Parents weekend was coming up, so what else was there to do than to make reservations at the nicest restaurant you can find? While on the search for a meal worth looking forward to, I came across La Cuchara on OpenTable as one of the most reserved restaurants in the Baltimore area. Although I had never heard of it before, the reviews looked amazing, so I went for it. I’ll consider it fate because I think this is my new favorite restaurant.
The huge, open-air space with modern vibes and exquisite European courses, finds itself in an unexpected location in Woodberry, one of the many historic neighborhoods of Baltimore. Just when you think you’ve made a wrong turn, the “La Cuchara” sign comes into view and makes you question if you’re cool enough to go inside.
I’ve been to numerous Italian, Mexican, and Asian restaurants (and have a few favorites that I frequent), but it’s not every day I come across a restaurant so unique as to be inspired by both Southern French and Northern Spanish cuisine.
La Cuchara opened in 2014, staffed by some impressively trained and experienced chefs, bakers, sommeliers, and waiters. They wanted to create an “industrial-chic” atmosphere in the former fog factory, which they consequently transformed into the perfect environment for a trendy new spot.
The menu changes on a daily basis, offering pinxtos, charcuterie and cheese platters, a variety of wood-grilled main courses, and fancy desserts with flavors of the Basque region. As an experienced restaurant goer and Food Network viewer, I was surprised to find some items on the menu that were unknown to me.
As first-time visitors, our waitress kindly went through the different categories on the menu and offered some recommendations. Pinxtos are small two-bite appetizers, similar to a Hispanic tapa. This course contained the largest range of options from sardines to anchovies to veal tongue, which was definitely unique, but quite good.
Being the adventurous eater I am, I opted for the veal tongue bocadilla, which is basically a reuben-esque slider. It was my first time trying the tongue of anything, but it was prepared very well (it just takes a while to get used to the chewier texture of the meat).
All of the cheeses, including a very fresh goat, an aged bleu, and a harder sheep's milk cheese were so good that I allowed myself to knowingly fill up on this (even though the best meal of my life was still on its way). The platter also contained a chorizo sausage and two types of ham, one French and one Spanish, which complemented the cheeses. I’m not going to rave about the meat since I’m a cheese lover, but they truly were just as good.
Although I was already stuffed from single-handedly finishing more than half of the huge charcuterie platter, I couldn’t bear to leave anything on my plate, considering my usual far-less-than-great dining hall dinner. This being said, my parents also raved about their meals, so it was not just me being used to the mediocre “cuisine” of college life. I also tried my Mom’s swordfish and my Dad’s steak, and can attest that the wood grill improves the quality of the meat of those as well.
Being the special occasion that it was, we couldn’t opt out of dessert. We decided on a cheesecake with gingerbread crust and sweet potato whipped topping. If you are tight on money or stomach space, however, I would recommend skipping dessert. It was good, but not to die for.
The cheesecake was an interesting mix of textures, but while I was hoping for a solid gingerbread crust, what arrived was just a crumble on the side, as the cheesecake was more of a disassembled type. For those of you of legal age, La Cuchara has an extensive list of wines and cocktails and was even named among America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2016 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Unfortunately, I can’t provide a personal opinion on this.
Thankfully, I did not have to pick up the check at the end of this meal, as it is definitely not the most wallet-friendly place to visit with all your friends. If you happen to have a very special occasion and a real appreciation for quality food, definitely make the effort to check it out. Or just wait until your parents come to pick you up for winter break.