I’m finally getting to posts about my time in Baltimore over Memorial Day Weekend! The first night of my trip I headed to D.C. to see some family and friends, but Saturday afternoon I took the train back to Baltimore for the rest of the weekend. I had big plans for my first trip to Baltimore since being a little kid, especially trying to scope out the gluten-free spots. One place that came up in my research was Sweet 27. There is both a Sweet 27 Bar + Restaurant and then a gluten-free bakery with a Cafe + Brunch component next door. Both are 100% gluten-free! I was hoping to check out the Bar + Restaurant at least once during my trip and mentioned this to my friends (all non gluten-frees). They had all been to Sweet 27 and gave it big thumbs up. It’s a great sign that gluten eaters have even heard of a place that’s 100% gluten-free, much less been there and recommend it. So Sweet 27 was my first stop with my friends after getting off the train.
The menu is described as a fusion of South Asian and Caribbean flavors. Most of the dishes are naturally gluten-free or probably are easily adapted (by removing some flour or sauces), but there were a number of what I call “special gluten-free” dishes (dishes that generally involve a lot of gluten) like pizza, burgers with buns, and some fried fish. I was excited for both the flavors and special gluten-free options, plus just the peace of mind of a completely gluten-free restaurant.
We scoped out the menu and my friends were focusing in on the tacos, which some of them had had before and really liked. The Asian crab cakes quickly caught my attention. Until recently I was not a fish fan (understatement), but over the last few years began developing more of a taste and becoming more “adventurous.” I certainly have delved into sushi quite a bit and have also started doing some lighter tasting fishes. I had never had a crab cake before given that you don’t commonly find a gluten-free version and I never had much of an interest for one before. I was thinking of getting that as either the appetizer version or the burger version with a bun.
The waitress shared the specials when she came back over. The fish sandwich of the day was flounder in their house batter. That caught my attention just because it was one of the most “gluten-free special” items on the menu. I wasn’t really in the mood for pizza and this would be fried and on a bun (all gluten-free!). Plus the alternative I focused on was the fish and chips (again for the “special gluten-free” aspect) and this was pretty much the same thing plus a bun. I decided to go for the crab cakes as an appetizer and the fried flounder sandwich for my meal. Both very big steps for this formerly no-seafood eater.
The crab cake came out first and was soaked in a sweet sauce with a bit of a kick (definitely would guess there was some gluten-free soy sauce in it), plus covered in carrots and some other veggies. I definitely liked it and liked the Asian flavor component. The crumbly, bread-y texture of the crab cake was an interesting thing to experience (since usually texture or consistency like that means I’m eating something bad for me…). I am usually pretty ambivalent towards gluten-free soy sauce, but enjoyed the sauce of the crab cakes for the flavor. Usually Asian flavors I am always paranoid about hidden soy sauce (even when I ask), so again the peace of mind was nice. I was happy with the decision to get the crab cakes. The sauce and its flavors were the most defining part of the dish, so I didn’t think I really got a regular crab cake experience (which is totally fine). I enjoyed it enough to think about trying more traditional gluten-free crab cakes if I came across them (which I did just about a month later- blog post here).
Interestingly for slightly hesitating on ordering the fried flounder sandwich, I was beyond happy with my choice. The top reasons were the sandwich bun and the fries. For being gluten-free, the bun was physically solid (hearty and not crumbly), it wasn’t dry, and it had some good flavor. On the texture side I think most people wouldn’t guess it was gluten-free. And then even on the taste side there weren’t the usual gluten-free flags (like being a little sweet). The taste just wasn’t typical white or even whole-grain American bread, but I’m guessing a lot of people would chalk the taste up to the Asian or Caribbean influences of the restaurant. It had sort of an artisan, potato bun kind of vibe to it (in my opinion).
The fries are kind of the thing I’ve craved most since my visit. They come in a chickpea batter and so it’s almost like having beer battered fries. The texture and taste are just so on point! Crispy and delicious. I would have probably eaten them until I was close to throwing up (and then eaten a few more…). Luckily there was a huge portion for me to enjoy, but not so large that I got close to that level.
While the bun and the fries were enough to make me a very happy guy, the fried flounder itself was also very good. Sweet 27 also has fried fish and chips (as I mentioned above) and that comes in a spiced garbanzo bean batter. I’m pretty sure that was the same batter for the fish sandwich and it gave it some nice flavor and kick. With both this and the chickpea batter on the fries, this picky eater had no problem with their deliciousness and were good arguments for me to have more of an open mind around food. The only downside was that the fish slid out of the bun pretty easily, so it was a bit of a mess and I had to throw typical dining manners out the door for a little bit. But otherwise I really enjoyed my meal.
After we finished our meal (my friends all enjoyed their tacos), the waitress came over and asked about dessert. I had considered going next door to check out the bakery, but a raspberry torte on the restaurant’s dessert menu caught my eye. By this point I had mapped out pretty much every meal in Baltimore, so I also knew I could stop by the bakery Monday morning. I indeed went for the raspberry torte. It was fluffy and creamy up top (I really enjoyed the raspberry flavor vs. the more usual chocolate) and a small little bit of gluten-free crust on the bottom.
Sweet 27 is a great combination of all gluten-free options with some delicious flavors and exciting dishes. I will be thinking about the fries all day now that I’ve written this post and both the bun and their fried fish also get big thumbs up from this gluten-free. This should be high on the list for gluten-free visitors to Baltimore. Others looking for Asian or Caribbean influenced-food or just those close to Charles Village and John Hopkins looking for a good meal should also check it out!
Sweet 27 Restaurant + Bar- 127 West 27th St. Baltimore, MD 21218