I was born and raised in Baltimore, also known to be the “Charm City”. It isn’t one of the largest cities in the United States, but it’s relatively a decent sized city with great potential. We are mostly known for crabs, crab cakes, old bay seasoning, pit beef, and Inner Harbor. Within the past few years, the food scene in Baltimore has grown beyond just crabs and crab cakes. Many farm to table has made its way into the city, and the cultural aspect has really made an impact in the food scene, where many Asian food places can be found around Baltimore.
People have overlooked the asian culture in Maryland for many years. Matter of fact, there is actually a huge Korean community in Ellicott City, which is right outside of Baltimore. It may not be as big as New York or Los Angeles Korean community, but you can still get all types of Asian food; such as Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Asian fusion.
The Charm City Night Market is a testament to the growing Asian culture in Baltimore. It is a one day market event organized by the Chinatown Collective, that first started last September. Their goal for the event is to showcase local Asian American culture and Asian business owners. The event is held at Park Avenue, where Baltimore’s Chinatown was once located. The significance of the location is a tribute to what used to be Chinatown and how they would like to revive the area and reestablish a Chinatown.
My family and I were able to go to the event this year along with some of our coworkers, from HangryMates, and their families. I thought it was an overall great experience and it was great that we could all go out and support the local Maryland, Virginia, and DC Asian American restaurants and shops. We wanted to beat the crowd because of our little ones that we brought along, so we all decided to go right at the start of the event at 3 PM. I have not been in this part of Baltimore for a couple of years, so the first thing I noticed was some renovations taking place on some surrounding buildings.
The market stretched over a couple of blocks and into two park areas, both park areas had stages for performances. It was awesome to see so many local shops and restaurants come together with a common goal to showcase Asian cultural to the city of Baltimore. The weather was a little steamy, but it was a great day to have my wife, son, and daughter experience this event with me.
We got to try a lot of different foods that we normally wouldn’t. Some of the food that really stood out to me was the Filipino food. The pork and chicken skewers from Chuck’s Trading Post were delicious. They had a slightly sweet marinade, which went well with the grill/smokey taste. They also had a Filipino signature whole pig on top of the grill where they were grilling the skewers. The lechon belly from Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly is my all time favorite Filipino dish, my son really enjoyed it, too. The classic crispy pork skin was like candy, while the meat was flavorful and tender. The garlic rice was a good compliment and the pickled vegetables helped cut through the heaviness of the pork belly.
My family got to try some food from an Asian Fusion restaurant that I have already tried in Baltimore. Ekiben is one of my favorite places in Fells Point, with dishes. Their “neighborhood bird steam bun sandwich” is one of the best fried chicken sandwiches I’ve ever had. The large piece of chicken was nice and crispy in between the soft pillowy steam buns. The chicken has a nice curry type of seasoning with spicy sauce all over, which reminded me of the Taiwanese popcorn chicken. The Local Fry is another restaurant that I have always loved. They are known for their unique french fries and wing flavors. My wife loves french fries, so we tried their signature Korean galbi loaded fries; the fries were crispy and the meat on top had a delightful sweet soy sauce flavor.
My wife tried the musubi from Lei Musubi. Musubi is a marinated piece of spam with rice that is wrapped with nori, a Japanese seaweed paper, that is usually shaped into a rectangle. Spam musubi is a popular snack in Hawaii. Then, we finished our little food tour with some ice cream from a local food truck called Bmore Mochichi. My son loved the ice cream and really enjoyed the little mochi pieces on top.
Along with the famous “fried watermelon”, there were some other notable restaurants that I did not get to try:
Ejji Ramen - Japanese
Dooby’s - Asian Fusion
Sobo Cafe - American
Old Boy - Korean
Dear Globe - Coffee
The event also served alcohol like wine, liquor, and beer. All the beer was from local breweries in Maryland. Key Brewing Company was one of the local breweries that the event offered. The cool part about one of the beers they offered was their Gose, which was specially created for the event, called the Charm City Night Market Gose. A Gose is a sour beer that seems to be gaining popularity recently. It’s an acquired taste for some, but I personally love them. The Charm City Night Market Gose was not as sour as some of the ones I’ve tried before. https://www.instagram.com/p/B3cgfjlJ_tu/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
The Charm City Night Market event also offered other entertainments. There were performances of people singing and dancing. One of the greatest parts of the performance that really attracted everyone’s attention was the traditional Chinese lion dance, which is two people running around while holding up a giant lion, so it looks like the lion is actually dancing. My son was enjoying the lion dance until they came up to him, which scared him because it can be a bit intimidating when up close. My wife, son, and daughter thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the event.
We didn’t get to experience everything due to time, so I would love to take my family again next year and try other foods. I would also love to see what the Charm City Night Market looks like at night when its dark. Maybe we’ll consider going without our kids because of their bedtime. This is something I would want to support every year because I think supporting the local Asian community really benefits the Baltimore community as a whole.
Here are some other opinions about the event from some of my coworkers:
“Personally, I did not enjoy the Charm City Night Market. With that out of the way, there were some aspects of the event that I see would be enjoyable to some. The food was tasty even though the cooks were not actually cooking at their restaurants but instead under a tent. Ekiben was one of the best things that I tried although I feel like the chicken was a little undercooked. The event showed off a lot of Asian culture from martial arts to ethnic dances. So, in closing, would I attend the Charm City Night Market again? Probably not.” -John
“Overall, Charm City Night Market was a great experience for us as a family. The various restaurants and shops being represented truly showcased the often overlooked and even forgotten highlights to the city. My favorite sampling came from the Pork Bao and the coffee stand. I’d definitely visit again next year!” -Hyo
“My wife and I enjoyed the event. There was a lot more vendors than we thought. Since we love trying new cuisine, it was perfect for us to try little bits of this and that. Our favorite part was learning about many of the local restaurants and food joints that we never heard of or got to try. The best thing we had was the hot chicken sandwich from Hot Lola. It was hot, spicy, and juicy. Besides food, we saw a couple of cultural performances that were entertaining but the performers were mixed with different races and ethnicities, which I thought was fascinating. We would definitely go back to Charm City Night Market next time.” -Ryan
“Charm City Night Market was one of the most interesting markets I’ve ever been to. I saw so many different cultures come together, especially through food. So, I was able to try various kinds of food such as chicken sandwich with an Asian twist, crispy pork belly, musubi, and mochi waffle on a stick. It’s safe to say that food was my favorite part of the event. I also loved how it was family friendly. I took my 2 year old; he loved trying all the food and dancing with the chinese lions. I can’t wait for next year!” -Dinah