Hamilton Tavern was selected for serving the “best burger” in the state of Maryland by Thrillist in 2015. Since the food scene in Maryland is based only on crabs, it wasn’t a surprise that a restaurant in Baltimore snagged the title. However, Maryland is pretty populated, being the suburbs of D.C., so it made me wonder if the editors missed some awesomer restaurant elsewhere. Nonetheless, I was passing by Baltimore, so there was no harm stopping somewhere for the “best burger” in Maryland.
I had only been to Baltimore once, and that was at the most touristy areas in town with a group of friends. In case you did not know, Baltimore has been dealing with high crime rates for the past decades, and the incident with Freddie Gray shut the city down for a couple of weeks. To be fair, the city had recovered since and this is a pretty safe part of town, but a recent study shown homicide rates continued to climb, and so I was a cowardly nervous nelly wondering around a strange city.
Hamilton Tavern is not in the fancy part of town, and it blends well into the background alongside grocery shops and pawn shops. I parked on the side of the streets, which is free at night; Uber is also an option though that isn’t for me (I live an hour away). There are outside seating on the sidewalks and it is definitely something to consider if the wait line is too long. By the way, the wait time is pretty long on a Saturday night. The restaurant is tiny and there just isn’t many tables. I sat at the bar and the bartender was attentive and friendly.
Almost everyone here is on a date and look great, though the atmosphere is closer to a dark, cozy bar where you can grab a beer and hang out with friends after work. The beer list is extensive and covers beers from DC to Delaware. In fact, that menu is much longer than the food offerings. I opted for the Crosstown Burger, a pretty standard burger except for the horseradish sauce, and I upgraded to get the spicy sticky bacons.
My dish came out almost half an hour later, probably because the stove was filled with patties. Others who ordered salad or non-burger items had theirs out promptly which lead me to believe the service is great; it is just that the burgers are too famous. In the meantime, I was listening to the couple waiting behind me complaining about their lives while swirling around to avoid beer as the bartender serves standing customers. It would be more fun if the bartender wasn’t as busy or I had company, but whatever; I was enjoying my beer and the place. The place is pretty fun. Really.
My burger looks amazing, but wasn’t as tasty. It was good, but not great. The bun was toasted and crispy, but it was way too dense for its good. The patty, on the other hand, was not juicy. Horseradish sauce totally took me by surprised – I thought the wasabi flavor was from the spicy bacons – that, combine with the smokiness of the bacon, was the saving grace of the burger. The onion rings also looked fantastic but I felt that the batter was too thick, even though you can still taste the onion. If this burger is the best Maryland could offer, I will be kind of disappointed; but then again, I don’t live here, so it is totally fine by me.
Hamilton Tavern is an awesome hangout place. I only had a single burger, so it is totally unfair to judge the place based on my experience. Besides, the burger isn’t bad – I just don’t think it is the best in the state, or worth anyone’s effort to drive all the way to Baltimore to try it. I might have been spoilt by my favorite gastropub back in Newark, so do swing by Hamilton Tavern if you happen to be in Baltimore – the bar is marvelous with awesome bartenders and locals. As you walk through those thick curtains at the front door, leave behind the craziness of Baltimore and enjoy the company. Try their burger and prove to me that my judgement is wrong – I really wish that it is my taste buds that weren’t working today.
Visited: September 5th, 2015 for dinner at 6pm
Address: 5517 Harford Rd, Baltimore, MD 21214