I have some shocking news for you all: I’m a bit of a food snob. I’m also a book snob, a drink snob, and a city snob. Surprising, I know. However, whereas most people label me a food snob because I like fancy dinners, what they don’t realize is that I’m just as excited to spend five bucks at my favorite Mexican food truck as I am to eat at a place like Vernick. I’m a snob for good food, not necessarily expensive food. Baltimore is great city for this because there are a ton of nice low-key options for dining; still, it’s also evolved to include more upscale options to satisfy all diners. One of these options, which I finally was able to try after months of whining was Woodberry Kitchen.
If you haven’t heard of this restaurant located in Hampden, it’s a spot generating a lot of buzz for its fresh local food. Like most places that boast of farm-to-table choices, the decor all had a rustic feel to it when my mom and I stopped in. I’m not sure when sourcing food from nearby started translating to wood walls and repurposed materials, but it’s a trend that I don’t think will disappear anytime soon. It would be a haven for hipsters in Philadelphia, but don’t let that deter you from trying it because I noticed diners that included everyone from hip under-thirties to grandmas getting together for a fun night out.
We came to Woodberry on a chilly Thursday night ready to eat. My hopes were pretty high since most of the complaints I noticed online consisted of people saying things such as “It was delicious, but I could make rockfish at home, so it wasn’t worth it,” or “I went knowing they had a kids menu, but they only offered boring choices like grilled cheese.” One, if you wanted to eat something you couldn’t make at home, why would you order a dish you thought would be easy to recreate? and two, what the heck would you want on a kids menu besides a grilled cheese? Friendly advice: if you want caviar and lobster, go to a place that has those things! It’s not like menus are a big secret nowadays; one quick Google search can give you information on just about any restaurant so you don’t waste your time at a place you may not like. You could also do this revolutionary new thing where you pick up your phone, call the restaurant, and ask them what type of food they have. With that little rant out of the way, I’ll get on with my review of the restaurant itself and move away from the people that make me want to scream.
Per usual, the drink list was the first thing in my hand after sitting down in a little booth tucked away into a cozy corner. After debating over some inventive cocktails, I ordered the Public Relations, a light option featuring rosemary vodka, apple shrub, maple, and house bitters. It was a great balanced choice for fall that I would easily order again, though there were so many other tempting choices on the menu too. It wasn’t a boozy cocktail, so if you prefer your drinks like Don Draper, I’d suggest going for something like the Whiskey Smash. No matter what your preferences are though, Woodberry had a number of options to satisfy all types of drinkers the night we dined there.
While we sipped, we decided to go for several small plates instead of large heavy entrees in order to try as much as we could. Though we tried a number of snacks, my favorite was the Sour Cream & Onion Dip. This herby dip was intense as the sour cream was actually house quark, a zingy cheese that brightened it all up considerably. The Deviled Eggs were another solid, creamy option, though there could have been a touch more tartness to it for my taste. These two choices were really just meant to wet our appetite and they certainly succeeded in doing that.
For our more substantial plates, I went all out with the Liberty Delight Beef Tartare and Hoopers Island Oyster Stew. The lukewarm stew was begging for more chives and parsley, but the oysters themselves were plump delights. I’d be willing to give this stew another go, and if that didn’t work out, I already have my eye on their decent oyster list. On the opposite end of the flavor spectrum, the tartare was straightforward yet layered. The fish pepper mayo added a complex richness to the meat without outshining the star of the dish. It was a decadent option with the only drawback being the too thin chips that just couldn’t hold up against the weight of the beef. It was perfect for sharing, although my miserly ways definitely didn’t allow me to do that.
I also took a fantastic bite of my mom’s choice, the Liberty Delight Beef & Egg Noodles. Buttery, tender, and herbaceous, this was the kind of food I absolutely crave once October hits. It was not refined and elegant, but rather big, powerful, and wholly satisfying. One of my favorites of the night, I’d recommend trying this dish if you’re ever here and see it on the ever-changing menu.
It wasn’t an absolutely perfect meal, but it was pretty darn close. With an evolving menu that caters to the seasons, Woodberry Kitchen is a location I would happily visit a second time. Our first meal there was a flirtation that left us wanting to come again for more, and I can’t imagine it will be long before we’re back to taste something new.