Before Baltimore fell in love with blue crabs, its food of choice was something very different: bananas. In Baltimore’s early days, residents consumed so much of the fruit — which arrived in droves at Fells Point’s ports — that the city once held the title as the country’s largest banana consumer.
That’s just one of the fun facts you’ll enjoy if you traverse the Bite of Baltimore Fells Point Food Tour. But the trek isn’t all talk — soon after he passed on that bit of Baltimore history on a recent tour, guide Sean Tonkin took the group inside The Point in Fells to try the bar’s signature banana-flavored Old Fashioned.
Bite of Baltimore runs guided food tours in both Mount Vernon and Fells Point. The latter tour seamlessly combines an overview of the neighborhood’s current food scene with the rich and surprising history of the neighborhood, which is famous for its bars, live music, waterside views and cobblestone streets (but as Tonkin was quick to point out, the more historically accurate term is Belgian block).
In this neighborhood, which is older than Baltimore itself, Edgar Allan Poe dropped into The Horse You Came in On Saloon on the last night of his life. Billie Holiday, who grew up nearby, ran errands for The Wharf Rat, a former brothel. Meg Ryan even stopped by to film a few scenes for “Sleepless in Seattle.”
But the history of Fells Point isn’t just a list of famous faces. Its ports were hugely instrumental in forming the commerce and culture of the city, and due to their pivotal role in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, can be credited for the very existence of this country.
I’ll leave the rest of the details to the guides of Bite of Baltimore, who, throughout the three-hour tour, expertly transport attendees through space and time, with plenty of breaks for food along the way. The Fells Point tour includes five stops, during which attendees enjoy a total of three small meals, two cocktails and one dreamy dessert.
The first stop was Pitango Bakery + Cafe for a charcuterie spread, followed by The Point in Fells for a taste of what Tonkin swears is the epitome of crab cake perfection — and when you dip it in the accompanying roasted red pepper remoulade, you’re likely to agree. For the third stop, we walked through historic Broadway Market, where the chef at Indian vendor The Verandah — who’s an old friend of Tonkin’s — was happy to personally greet and serve us her famous chicken tikka masala, as well as a delightfully spicy samosa. Just when we were starting to fill up, the tour took us to a drink break at craft cocktail bar Rye, before ending the evening with a surprise, off-menu dessert at Bond Street Social.
On our tour, the food and drink arrived almost instantly at each stop, and the quality never disappointed. And Tonkin’s narration, though detailed, avoided falling into the trap of tedium with fun “pop quiz” questions and personal touches. He’s often quick to let guests in on his own fond memories at each stop along the way.
If you go in the winter months, bundle up. But no matter the time of year, Bite of Baltimore’s tours are perfect for out-of-towners who want to avoid the typical tourist traps, lovers looking for an unconventional date or locals who want to dive deeper into Charm City’s history.