I'm all for unsubstantiated opinions, but someone has to tell Ed Levine how to identify an interstate highway -- and maybe teach him a few things about food in Baltimore.
Levine's normally-wonderful Serious Eats site just shelled Baltimore in an article comparing the foods in Baltimore and San Francisco. Over-wrought outrage being a fine ingredient for food blogging, we can't just let the insult lie.
Bottom line: Second place is honorable against San Francisco's food, but I'd rather a comparison written by someone who appears to have eaten in Baltimore.
What makes me think Levine hasn't eaten here? My first hint was that only the San Francisco sections are excited and detailed about what he's eaten. In contrast, the Baltimore sections are tired leftovers -- the spots that Food Network interns find on blogs and suggest to Guy Fieri. (Trust me. That's why they loved hearing about R&R Taqueria.)
Chaps? Obrycki's? Faidley's? Pitango? That's all Levine knows? In San Francisco, the team gets credit for picnics on a beach in Marin County. In Baltimore, he picks a crab house that closed. He cites nine sandwiches in California. He can only think of two around here. What's next, is Levine going to have Alice Water referee Sunday's game?
But I'm knew that Levine was just fronting on Baltimore when I re-read the first-quarter analysis of sandwiches:
Baltimore Ravens: Pit Beef is Baltimore's sandwich legacy. Roadside stands all over Baltimore county charcoal-grill hunks of well-seasoned meat, achieving a nice char and a rosy pink interior. Out on Pulaski Highway, Chaps is a longstanding favorite near the city for their tender, thin-sliced beef sandwiches. Set out on the rolling hills of the county roads in Woodlawn, Pioneer Pit Beef uses a wood-fire to cook their meat, infusing the moist slices with an intense smokiness. The pit beef sandwiches are pretty swell, and we can't forget the excellent tea sandwiches at the Women's Industrial Exchange or the fine crab cake sandwich at Faidley's (though why would anyone put a crab cake on a sandwich?).
"Rolling hills of the county roads in Woodlawn?" Really, Ed? Pioneer Pit Beef backs against a two-story embankment carrying I-70 out to Oregon. That's probably 14 lanes above Pioneer, which in my reality sits in a relative-rough slice of suburbia. It's the best pit beef. It's just nowhere near rolling hills or county roads. Too bad Levine didn't describe the quaint, small-town feel of the Security Square Mall.
Of course, that's just the most-egregious evidence. Levine's bias shows in each quarter as he picks a different food and lauds the stuff that he ate in San Francisco. What he really needs is Kathy & Neal Patterson's new book Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore. But for now, we can use Levine's cute four-quarter format to write a cheat sheet for his first visit to eat in Baltimore.
- Q1 Sandwiches: Attman's. Seriously, if I could assume by name that Ed Levine is one of my people, you didn't give us a few points for spectacular corned beef? I'm actually with Ed that I don't see bread improving a crab cake, but Pioneer, Attman's, and Bon Fresco's London broil have to warrant three field goals. Real score: SF 14, B 9.
- Q2 Shellfish: Baltimore was awash in crabs when San Francisco was Mexico. Levine named one place to eat oysters and claims the Californians almost squeaked out a tie. No way. Crab cakes are shellfish, so we'll take Bo Brooks for the hard shells, pile on the Pattersons' top crab cakes at Pierpoint and Koco's Pub & Grill, then drive out to the Eastern Shore for oysters and crabs sitting on someone's pier. SF 7 B 20.
- Q3 Pizza: Okay, I have to give him one. I like Joe Squared, but the San Francisco places sound awesome so 14-3 may be defendable. (At least until the Pizzablogger gets his spot open in Hamden.)
- Q4 Ice Cream And Gelato: Taharka Brothers. Awesome ice cream. You'd know if you had been here. That's one, plus we just bury Levine in snowballs. I'm not saying they're gourmet. I'm saying that a city that pours syrup and marshmallow over ice on street corners will just beat down a town whose ice cream Levine says is "fanciful" "whimsical" and a "great local producer" -- unless we get, say, a two-point safety for my local stand that offers combinations based on nearby high school colors. SF 17. B 12.
In the end, we're going to let Ed Levine live. (After all, Serious Eats has great stuff like a report on maggot cheese.) Even with revised scores, San Francisco still wins, but it's an honest 52-44 instead of the original biased ref 32-point victory. We need to get him the Pattersons' book -- and maybe some crab cakes -- so he can Amtrak from New York for food down here.