Thames Street Oyster House, Fells Point, Baltimore

It’s probably not a bright idea to walk into Thames Street Oyster House at 7:30 on a Saturday night, thinking you’re going to get a table, or belly up to the bar. If you’re going during prime hours, *do* make a reservation, or prepare to have a few drinks standing up.

And so we did – the bartenders keep their own seating list of bar seats available, and it wasn’t so bad waiting (the Nationals were on TV, blowing yet another late-inning lead).

Once we did sit, we were fairly impressed by the relatively high quality of the liquors behind the bar – a Sea Breeze, for example, was made with Stolichnaya – not exactly a boutique vodka, but you can do a lot worse – and there are numerous beers available locally brewed in Baltimore.

Like a miniature golf score card, the raw-bar ordering form is similar in nature to a sushi ordering form – pick up a pencil, and put the number of items in that you want. There are numerous oysters here, and you should make sure to read their descriptions: Mild, with a light brine means just that: mild, with a light brine, and it’s safe to assume that if something is described as brackish, it will be also. On our particular raw bar platter, we were each most impressed with the half lobster tail ($6.25 each, and arguably worth it) – lightly dipped in their white (mildly horseradish-y) sauce, it makes for a good flavor combination. We went clam-heavy just because (and yes, that is one, single prawn back there around 10 o’clock). The raw platters are very good and worth ordering – I’m certainly not prepared to make any comparisons with Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco – which I could gladly have as the final meal of my life – but Thames Street is absolutely worth an evening of yours.

We didn’t get a picture of what I thought was the most special thing: the Chesapeake Blue Catfish Sandwich ($13), the least-expensive of their seafood sandwiches, and the most unusual – I’m assuming the catfish itself came from the Chesapeake, and was buttermilk soaked and fried, served with bibb lettuce, pickles, light mayo (per request), and get this: fried egg and Virginia ham! If you like catfish that isn’t blackened to death, get this sandwich. Too full for anything resembling dessert, we took a stroll over to Oliver’s Wharf Rat, where we noticed five (!) beers on cask, and spent some valuable time there before Lyfting back, stuffed and happy, an evening very well-spent and highly recommended.

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