12 Unique Restaurants in Maryland: Fun + Quirky Foodie Adventures

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Maryland
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Our guide is packed with the best spots to grab a bite in the Free State, highlighting unique restaurants in Maryland that offer everything from mouth-watering seafood to unforgettable dining experiences. Get ready to explore Maryland’s foodie scene like never before.

Welcome to Maryland, a place where your taste buds are about to embark on a journey as diverse and exciting as the state itself. Imagine stepping into a world where every meal is a discovery. Each restaurant is a destination of its own, promising an experience that’s anything but ordinary.

In this guide, we’re exploring eateries that stand out for their uniqueness. Think vibrant diners where art meets food, spots that bring global flavors right to your plate, and places where the setting is as extraordinary as the menu. From the charm of Laotian cuisine to the magic of a meal served with a side of mystery, Maryland’s dining scene is a canvas of culinary creativity.

Whether you’re a local or just passing through, prepare to be surprised by the imaginative flair found in the Free State. This guide is your passport to discovering eateries that offer something special. So, buckle up! We’re about to dive into a world where food meets imagination, and every meal promises an unforgettable adventure.

The top restaurants to visit in Maryland right now

Unique Restaurants in Maryland: 12 Incredible Maryland Eateries

From seafood served right on the waterfront to hidden gems tucked away in small towns, Maryland’s unique restaurants are ready to surprise and delight you. Let’s take a closer look at these special places where the food is as memorable as the experience.

1. Papermoon Diner

Let’s dive into the world of fun places to eat in Maryland with a visit to a spot that’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate. Imagine a place where the decor is as eclectic as the menu, filled with caged dolls, a giant Pez collection, and an army of mannequins. Welcome to Papermoon Diner, a Baltimore gem that turns dining into an experience.

Since 1994, this diner has transformed from a simple eatery to a vibrant spectacle of pop culture and kitsch. The mastermind behind this transformation, Un Kim, alongside designer David Briskie, scours second-hand shops to create a “living art” display that constantly evolves.

The menu is a quirky delight, offering a mix of Southern staples, breakfast classics served all day, and inventive milkshakes like bacon and Cap’n Crunch. Open daily except Tuesdays, Papermoon doesn’t take reservations and has a peak time seating policy, so plan your visit accordingly. Remember, while the festive atmosphere is perfect for celebrations, leave the balloons and noisemakers at home!

Papermoon Diner is one of the unique restaurants in Maryland.
Experience fun dining in Maryland at Papermoon Diner, a gem with eclectic decor and a menu as unique as its ambiance.

2. Charming Elephant

Joy Sivongxay used to wow her office with her cooking, especially her grilled chicken and egg rolls. People loved it so much, they told her she should open her own place. That’s how Charming Elephant came to life in Baltimore, bringing Laotian food into the spotlight for the first time in the area. They chose the name because elephants are a symbol of good luck in Laos, and they wanted to mix that with the charm of Baltimore, one of the top places to live and visit in Maryland.

Charming Elephant is all about introducing people to Laotian cuisine, which is a bit of a hidden gem. The menu is a treasure trove of flavors, offering dishes like sticky rice, papaya salad, and laap (a tasty minced meat dish). They even make their own lao sausage from scratch. But it’s not just Laotian food; they also serve dishes inspired by neighboring countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Think Pad Thai and pho, but with a unique twist that makes them stand out.

What makes Charming Elephant one of the unique restaurants in Maryland isn’t just the food; it’s the whole vibe. The place is decked out with special paintings that bring peace and good luck vibes. Eating here feels like a mini vacation to Laos, right in the heart of Baltimore.

Joy Sivongxay's cooking wowed her office, leading her to open Charming Elephant, spotlighting Laotian cuisine.
Joy Sivongxay’s cooking wowed her office, leading her to open Charming Elephant, spotlighting Laotian cuisine.

3. Bunny’s, Buckets & Bubbles

Walking into Bunny’s, Buckets & Bubbles, you’re instantly wrapped in its unique vibe. The pale pink walls and bubble chandeliers set a scene that’s both whimsical and inviting. True to its name, bunnies are everywhere. They’re not just in the artwork but also in the details, like bunny drawer pulls at the bar and even playful bunny references in the bathroom.

The menu is a playful dive into Southern comfort. Chef Jesse Sandlin knows how to mix fun with flavor, serving up dishes that are all about indulgence. From smoky trout dip with Ritz crackers to a unique deviled egg sampler, every bite is a treat. The pickled vegetable plate could come straight from a storybook, and the pimento dip is a creamy dream of cheese and spices.

Among the coolest restaurants in Maryland, Bunny’s stands out for its creative twist on classics. The Caesar salad gets a Southern makeover with collard greens, pickled onions, and cornbread croutons. But the real star is the fried chicken. Gluten-free and crispy, it’s served by the piece or in a bucket, complete with biscuits and a choice of sauces. Whether you’re here for a snack or a full meal, Bunny’s delivers an experience that’s as delightful as it is delicious.

Bunny's, Buckets & Bubbles charms with its whimsical vibe, featuring pale pink walls and playful bunny details throughout.
Bunny’s, Buckets & Bubbles charms with its whimsical vibe, featuring pale pink walls and playful bunny details throughout. | Image Source: https://www.bunnysbaltimore.com/

4. Captain James Landing

Captain James Landing isn’t just any restaurant; it’s a journey. Picture this: a restaurant shaped like a ship, right in Baltimore. It’s half a ship, actually, because they ran out of room. But that doesn’t take away from its charm. This place is a seafood lover’s dream, but it’s got a twist. They serve breakfast all day and mix in Greek and Italian dishes for lunch. And yes, there’s pizza and sandwiches too!

In the realm of unique Maryland restaurants, Captain James really sails ahead. Step inside, and you might feel like you’re on the ocean. The dining room has big porthole windows and fish decorations everywhere.

The staff even dresses the part, wearing steward uniforms. The menu takes you back in time with classic Baltimore seafood dishes. No modern twists here, just good old crab imperial, stuffed flounder, and fried seafood platters. Beyond the food, the atmosphere is something else. You can eat steamed crabs at picnic tables overlooking the water in summer!

Captain James Landing is a unique journey in Baltimore, shaped like a ship and offering a seafood lover's dream.
Captain James Landing is a unique journey, shaped like a ship and offering a seafood lover’s dream. | Image Source: https://baltimore.org/

5. Nacho Mama’s

Nacho Mama’s in Towson keeps the spirit of its founder, Patrick “Scunny” McCusker, alive. Opened in 1994 in Canton, a second location now brings the same love for Baltimore culture, sports, and Elvis Presley to Towson. Jackie McCusker, Scunny’s widow, and co-owner Phil Gelso chose Towson to spread their Baltimore pride.

The restaurant is a shrine to its founder, filled with Elvis statues, Baltimore sports memorabilia, and quirky art. It’s a place where families gather, separated from the bar to ensure a cozy dining experience. Despite the wait on busy nights, the atmosphere is always buzzing.

Among hidden gem restaurants in Maryland, Nacho Mama’s stands out for its “Maryland-Mex” cuisine, blending local flavors with Tex-Mex favorites. The guacamole shines as a crowd-pleaser while the quirky margaritas served in hubcaps are a must-try, making it a top spot for drinks in Towson’s lively bar scene!

Nacho Mama's carries on Patrick “Scunny” McCusker's Baltimore legacy, celebrating culture, sports, and Elvis Presley.
Nacho Mama’s carries on Patrick “Scunny” McCusker’s Baltimore legacy, celebrating culture, sports, and Elvis Presley.

6. Crab Towne USA

A hotspot for anyone looking for fun restaurants in Maryland is Crab Towne USA in Glen Burnie. Imagine a place where you can dive into delicious crab balls, crispy fries, and cool drinks. The crab balls are a hit, packed with juicy crab meat and barely any filler.

But the real magic of Crab Towne? Their arcade. With over 95 machines, including both classic and new pinball games, plus a bunch of arcade cabinets, it’s a gamer’s paradise. They even host their own pinball league! On a busy Sunday, the place buzzes with energy. Families, friends, and gamers of all ages fill the space, proving Crab Towne knows how to mix good eats with great games.

It’s a place that brings people together, whether you’re there for the food or the fun. So, if you’re up for a unique blend of dining and gaming, Crab Towne USA is your go-to spot. Why wait? It’s worth the trip for a day filled with tasty treats and arcade feats.

Crab Towne USA is a restaurant for fun dining, offering delicious crab balls, crispy fries, and refreshing drinks.
Crab Towne USA is a hotspot for fun dining, offering delicious crab balls, crispy fries, and refreshing drinks.

7. The Melting Pot

Looking for a dining adventure like no other? Don’t miss The Melting Pot in Gaithersburg. Here, the art of fondue takes center stage, offering a blend of flavors for every palate. Whether you’re craving tender meats, fresh seafood, or crisp vegetables, their menu has it all. It’s a place where families and friends come together for a fun, interactive meal any day of the week.

Among unique restaurants in Maryland for dinner, The Melting Pot shines. Its customizable menu lets couples and groups mix and match to their heart’s content. Located on Gaither Road, this spot has grown from its Rockville roots to serve more fans in Montgomery County. It’s the go-to for a laid-back yet elegant dining experience, perfect for making new memories.

With a focus on fine dining, The Melting Pot excels in cheese and chocolate creations. It’s more than just a meal; it’s an experience that brings people together. Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening or a place to unwind, make your reservation here. Get ready to dip into something different and delicious at The Melting Pot.

Don’t miss The Melting Pot, where the art of fondue shines with a diverse menu catering to every palate.
Don’t miss The Melting Pot, where the art of fondue shines with a diverse menu catering to every palate.

8. The Dinner Detective

The Dinner Detective in Baltimore offers a murder mystery dinner show with a twist. From the start, actors blend in with the audience, making anyone a potential part of the show, including you. It’s a mix of mystery, drama, and dining that keeps everyone guessing.

Themed restaurants in Maryland often promise a unique dining experience, but The Dinner Detective takes it to another level. Set in the present day, this interactive show unfolds around you, with hidden clues and surprise twists. The goal? To solve the mystery before the killer is revealed. Along with the thrill of the chase, you get a multi-course dinner that’s part of the action.

Tickets start at $69.99, covering not just the show but also a delicious dinner. Shows run on weekend nights, making it a perfect pick for a special evening out. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or just looking for a fun night out, The Dinner Detective offers a memorable experience that combines the excitement of live theater with the pleasure of dining out.

Experience The Dinner Detectiv, a thrilling murder mystery dinner show where actors seamlessly blend with the audience.
Experience The Dinner Detectiv, a thrilling murder mystery dinner show where actors seamlessly blend with the audience.

9. Toki Underground

Bringing its famed ramen to Baltimore, Toki Underground has made a splash on Greenmount Avenue. Known for starting the ramen craze in the Mid-Atlantic, Toki Underground first opened in D.C. in 2011. It quickly became a hit, earning Michelin Bib Gourmand nods for its quality and affordability. Now, it’s Baltimore’s turn to experience these steamy bowls of noodle goodness.

The space, once home to Bottom’s Up Bagels, now seats three times more guests than its D.C. counterpart. This means getting a table is easier, whether you’re walking in or ordering carryout. The atmosphere is lively, with diners enjoying their meals amidst a backdrop of cheeky billboards and a vibrant setting.

Among the best places to eat in Maryland, Toki Underground stands out for its unique take on ramen. From the spicy “endorphin sauce” on the bao buns to the kicky kimchi, every dish is crafted with care. This spot proves that ramen can hold its own in a city known for crab cakes, offering a delicious alternative that’s already winning hearts.

Toki Underground has brought its famed ramen craze to Baltimore, making a splash on Greenmount Avenue.
Toki Underground has brought its famed ramen craze to Baltimore, making a splash on Greenmount Avenue.

10. Salt & Vine

Salt & Vine in Olney is a hidden gem in Maryland that surprises everyone who visits. Housed in a historic building from the 1800s, it looks like any other house from the outside. But inside, it’s a whole different story. This place serves up some of the best Italian food around, making it a cozy spot for a delicious meal.

The building, known as the historic Olney House, has seen many changes over the years. In 2019, Thomas Zippelli bought it and, with care, turned it into Salt & Vine. Keeping the original design in mind, he worked with the historical society during renovations.

Among unique places to eat in Maryland, Salt & Vine stands out. It offers handmade pastas, fresh seafood, and steaks butchered in-house. The menu changes often, using local farms for fresh ingredients. Plus, the pizza oven from a previous restaurant remains, ready for wood-fired pizzas. Salt & Vine is a must-visit for world-class Italian food in an unassuming building.

Salt & Vine is one of the unique restaurants in Maryland.
Salt & Vine in Olney is a hidden gem in Maryland, offering delicious Italian cuisine in a charming historic setting.

11. Monarque

Atlas Restaurant Group is at it again, this time with Monarque, a cool mix of French brasserie and dinner theater right in Baltimore’s historic Bagby Furniture Company spot. After opening places like Tagliata and The Elk Room, they’re diving into French cuisine with a twist. Picture this: classic French dishes, awesome wines, and a side of live entertainment.

Monarque is all about bringing something new to the table. It’s got a stage for live shows, making your dinner about more than just the food. The place is decked out with comfy leather seats, shiny tin ceilings, and a touch of gold and velvet for that extra fancy feel.

As one of Maryland’s unique restaurants, Monarque is where you go for a night to remember. With live jazz, comedy, and theater, it’s setting the bar high for dinner plans. Named after the monarch butterfly, it’s all about change and fresh starts.

Monarque promises an unforgettable night with live jazz, comedy, and theater, setting the bar high for dinner plans.
Monarque promises an unforgettable night with live jazz, comedy, and theater, setting the bar high for dinner plans.

12. Fat Fish Rolls & Twists

Fat Fish Rolls & Twists is a unique spot that blends sushi with ice cream, creating a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Located on The Wharf in DC, it’s a cozy place that Marylanders love to visit. With just a few tables, it offers a snug vibe where you can enjoy hand-prepared sushi rolls right in front of you. The open kitchen adds to the charm, letting you watch as your food is made.

The sushi is fresh and perfect for a light lunch, especially on warm days. But the real star here is the soft serve ice cream. Served in fish-shaped waffle cones, the flavors change monthly, offering something new and exciting each visit. Imagine tasting wild blueberry and lavender mixed with honey-oat-vanilla. It’s a treat that perfectly caps off a summer day.

Among the unique restaurants in Maryland, Fat Fish stands out for its groovy twist on food. Whether you’re sitting inside or taking your ice cream to the nearby Benjamin Banneker Park, it’s a great way to enjoy a sunny day.

Fat Fish Rolls & Twists offers a unique fusion of sushi and ice cream, creating a dining experience like no other.
Fat Fish Rolls & Twists offers a unique fusion of sushi and ice cream, creating a dining experience like no other. | Image Source: https://www.instagram.com/fatfishrolls/

Frequently Asked Questions About the Unique Places to Eat in Maryland

In our FAQ section, you’ll find answers to all your questions about eating out in Maryland, making our Maryland restaurant guide your go-to resource for dining in this delicious state.

What food is Maryland famous for?

Maryland is famous for its seafood, especially crab. The Chesapeake Bay provides some of the best crabs in the world. People love Maryland crab cakes, made from fresh crab meat mixed with spices and breadcrumbs, then fried or baked. Crab feasts, where people gather to eat crabs seasoned with Old Bay, are a big tradition. Besides crab, Maryland is also known for its oysters and rockfish. These seafood delights make Maryland a go-to place for seafood lovers.

The most popular meal in Maryland has to be the crab cake dinner. It usually comes with sides like corn on the cob, coleslaw, and fries. Maryland crab cakes stand out because they’re packed with juicy crab meat and just enough filler to hold them together. Restaurants across the state pride themselves on their unique recipes. Whether you’re at Maryland’s best restaurants or a casual seafood shack, a crab cake meal is a must-try.

What sandwich is Maryland known for?

Maryland is known for its soft shell crab sandwich. This sandwich features a whole soft shell crab, often lightly battered and fried, served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and sometimes a spicy mayo. It captures the essence of Maryland’s seafood culture. Eating a soft shell crab sandwich is a unique experience because you get the whole crab, shell and all. It’s a seasonal delicacy, best enjoyed in late spring and early summer when crabs shed their old shells.

Where can I find the best food in Maryland?

The best food in Maryland can be found in a variety of places, from upscale restaurants in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to small-town diners on the Eastern Shore. Maryland’s food scene is diverse, offering everything from traditional seafood dishes to international cuisine. For the best crab cakes, head to a waterfront restaurant where the seafood is fresh. For a taste of Maryland’s agricultural side, visit a farm-to-table restaurant where local ingredients shine.

Seafood served at Toki Underground in Baltimore
Seafood served at Toki Underground in Baltimore

Are there any scenic places in Maryland to eat?

Yes, there are many scenic places in Maryland to eat. Waterfront dining is popular, with restaurants offering views of the Chesapeake Bay, rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean. The Eastern Shore, with its quaint towns and beautiful sunsets over the water, is perfect for a romantic dinner. Western Maryland offers mountain views and cozy lodges for dining. Eating by the water or in the mountains, you’ll enjoy both delicious food and stunning views.

Where can I find cheap eats in Maryland?

Cheap eats in Maryland are easy to find if you know where to look. Baltimore, Annapolis, and college towns like College Park are full of budget-friendly options. Food trucks, diners, and carry-out spots offer everything from crab pretzels to pit beef sandwiches at reasonable prices. Local markets and festivals are also great for finding tasty, affordable food. With a little exploration, you can enjoy Maryland’s delicious cuisine without breaking the bank.

What defines fine dining in Maryland?

Fine dining in Maryland is characterized by high-quality, often locally sourced ingredients, expert preparation, and exceptional service. Many fine dining restaurants are located in historic buildings or offer waterfront views, adding to the dining experience. Chefs in these establishments might blend traditional Maryland flavors with international techniques, creating unique dishes. Fine dining in Maryland isn’t just about the food; it’s about the atmosphere, the presentation, and the attention to detail.

How can I experience traditional Maryland cuisine?

To experience traditional Maryland cuisine, start with seafood. Visit a crab house for a crab feast or a seafood restaurant for fresh oysters and rockfish. Don’t miss trying a soft shell crab sandwich or a bowl of Maryland crab soup. Explore local farmers’ markets for fresh produce and regional specialties. For a true Maryland experience, attend a local food festival or county fair where traditional dishes and new twists on classics are served.

Final Thoughts On Unique Maryland Restaurants

We hope you enjoyed exploring our Maryland restaurant guide. From the freshest seafood to cozy diners and scenic spots, Maryland has something for everyone. Whether you’re craving a classic crab cake, looking for a budget-friendly meal, or wanting to splurge on a fine dining experience, our guide aims to help you find the perfect spot. Remember, Maryland’s food scene is as diverse as its landscapes, so there’s always something new to try. Keep this guide handy for your next food adventure in the Free State for an unforgettable stay in Maryland!

The top restaurants in Maryland for all types of travelers
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