Ethel’s Creole Kitchen in Baltimore
I was born and raised in Baltimore (county). Despite all of the years I spent living in the Charm City, there is so much of the Baltimore food scene I have yet to explore. Each time I get to come home, I am given another opportunity to indulge in local eats.
Before coming home for Father’s Day, I spent hours researching a fantastic restaurant to take my parents and celebrate my dad. I stumbled upon rave reviews for Ethel’s Creole Kitchen. After a quick glimpse of the menu and reading the words “best jambalaya in Baltimore,” I knew that this would be the spot.
Ethel’s Creole Kitchen reopened in 2014 after undergoing renovations. Formerly Ethel & Ramone’s, a coffee shop, Ethel’s Creole Kitchen transformed and debuted with a new menu boasting “Maryland Creole cuisine.” The two-story building that houses Ethel’s, located in the Mt. Washington neighborhood, is reminiscent of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
The moment I told my dad about Ethel’s, he wouldn’t stop talking about the stuffed pepper appetizer. So, when we finally arrived at the restaurant, we kicked off our meal with the Chippepa and the crab dip.
The Chippepa is a fire roasted red bell pepper, stuffed with andouille sausage, mozzarella, peppers and onions. I quickly learned that Ethel’s does not play around when it comes to seasoning. Every element of this dish was bursting with flavor and a variety of spices. The andouille sausage alone had me reaching for my water after a few bites.
I moved between the Chippepa and the creamy crab dip. Like any good crab dip, Ethel’s uses jumbo lump crab meat. Unlike most crab dips, theirs isn’t as thick and cheese-filled. Ethel’s uses a parmesan bisque, so instead of spreading a cream cheese-based dip, you can get a heaping spoonful to pile onto the lightly toasted pieces of ciabatta bread.
Ethel’s had a few incredibly enticing specials for Father’s Day-eve dinner. While I was tempted by the “Dinosaur Bone” ribs and the bone-in short ribs, I couldn’t pass up their famous gumbo or jambalaya.
After my dad explained the difference between gumbo and jambalaya, I knew I wanted the gumbo. I’ll admit, I used to use these terms interchangeably, but I learned that jambalaya is a lot of rice while gumbo is more of a stew. Ethel’s “authentic gumbo” and jambalaya come with andouille sausage and your choice of chicken, shrimp, seafood or crab.
The only time I get to have gumbo is when my dad makes it for me. It had been six months since my dad had whipped up a pot for me, so I was ready to dive in. My eyes widened when the massive shallow bowl was placed in front of me. Piled up high in the fragrant roux were large pieces of sausage and shrimp. After snapping a few pictures, I mixed up my bowl to integrate the rice into the rest of the dish. Once again, the heat from the sausage kicked up, but I welcomed it. I don’t get to enjoy food with a lot of creole spices often, so my taste buds were very excited.
My dad ordered the jambalaya with chicken, not expecting such large pieces of chicken breast. The jambalaya comes with a large serving of creole rice, their signature andouille sausage, a Cajun mirepoix, vegetables and a fire roasted red bell pepper sauce.
My mom explored a bit on the menu. She ordered Mom’s Crab Cakes. This dish could easily be renamed “Bowl of Lump Crabmeat” because that’s exactly what it was. No filler. No B.S. Just chunks of sweet crabmeat served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley.
When offered corn bread, I started to say no, but then I thought “why not?” I am so serious when I say this, “DO NOT PASS UP THE CORN BREAD.” Being a southern-inspired restaurant, Ethel’s cornbread hits the mark. What sends it right over the edge is the herb honey butter. I couldn’t tell you what herbs are in the butter, but they pair so well with the sweetness of the honey. If they sold that butter, I would spread it over any and everything.
Between the two appetizers and filling entrees, we were all too full to even think about dessert. With so many alluring options on the menu, it’s easy for your eyes to become bigger than your stomach. If you come in ready to feast, then you will not be disappointed with Baltimore’s bite of Louisiana.