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The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached, or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Baltimore Magazine. Is it just us or has been the longest year ever? That said, we're carrying on, finding ways to spend time with family and friends whether in person or virtuallymaking meaningful connections, and, when we can, supporting the local businesses that mean so much to the fabric of our community. us to celebrate our Best of Baltimore winners in a special video presentation.

Our Editor-in-Chief Max Weiss gives you an all-access pass to the September issue and exclusively reveals how we determined the best of the best. We lost our beloved Elijah Cummings in late Our mayor, Catherine Pugh, was removed and convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion.

And we continued to fight an uphill battle against gun violence. But then, two crises hit the country, and showed the world what we were made of. First, COVID—and the city and its famous hospitals stepped up: saving lives, tracking data, studying vaccines, making PPE, and simply helping each other.

Suddenly, all eyes were on us. They remember broken windows and fiery clashes with law enforcement. People in Baltimore remember a social and cultural awakening—an emergence of new, young leadership, and a fortified love of community that never went away.

If there was one thing we learned from the Uprising, it was that we know how to take care of each other here. All over the city, peaceful and powerful protests were held. Citizens of Baltimore, from all walks of life, locked arms and marched and chanted together in the name of justice and equality. It was like the spirit of Cummings was with us, guiding us toward a better way. The Baltimore way. An investigation into race, gender, and power, these captivating works burst forth with color, energy, and texture, conveying these naked curves as both a vessel for and connection to the natural world.

Recently on display at the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Mt. Rich in cultural heritage, from the birthplace of legendary bandleader Cab Calloway to the home of iconic mid-century jazz clubs that hosted musicians like Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, Pennsylvania Avenue was long overdue for the official Maryland arts and entertainment district deation it received in February. Led by artist-activist Lady Brion, the newly dubbed Black Arts District is already working to bolster present-day Black creatives through concerts, conversations, and art competitions, marking Penn Ave.

After years of making music magic, local rapper DDm emerged in late spring with his magnum opus, an homage to his native Baltimore City. Inspired in part by its title character from The Wirethis record offers an illuminating reflection on the often-overlooked Black queer male experience.

Each song, like its city-wide concert tour, is a Baltimore love story.

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The indomitable voice of Nia June evokes the spirit of famed Black women writers and poets who came before her such as Toni Morrison and Nikki Giovanni. June narrates the directorial debut, which depicts Black women in their multitudes—capturing them in love, in movement, and at home—creating a poetic ode to their own reflections. It seemed only fitting that this spring, in the unprecedented times of the coronavirus, the Creative Alliance quickly got, well, creative.

Within a week of closing its doors due to statewide restrictions on social gatherings, the Highlandtown arts hub had launched this intimate outdoor concert series, where local musicians, from Caleb Stine to Brandon Woody, and later Eze Jackson and DDm, would perform songs from a social distance on porches, in front yards, and even out on the city streets. Launched by local artist Abdu Ali last fall and co-organized by MICA grad Karryl Eugene, the groundbreaking project is a sort of nomadic art gallery, with multi-disciplinary events and exhibitions taking place at various venues across the city, as well as in the virtual realm.

This summer, seasoned spoken-word artist Kondwani Fidel released This Mud Was Made For Us —a 9-track poetry EP and sultry, soul-baring open letter about growing up in East Baltimore, full of personal reflections, ruminative delivery, and rhythmic flows. Be on the lookout for his third book, The Antiracistdue out this month. It was a hard blow to the local music scene when social gathering restrictions quickly limited crowds and then shuttered venues in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID But the music never stopped at An Die Musik, the small gem of a stage in a Mt.

Vernon townhome that draws world-class classical and jazz musicians from near and far. Throughout quarantine, owner Henry Wong maintained a stellar lineup of virtual live concerts to be viewed from the comforts of our own living rooms, including notable sets by local vibraphone virtuoso Warren Wolf and piano master Lafayette Gilchrist.

In the year of the pivot, kudos to the Baltimore Museum of Art for its inventive shift to digital platforms that have continued to engage audiences in artistic experiences outside the confines of its hallowed halls in the wake of COVID In addition to giving us easy access to compelling paintings, photography, film, and more, the BMA Salon and Screening Room has supported local artists and galleries in especially trying times for arts communities everywhere.

Move over, The Wire. Get familiar with Murjoni Merriweather, a Silver Spring-born, Baltimore-based sculptor who is busting stereotypes through her striking, life-size sculptures, using clay to press firmly against European beauty standards by depicting Black faces with full lips, braided hair, and adornments like hoop earrings and gold teeth. The shop is currently open only for carryout, but we look forward to the day we can sit over a cuppa in the intimate below-ground cafe.

Better still, the group decided to keep the drives going on a weekly basis. Three months and thousands of brown bags full of donated groceries and rescued produce later, Reed Feeds had distributed 10, meals to the West Baltimore community. Only a few months after moving to Northeast Baltimore inhusband-and-wife duo Nicole Foster and Dwight Campbell began making their mark on the community by organizing the summer Market at Montebello.

That same unifying energy has gone into growing their vegan ice cream business. Not only does chef Amanda Mack prepare picture-perfect pastries, brownies, and handpies, but it's her care for the community—splitting tips with young entrepreneurs, donating proceeds to organizations that support Black creatives—that makes her business one to root for.

Her stall inside Whitehall Market in Hampden has had wraparound lines since it opened this summer. Go for the tradicional hot pockets stuffed with steak, caramelized onions, and olives or try the Asian-inspired chicken in sweet-and-sour sauce packed with pineapple, vegetables, fresh ginger, and fried rice. Ask for an extra order of the addictive chimichurri sauce. And finish with a delectable alfajore cookie filled with house-made dulce de leche. While we are grateful to all restaurants offering carryout, Linwoods to-go game is first-rate. The blue-and-white bow tied to the brown bag, the carefully crafted note from Linwood and Ellen Dame who stand on the sidewalk giving a warm wave as cars go byand the expertly prepared New American food that never misses a beat all help us feel more connected in these awfully isolating times.

This nouvelle Italian spot in Station North pivoted to preparing fantastic family meals during the pandemic. The buttermilk chicken Parm and house-made rigatoni, plus garlic knots, a Caesar salad, and dessert of the day make us realize how much we miss restaurant-quality cooking. Inspired by recently loosened liquor laws, this Canton spot gets creative with its bottled drinks that guests can assemble at home. To wit: A vodka and aperol-based cocktail comes with a mini bottle of bubbly and dehydrated citrus so you can garnish like a professional. But the menu pleases all palates with beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Enjoy the cocktails on the courtyard, which is as bright and lovely as the botanical-based spirit itself. This little jewel box in Stevenson sells superior handmade small-batch chocolate. These confections created by Ruthie Carliner, a former Certified Public ant turned chocolatier, reminds us that the best candy-making is a true art form. Buy a box lavishly wrapped in velvet, as the name implies for your sweetheart—or as an act of self-love. You think you know what they taste like, right? A spaghetti-type noodle with a thick, gloopy, vaguely peanut-buttery sauce. The sesame noodles at Red Pepper in Towson are a whole new ball game.

The house-made noodles are toothsome, but not heavy. The sauce is light—and tastes of actual sesame, plus soy sauce, chili oil, and garlic.

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So this is what all the fuss is about. The fine-dining Indian restaurant, purchased by brothers Keir and Binda Singh of Ambassador restaurant fame, opened quietly late last summer, only to close due to the COVID crisis by spring. Sure, we love to fill our feed with appetizing images that make us want to hightail it to the nearest coffee shop or poke spot.

But the best food s are the ones that feed your brain, as well as your appetite. The food blogger and photographer—who takes pride in featuring new and under-the-radar eateries—uniquely expounds on each of her mouthwatering shots with candid reviews and handy tips for diners. Along with cuts and coloring, they offer multiple services including curl discovery sessions allowing you to transition to a natural lookcurl detox, and updos.

The property owners partnered with Secret Sauce Co. Aust morphed her Instagram workout videos into a complete online program, The Sweaat Life—making at-home workouts accessible and fun. Classes are intense in a good waywhile accommodating all fitness levels. As the name implies, this beloved floral studio sources all of its flowers from within miles of its Charles Village space, and spre the joy of seasonal blooms through regular workshops, open studios, and community gatherings.

And wear your mask. When the pandemic closed schools in mid-March, Claudia Towles, owner of Fells Point toy store aMuse, quickly assembled a beefed-up online shop and started spending her days zipping all over town delivering board games, magic kits, scooters, paint-by-s, and puzzles to panicked parents who suddenly had hours of unstructured time to fill. It's no wonder her store is so beloved. The philosophy of this Mt. Vernon shop: Luxury should be for everyone.

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Owners Dominick Davis and Steven White put the emphasis on well-tailored clothing, whether you opt for a made-to-measure suit or a ready-to-wear style. The hip boutique hotel is the perfect place for a staycation, with its chic accommodations, scenic rooftop bar, and central city location. Come for the plush beds, Washington Monument views, and local art; stay for the community-minded programming, like poetry readings, yoga classes, and produce pickups for those in need.

Some might think of second-hand shops as a little musty and chaotic.

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