Just when we all need a picker-upper, along comes Cindy Lou’s Fish House, a smashing new waterfront restaurant located in the Canopy by Hilton Baltimore Harbor Point. Restaurants
often tout breathtaking views, but this glass-enclosed gem with expansive vistas of the Inner Harbor and iconic Domino Sugar refinery delivers the wow factor in spades.
Sip and dine outdoors on the patio or indoors at a wraparound bar or at a cozy table along massive floor-to-ceiling windows that embrace the place. Are you in the mood for romance? Snuggle up in a banquette near the contemporary fireplace centering the room. You won’t find a bad seat in the house.
In between sips and bites, you can witness an almost hypnotic parade of boats or barges passing by or an occasional jogger along the expansive promenade.
It’s no surprise the place overflows with all the bells and whistles. Co-owners Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf are hardly newcomers to fashioning distinctive dining destinations, thanks to the award-winning Charleston and Petit Louis Bistro on their roster of successes. Cindy Lou’s is unlike their other concepts.
“I wanted to create a waterfront restaurant that reflects the food from rural North Carolina where I grew up,” says Foreman. My brain was focused on the casual Southern food I grew up with and miss.”
Fond memories of cooking with his great-grandmother—born in 1890 and one of 17 children—has stayed with him. “A lot of what is in the heart and soul of the menu at Cindy Lou’s is influenced by her,” he adds. When I was 5 or 6, I was shucking oysters in her kitchen. I missed a lot of that and wanted to create good Southern food in a place that would be fun. To see food from 100 years ago reborn is very gratifying and connects me to the best parts of my childhood.”
While I have a weakness for waterfront restaurants, a beautiful harbor view will only take a restaurant so far.
My appetite starts humming the minute I’m handed the menu boasting Southern-inspired selections with a creative twist. Executive Chef Ryan Shaffner’s fried green tomatoes would make any hungry diner swoon, thanks to a tasty topping of pimento ricotta, hot pepper jelly and a pinch of sprouts. Lobster Po’Boy with Sweet Potato Roll comes along with a whisper of curried mayonnaise, green tomato relish and kaleslaw—coleslaw is so yesterday.
A sizzling grilled double-cut pork chop nearly the size of a hubcap is brought to a nearby table and looks as luscious as a cookbook photo.
Lunch and dinner menus are exactly the same, a thoughtful concept for varying appetites ranging from nibbles to hearty meals and a nice nod to travelers staying at the hotel who may be arriving from different time zones.
Shaffner has worked alongside Wolf for years and collaborates with her on seasonal menu changes. His focus is all about creating good food without presumption, food that’s familiar but still special. He believes in using fresh locally sourced ingredients from the waters and farms in the mid-Atlantic region served in a vibe that invites guests to come in, sit down and enjoy. “Cooking has always been a way for me to bring people together and make them happy. I enjoy sharing my passion for food,” says Shaffner.
My palate anticipates an adventure as I savor pan-seared rockfish carpeted in roasted mushroom and Madeira sauce. My companion opts for pan-seared Magret of Duck, joining forces with roasted Brussels sprouts that top a blanket of pumpkin puree. A side order of warm biscuits makes extra time on the treadmill worth every step.
Too often diners pass on desserts. Please don’t do that here. Splurge the calories and order the almond pound cake decked out with pickled pear topped with Earl Grey ice cream and a splash of raspberry. The medley of flavors is guaranteed to perk up taste buds grown weary of same-old, same-old sweets.
Before or after your meal, plan a little time to stroll around Harbor Point and witness this mixed-use waterfront community being developed by Michael Beatty, president and creative influence of Beatty Development Group. This 27-acre reinvention of the once dilapidated, fume-belching industrial site will make even the biggest cynic want to say “Bravo Baltimore” and celebrate Charm City’s latest innovation.
The idea for Cindy Lou’s—playfully named after the Dr. Seuss character, Cindy Lou Who—began five years ago. “I was speaking to Michael (Beatty, Foreman’s friend) about what was happening here. For years I had a waterfront restaurant in my brain serving food that I miss,” says Foreman.
The design was a collaborative effort between Foreman and Beatty and a San Francisco design firm. “I wanted to create a space where you feel at ease the moment you walk in the door versus being impressive and you want to run away to some comfortable corner,” says Foreman.
Trust me, he succeeded.