The Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore is a slice of 19th-century charm adjoining the city’s downtown. Its cobblestone streets, intricate ironwork and formal gardens harken back to a time when the area played host to Baltimore’s intellectual elite — an era when dozens of Mount Vernon social clubs gathered the city’s movers and shakers together to discuss culture, politics and art. And sip cocktails, of course.
And that enlightened, creative spirit endures today. While Mount Vernon looks much like it did in its early days, its carefully restored brownstones and mansions now contain some of the city’s most lively restaurants, bars, theaters and music venues. And Hotel Indigo Baltimore Downtown, located in Baltimore’s first YMCA building (established in 1908), thoughtfully captures the history of the area with a well-stocked library and a literary-themed restaurant — making it a fitting place to begin your explorations of all that Mount Vernon has to offer.
To ensure you make the most of your time in Mount Vernon, here’s how to have a memorable day in the neighborhood that combines its colorful past with its vibrant present.
Morning in Mount Vernon
A day in Mount Vernon begins with a hearty breakfast — and Dooby’s is a popular spot in the heart of the neighborhood that serves food all day long. It’s the perfect place to get a taste of the modern concepts breathing new life into this historic neighborhood. During the week, the Korean-inspired café offers a selection of both typical breakfast fare (like a mushroom and Swiss omelet) and more inspired creations (such as a steak and egg sandwich with gochujang aioli). Or stop by on the weekend for brunch, when you can order the addictive Hangover Ramen with Sapporo noodles, chashu, hot dogs, American cheese and nitamago.
After fueling up, head to the Walters Art Museum to browse its extensive collection. The free museum (general admission only) has exhibits ranging from pre-dynastic Egypt to 20th-century Europe.
A Very Vernon Afternoon
Ready for lunch? For something quick and easy, try Milk & Honey Market, a family-run café that’s known for its fresh, healthy options. Select a panini made with cheese from nearby Charlottetown Farm, or try a classic sandwich like chicken salad or roast beef. It’s also a great spot to pick up a gift or souvenir from local makers; check out the stationery, pottery and notepads.
For more of a sit-down vibe, snag a table at Poets Modern Cocktails and Eats, the literary-themed restaurant at Hotel Indigo. Get a taste of Maryland’s most famous crustacean with the crab cake sandwich, or go all out with the Lexington Market salad — a Caesar topped with two mini crab cakes, salmon, blackened shrimp and Old Bay croutons. Not feeling crabby? Choose from the burger or flatbread menu instead.
After lunch, take a stroll to the Washington Monument of Baltimore, which reopened to the public last summer after an extensive renovation. Admission to the gallery and exhibits is free, but there is a small fee to climb the tower. Continue your historic exploration at the Maryland Historical Society, Maryland’s oldest continually operating cultural institution. Home to the original manuscript of Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” it’s also where you’ll find thousands of paintings, textiles, furniture, silver and other artifacts.
Mount Vernon After Dark
When dinnertime rolls around, stop by Ryleigh’s Oyster for $1 oysters during “Oyster Hour” (weekdays only). Stay for steamed Hog Island clams or a lobster roll, or head to Ware House 518 for a classic white-tablecloth experience. The restaurant serves “Mason-Dixon fare” like watermelon feta salad, Dixie shrimp ‘n’ grits, and Delta gumbo, plus a playful cocktail list that features everything from Carolina moonshine to house basil-infused gin.
Squeeze in a bit more culture by checking the schedules at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, The Lyric Opera House and The Theatre Project. Between these and other performance venues in the area, you’re sure to find evening entertainment to suit just about any mood.
Finish off your evening with a nightcap. If you’re a beer fan, try Brew House No. 16, a lively brewpub located in a historic firehouse. If cocktails are more your thing, pop into Sugarvale, an intimate craft cocktail bar. Or if you like a bit of both, head back to Poets, recognized by local media as the best new bar in town. The beer list includes a nice introduction to Baltimore’s best breweries, while the cocktail list includes innovative offerings like the Charm City Sparkler, made with locally produced Charm City Mead, fresh orange juice and prosecco. And if you haven’t had your fill of crab, the bar’s signature martini is accented with crab-stuffed olives. Welcome to Baltimore, indeed.