9 Fine Maryland Ethnic Restaurants

Written by Kurt Jacobson

September 29, 2022
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Maryland’s ethnic restaurants offer sumptuous culinary adventures. These are our 9 favorite fine-dining Maryland ethnic restaurants.

A great city has many ethnic restaurants within its borders, and Baltimore and Annapolis are blessed with some of my favorite Maryland ethnic restaurants. Come along for a food tour of what I think are some of the best choices for budget-friendly to expensive places to explore our world of deliciously different dining choices.

A French Favorite

My wife and I are only 20 to 30 minutes from over a thousand restaurants that call Baltimore City and its suburbs home. To take a trip to France without catching a plane, Petit Louis in the Roland Park neighborhood is our favorite place for lunch, dinner, and, Oh là là, brunch. Inside find what would be a simple French eatery in Paris with classic French posters, a small bar, and plenty of two tops for a romantic dinner.

Petit Louis outdoor dining area.

Petit Louis outdoor dining area. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The a la carte menu features classics like onion soup, mussels a la Provencale, frisee salad, and terrine de foie gras, for starters. Entrees like the grilled lamb or trout almandine are two of my go-to items.

Maryland ethnic restaurants.

I enjoy the trout almandine at Petit Louis. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The staff at Petit Louis are knowledgeable in the world of French wine and always recommend a good fit for our order. Prices for food and wine are reasonable, and parking is free and usually easy, making Petit Louis a local’s favorite.

Take a Trip to Spain

Spain has many regions and food cultures. At La Cuchara, Basque is the region of choice. Find this food getaway in the almost ancient-looking Meadow Mill building along Jones Falls. Here again, parking is free and easy, not always a benefit of Baltimore City restaurants. We used to always dine indoors, but COVID brought a newer outdoor patio dining area with a rain-proof cover that we prefer in good weather.

With that outdoor dining option, my wife and I make the 30-minute drive to La Cuchara more often than ever. We love the half-priced wine-by-the-bottle special (only for bottles over $100) on Sundays. Red, the sommelier and dining manager, is competent at finding a perfect wine by the glass or bottle.

A delicious starter of crispy shrimp and shishito peppers.

A delicious starter of crispy shrimp and shishito peppers. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The menu changes a bit to reflect what’s fresh and available. La Cuchara excels at delivering delicious pintxos, cheese, Spanish ham, and tapas. The entrees are a bit pricey, topping out at around $50, but well worth the money. Open for dinner every night of the week, La Cuchara is one of Baltimore’s best restaurants.

Flavors of Lebanon Found at a Maryland Ethnic Restaurant

Baltimore has many Mediterranean eateries. Our go-to restaurant for delicious Mediterranean fare is Lebanese Taverna’s Baltimore City location. If you are in the Washington DC area, you can find four Lebanese Tavernas there.

With so many choices for starters, try either the Chef’s Platter or Taverna Platter to taste up to nine delicious Lebanese items. At the beginning of your meal, they bring hot pita bread with olive oil and herbs. If you want more bread, just ask, as they’re happy to keep it coming.

The Taverna Platter at a delicious Maryland ethnic restaurant.

I love the Taverna Platter with nine tasty samples from the Mezza menu. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Vegetarians will love falafel, baba ganoush, hummus, and eggplant. Meat eaters go for lamb dishes, whole Bronzino, and chicken items. For wine, ask your server for a taste of Lebanese wine from the by-the-glass list to expand your wine knowledge. Lebanese Taverna in Baltimore is open seven days per week for lunch and dinner. There’s a public parking garage across the street from their entrance, or you might get lucky and find an on-street spot for less money.

Puerto 511 Peruvian

What’s not to love about a tiny restaurant with fantastic ethnic food? We adore Puerto 511 and the opportunity to bring our own wine. We pack a favorite bottle and take a ride-share into the city for the best Peruvian fare I’ve had anywhere. The staff suggests bringing your own pisco for them to prepare a pisco sour to immerse you in a Peruvian dining experience. They charge $3 per glass for the pisco service.

Puerto 511

Puerto 511 New York steak. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The tastefully decorated restaurant is not fancy but has a traditional vibe. We enjoy watching our meal being prepared thanks to the open kitchen design. Ceviche is popular and is spiked with lime, spices, peppers, and olive oil, begging for a glass of sauvignon blanc. Try the $55 5–course tasting menu on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or step it up on Fridays and Saturdays to the $69 6-course tasting menu.

A Road Trip to Annapolis to Discover Another Delicious Maryland Ethnic Restaurant

For far-flung ethnic dining, I’ve found some fantastic restaurants within 2 to 3 hours of Baltimore. Annapolis has a couple we like. For French fare, we go to Café Normandie at 185 Main St., but our favorite ethnic restaurant is Osteria 177, just up the street from Café Normandie.

The service, food, and wine are exceptional. There are so many good Italian restaurants in Baltimore that for us to choose Osteria 177 as Maryland’s best says something about how good Osteria is. Open daily for dinner, but only Fridays for lunch; drop in for Italian fine dining and a virtual trip to Italy.

Seafood, Meat, or Vegetarian

The starter list runs the gamut of burrata, calamari, seared yellowfin tuna, octopus, and an anti-pasta platter for two full of meats and cheese. Vegetarians will enjoy the stuffed pasta with porcini sauce or the Fettucine al Tartufo Nero. I love the seafood items like linguine alle vongole, cioppino Alla Genovese, and astice scampi and lobster. The wine list is exceptional, as is the staff’s knowledge of Italian wines.

The cioppino Alla Genovese is one of my favorite dishes at Osteria 177.

The cioppino Alla Genovese is one of my favorite dishes at Osteria 177. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Tip: I recommend Gott’s Court Garage for a close-by parking spot if you’re driving.

Great Food in Frederick, MD

Frederick’s food and drink scene attracts those in the know from Baltimore, DC, and beyond. We have found good Spanish restaurants and a Peruvian café worth the two-hour round trip.

Paella at Isabella's is another fabulous dish at a Maryland ethnic restaurant.

Don’t miss the paella at Isabella’s in downtown Frederick. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Isabell’s in downtown Frederick has been a favorite from our first taste, especially for the paella. When Isabell’s chef departed to open a restaurant (Mayta’s Peruvian Cuisine) in nearby Buckeystown, we had to try it. A meal at Mayta’s reminds me of the amazing low-cost meals I had during trips to Ecuador. Mayta’s serves no-nonsense Peruvian street food and café fare at affordable prices. Don’t miss the chicken entrees with sides of yucca, fried plantains, black beans, or fried corn.

Chicken entrees at Mayta's.

A pair of delicious chicken entrees at Mayta’s. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The most expensive entrée is the oven-roasted chicken for $33, which includes two sides. Other entrees like arroz con pollo, Inca Paella, or tacu tacu (steak on white beans) are worth a try. Like Peruvian and Ecuadorean eateries, juices are beyond what most Americans are accustomed to. Try the passion fruit, mango juice, or ask for a sample of other juices to get a perfect fit. Find Mayta’s at 5010 Buckeystown Pike, where parking is free and easy.

Ginger at the MGM Grand National Harbor, MD

If one cuisine is under-served in Maryland, it’s Chinese. We had tried several mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants with average food. So when Ginger came to the MGM Grand, we figured it would be worth a try. The restaurant opens to the main hall, where seasonal displays like Chinese New Year draw a curious crowd. The wait staff is almost exclusively Asian and very professional.

Ginger is inside the MGM Grand Harbor.

Ginger is inside the MGM Grand Harbor. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

While the menu features primarily Chinese, on a recent visit, the table next to us ordered the seafood drunken noodles, a Thai dish that looked great. For our next visit, I ordered the drunken noodles and found them as good as that of any Thai restaurant in Maryland. Their Panang curry, Chinese-style eggplant, wonton soup, and Cantonese roast duck are must-try items. Classic Peking roasted duck is a bit pricey at $98, but if you’ve won big at the MGM casino, why not splurge?

Noodle dishes at Ginger.

Be sure and try at least one of the delicious noodle dishes at Ginger. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Ginger is open for lunch and dinner seven days per week. Reservations are a good idea, especially for dinner. At the time of this writing, parking was still free. However, in my experience with big casino companies, free parking might not be available for long.

Indian Cuisine Fit For Royalty at Another Maryland Ethnic Restaurant

Baltimore has several good Indian restaurants, but for the best, we’ll head to Columbia, MD, to dine at Royal Taj. When we first entered Royal Taj, it was apparent this was a fine-dining experience. Their service is some of the best in the Baltimore/Columbia area.

The dining room at the Royal Taj is one of the finest in Maryland.

The dining room at the Royal Taj is one of the finest in Maryland. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Lamb is one of my favorite things to order, and Royal Taj has ten tempting lamb dishes on the menu. Perhaps the best value is the meat samosa filled with savory ground lamb. More than ten chicken dishes are available, and one of my favorites is the Makhani featuring dark meat in a tomato-based sauce spiced to your heat preference.

Baigan Bartha and Chicken Makhani went well together.

Baigan Bartha and Chicken Makhani went well together. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Seafood is well represented, and you’re sure to be pleased with nine dishes to choose from, like lobster karahi (a wok-cooked version with tomatoes, onions, and succulent lobster). Try the crab or shrimp Vindaloo to kick up the heat in a tangy sauce.

Vegetarians will probably like one or more of the 16 vegetarian specialties. One of my favorite vegetarian options is the biryani, a type of fried rice with fresh vegetables, nuts, and raisins. Another favorite is the mutter paneer, an Indian-style cheese with peas in a cream sauce.

An Extensive Drink Selection

Royal Taj has a full bar and serves mixed drinks, beer, cognac, whisky, single malt, bourbon, and wine. Their whiskey, bourbon, and cognac selections are large and one of the best in the Baltimore area. Royal Taj is open Sunday-Thursday from 11:30 am to 9:15 pm and Friday & Saturday from 11:30 am to 10:15 pm, with plenty of free parking.

Baltimore’s Excellent Greek Food

We learned much about Baltimore’s Greek restaurants from the Greek family we rented a townhome from during our first 18 months in the area. The family helped us find the best restaurants and told us about the Greek festival in Patterson Park.

The Black Olive has outdoor seating in a historic Baltimore Neighborhood.

The Black Olive has outdoor seating in a historic Baltimore Neighborhood. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

Our favorite Greek restaurant is The Black Olive in historic Fells Point. This local favorite has been in business since 1997 and specializes in seafood. The menu has vegetarian options, but for meat lovers, I recommend traditional lamb items like Greek-style lamb chops, Greek lamb and shrimp combinations, lamb meatballs, and a Moroccan-style braised lamb shank.  Owner Dimitris Spiliadis says, “Some of our recipes go back to ancient Greece.” You can’t get much more traditional than that!

The whole roasted red snapper is excellent at the Black Olive.

The whole roasted red snapper is excellent at the Black Olive. Photo by Kurt Jacobson

The starter menu has 30 items that could be combined to make a meal with dishes like village pie, hummus, Manouri grape leaves, grilled octopus salad, and more. The service is professional and not too intrusive for those enjoying a romantic meal.

Exceptional Greek Wines

We love the Greek wines by the glass, like Moschofilero, a delightful white wine similar to a Vinho Verde. On the red side of the list, the old vines Xinomavro is a smoky, smooth wine that rivals many Napa Valley reds. Parking can be tricky, so consider taking a ride share, especially since the wines are so good!

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Last Bite

This list encompasses almost 13 years of dining in Maryland. We found many of these restaurants in local newspapers or magazine articles and some from friends. Maryland is truly an international community represented partly by many tasty ethnic restaurants. I think you’ll find some of these restaurants are as special as we have. For more to do when you visit Maryland—or for dining options no matter where you travel—let Wander with Wonder be your guide to your next delicious meal.

Nine Fine Maryland Ethnic Restaurants

Written by Kurt Jacobson

Kurt Jacobson is a former chef and current freelance travel writer. His writing covers restaurants, destinations, hotel features, farms, and wine. When not hanging out at home Kurt loves exploring the Mid-Atlantic area with his wife and dog Sophie. Kurt's published articles can be found at Trip101.com, GoNOMAD.com, Mother Earth News Magazine, Edible Delmarva Magazine, tasteoftravel2.com, and 40+ publications worldwide. Find Kurt online on Twitter at @KurtTravels2 and follow his website http://tasteoftravel2.com/.