy 36th Street in Hampden is a glimmering example of the gastronomical revolution happening in Baltimore. The space is a bit small and the dining tables are intimately close to each other; however, it doesn’t take away from the chic modern ambiance. The dark wood tables with aluminum chairs really pop against the exposed white brick walls. Large round overhead lamps run down the middle of the restaurant and draw attention to the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant – it’s where all the magic happens.

On most nights you will most likely have to wait even if you have a reservation. No worries, just choose from one of the many exotic cocktails available at the bar. The cocktails are a bit pricey, but always feature top-shelf liquor. My personal favorite is The Pimlico Playboy, a bourbon drink with fresh mint, soda and a splash of sweet. The Pig on the porch is also very nice, featuring premium rye with maple liqueur garnished with a bacon swizzle stick. The wine is really nice as well, featuring one of my favorite white wines – Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc. This crisp white wine is ideal with almost any dish that isn’t steak or beef in general. The gooseberry and grapefruit accents are perfect once the weather heats up.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the overall menu concept, but the dishes are simple in nature with proper execution and some modern twists. The grilled coffee rubbed lamb porterhouses with limoncello sauce are just one example. The little bite size lamb has a warm rub on them, which then creates a wonderful crust from the grill. The robust lamb flavor lends itself perfect with the rub and the mildly sweet sauce. I will say that the lamb porterhouses are one of the best items on the menu, definitely a must try! There is also some Israeli/Mediterranean influence, such as the Salt and Pepper Tuna with Avocado Tsatziki sauce.  The tuna is seared and then lightly dressed with salt, pepper, and quality olive oil. The light avocado infused yogurt sauce gives it a nice rich flavor without muddling the fresh tuna. Other popular appetizers include the doughy Amish style pretzels with beer cheese sauce, as well as the sumptuous pan roasted mussels with leeks, bacon and champagne cream.

Truthfully, delicious tapas style meals can be created from just the appetizers on the menu alone. The main courses are equally delicious though, so make sure you save some room. Portions for the most part are relatively generous with most dishes being quite rich. My favorite entrée is the seared diver scallops with butternut squash risotto and sautéed spinach. The large scallops have a perfect seared crust with remnants of the butter they were cooked in. The risotto is nicely al dente, while the sweetness of the squash accentuates the scallops. Other notable selections include the steak and frites, as well as the griddled duck breast. The steak that particular night seemed to be a sirloin, served fanned out medium rare with their classic  “W 36 St Steak Sauce”. The frites are topped with parmesan garlic and parsley, which were addicting. The duck breast was classically cooked by rendering out the fat – making the skin side crispy. The duck is served with a cherry cider reduction, crispy roasted brussel sprouts and creamy parsnip puree. Getting each component on the plate in a single bit was a perfect trio of deliciousness.

After dining at The Food Market several times, I can confidently say that this restaurant is a welcome addition to the ever-growing Baltimore dining scene. The menu is both exciting and creative, with options for everyone. Prices are definitely reasonable with appetizer ranging from $7-14 and entrees no higher than $30 with several options under $20. The restaurant is both the perfect place to unwind after a long workweek with friends or a nice place to have a romantic evening with someone. Regardless the occasion, I would highly recommend the Food Market to any diner looking for good food and drink in a comforting Baltimore setting.

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