Dining out + healthy choices. Is it possible to have both?
Fortunately, the Baltimore area has lots of great, convenient, delicious AND healthy dining options. Many of them source high quality, often organic, fresh, and nourishing ingredients from local farms. At the very least, these restaurants offer much healthier, fresher options than what you’d find at a typical fast food joint or deli.
Whether I’m cooking for myself or dining out, a simple food rule I use to guide what I eat is: “Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants.” (Thanks to Michael Pollan. To learn more about my food philosophy, click here.) One thing all of these restaurants have in common is that they make eating more plants easier, tastier and even exciting!
Some of the restaurants are geared toward vegetarians, vegans, and those with food sensitivities and allergies, while others are not. I’ve indicated the best options for vegan and gluten-free diners below. Most of these places cater meals, too, so if you’re looking to bring some healthy options to your workplace or event, be sure to check out their websites for catering options!
Don’t live in/around Baltimore? Scroll to the bottom and check out how to find healthy dining options near you!
sweetgreen (Baltimore, MD – Harbor East; Multiple locations in DC, VA, PA, NY, MA, CA)
I’ve been waiting for almost 7 years for this place to make its way up from DC and open an location in Baltimore. I first found out about them at a client health fair in DC years ago and loved their food. Since then, I’ve made it a point to go there almost every time I’m in DC for lunch.
Started by three guys who were seniors at Georgetown University at the time, sweetgreen now has over 30 locations nationwide and will continue to expand. Their farm-to-table, sustainable, passion + purpose philosophy is totally aligned with how I live my life and what many of strive to do. Their food is second to none, and they rotate their menu seasonally, too. In the fall, my #1 pick is the Roasted Turkey & Brussels Sprouts Salad with roasted sweet potatoes and a cranberry vinaigrette. You have to check them out!
Naked Lunch Cafe (Inside MOMs Organic Market Baltimore, Rockville, Washington, DC locations)
When the new MOMs (My Organic Market) opened in Baltimore City earlier this year, I was stoked to check it out, even though we live within walking distance of the Timonium store. I was most excited about the addition of the Naked Lunch Cafe, which sells a variety of plant-based dishes for lunch, dinner or just a snack! Their butternut squash and chickpea soup is one of my favorites, and their bowls will cover you for two meals. My favorite bowl is the Crowder Bowl, which is made with brown rice, cashews, fresh veggies, tofu and a coconut curry dressing that is divine! You have to try their cauliflower steaks and vegan cauliflower nachos, too, because both are delicious. You’ll never look at cauliflower the same way again. They also sell fresh pressed juices and rotate their specials seasonally.
Stall 11 (Baltimore, MD – Remington @ R House)
You know an eatery is good when you’ve eaten about half of the items on their menu, and they’ve only been open for a few months. I LOVE THIS PLACE. It’s a hot spot for vegetarians and has lots of gluten-free options. Some of my favorites are the carrot bean smash with raw veggies, Korean BBQ Cauliflower (addictive and incredible), Kale Caesar Salad with Black Garlic Dressing, Kyoto Bowl, and any soups they serve.
Everything is fresh, delicious, colorful, and flavorful. You need to know about this place!
Harmony Bakery (Baltimore, MD – Hampden)
I was bummed when I first found out that Breathe Bookstore in Hampden was closing but was excited to find out about this bakery and cafe that has some similar menu items for lunch. Their kitchen and products are 100% gluten-free. They have lots of vegan options and change their menu seasonally, a sign of a true farm-to-table restaurant, which is something I look for when I’m picking a place to eat.
Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen (Baltimore, MD – Locust Point)
You know you’ve arrived at a cool spot when you meet the CFO – Chief Falafel Officer – on your first trip there. When we’re in the mood for Mediterranean, Baba’s is where we go. Whether you’re in the mood for a hummus platter (order the veggies instead of the pita), kabobs, or platters with a gluten-free base of quinoa, this is the place to go. It’s a hole in the wall, so don’t expect to find a table, unless you’re there off hours, but make sure you check out this place. It’s one of our favorites!
Atwater’s (Baltimore, MD – Towson, Belvedere Square, Catonsville, Bare Hills)
If you’re looking for an amazing cup of soup or a beautiful fresh salad, look no further than Atwater’s. I’m fortunate to live within walking distance of their Towson location, so we love walking there for dinner on warmer nights (or on snow days – which we have done multiple times before!). All of their meals are made with fresh, often organic and seasonally local ingredients. They usually have vegan or at least dairy-free soup options, too, which is a huge plus for me and any others with food allergies or sensitivities who still want delicious food.
Zia’s Cafe focuses on local & organic ingredients and has healthy choices for meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans & gluten-free eaters. They serve fresh fruit & vegetable juices and smoothies, fair-trade organic coffee, and a variety of delicious lunch options, including salads (Moroccan is my fave), soups (SO good), sandwiches, and black bean burgers. Their dairy-free desserts, especially the fruit-inspired dairy-free cheesecakes, are incredible. Zia’s also caters corporate meals and special events
Zia’s opened a sister location called Plantbar in my favorite place in Baltimore – Belvedere Square! Plantbar focuses on fresh pressed juices and smoothies but also carriers Zia’s signature line of delicious gluten-free, vegan eats. (Ideal for vegans, vegetarians, and dairy and gluten-free diners.)
Alma Cocina (Baltimore, MD – Canton)
My friend, Jinji, who owns an award-winning chocolate shop in Baltimore (seriously the best chocolate of your life), recommended this place to us. We’ve been back about 5 times since because we love it so much! They serve authentic Venezuelan food, and their arepas (think pita pocket but not) are gluten-free, so we always get at least one each. Their salads, ceviche, soups, entrees, appetizers and sides have always blown us away and are beautifully and artistically presented.
You have to try the cassava bread (gluten-free) with three dips. It’ll blow your mind 🙂
Great Sage (Howard County – Clarksville, MD)
This is the BEST vegan restaurant in the Baltimore area. We stumbled upon this place a couple of months ago, and it has quickly become one of our favorites! The restaurant is located just outside of Columbia in a place called Conscious Corner and serve amazing plant-based meals. Everything from their Israeli hummus appetizer to their seasonal salads, soups, sautéed greens, smoothies, and rich, dairy-free desserts are phenomenal. (Ideal for vegans, vegetarians, and dairy and gluten-free diners.)
Sweet 27 (Baltimore, MD – Hampden)
This cafe, bakery, bar and restaurant combines the best of all things, and they ‘re open late, too. Featuring a completely gluten-free menu and lots of options for omnivores and vegans alike, Sweet27 serves brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert. Their multi-cultural flare means you’ll find a variety of unique options inspired in South Asian and Caribbean flavors.
Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore, MD – Clipper Mill)
This is our absolute favorite restaurant in Baltimore when we want to have a date night or are just looking for an amazingly delicious meal. They cater to the gluten-free and dairy-free crowd, labeling their plates with clearly labeled stickers to identify dishes as GF and DF. They partner with local farmers and value sustainability and top notch ingredients. Their head chef, Spike Gjerde, was the first Baltimore chef to win the prestigious James Beard Award.
The atmosphere is super cool, too. If you’re visiting Baltimore, this should be on your list!
Whole Foods (Baltimore, MD – Harbor East, Mount Washington, Annapolis)
Sure, the stigma is that Whole Foods = Whole Paycheck, but they’re trying their hardest to debunk that mentality. They have an awesome salad bar and a prepared foods counter that serves lots of healthy, tasty AND affordable options, including seasonal kale salads, slow roasted sweet potato wedges, and a variety of delicious proteins. The best part? All of the ingredients are natural or organic and as many as possible are locally grown. That means no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives or heart-clogging trans fats.
Nalley Fresh (Baltimore, MD – Hunt Valley, Downtown, Towson, Timonium)
Think Chipotle in terms of the “make your own” approach…and then think of every salad topping you could possibly imagine, and that sums up Nalley Fresh. I’m a fan of their “SuperBowls” that feature either proteins, sweet potatoes, or brown rice as a base followed by your choice of dozens of veggies and finished off with broth, if you choose, or dressing. You can even order online and pick up to avoid the long lines at lunchtime.
The Flying Avocado Cafe (Owings Mills, MD)
I used to live just up the street from this cafe, and it’s my go to spot whenever I meet someone for lunch in Owings Mills. I love their roasted vegetable salad with balsamic vinaigrette and roasted salmon. They also have smoothies, soups, homemade guac and hummus, salads, a variety of vegan dishes and a huge selection of herbal teas.
One World Cafe (Baltimore, MD – Near Hopkins)
With a variety of gluten-free, plant-based options that are both “planet and wallet friendly,” this popular spot near Hopkins’ Homewood Field is a great option for breakfast (yummy smoothies), lunch or dinner, and they’re open late (until 2:00 a.m.), so no matter when you’re looking for a healthy option, you can find one there.
A few others worth checking out:
- Grind House Juice Bar in downtown Baltimore
- Liquid Earth in Fells Point
- The Land of Kush in downtown Baltimore
Don’t live in Baltimore? Check out this post about five apps and websites to use to find healthy options near you!