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Until this summer, I had never been to The Yard Bar & Grille at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. I’d seen the hotel, of course, as I walked to an O’s game, but never ventured inside. And until last year, I’d never really even eaten at a hotel restaurant in Baltimore except at a wedding or other event. Well, not anymore. I had, literally, never even seen The Yard. It’s in a location that I just never really frequent and you also can’t see it from the street. But once you go into the hotel, there it is, calling you to enjoy seafood, local craft beers and more. Don’t you love it when you discover something great and it was right under your nose?

When I drove up to the entrance, I thought, oh, wow! Look across the street…the Bromo Seltzer Tower, one of Baltimore’s most iconic buildings. Of course, nerd that I am, parked the car and walked out to the street to get a shot of it. I just love that building, don’t you?

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The hotel has just undergone a huge renovation, which included the The Yard. The decor is warm, yet modern, with local flavor throughout thanks to walls with Baltimore images like the Domino sugar sign, Little Italy street lights and more. The exposed brick walls, pendant lights and rich dark wood floors made me think of a rehabbed city rowhouse. That nod to Baltimore gave me the heads up that more was to come…and the menu did not disappoint where that was concerned. Many local farms and food producers the restaurant uses are listed on the menu – Springfield FarmRoseda BeefStone Mill BakeryOne Straw FarmPrigel Family CreameryTrue Blue Maryland Crabs and more. As you can imagine, the menu featured lots of seafood, especially crab. Baltimoreans love their crab and tourists come here looking for it! Just last week, I was accosted on the street in Hampden by a tourist asking where to find the best steamed crabs…she was really serious and wrote things on her hand…I think she was drunk…but I digress. (p.s. Anyone want to open a crab house in Hampden?)

We started with a cocktail. My friend had a Pineapple Coconut Passion and I had a Bathtub Martini. Both were very nice. The drink menu included 15 cocktails – including a shandy and an orange crush (they are everywhere now!), many bottled beers and craft beers on tap (flights, too), wines – including organic wines, coffee drinks and more. Lots of choices for lots of different tastes.

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Chef Bill Townes fed us mini-crabcakes served over a red pepper pesto and a piping hot crab pretzel covered in lump crab and cheddar cheese, with a Natty Boh mustard for dippage. And when he brought the crab pretzel to the table? Audible gasps. Loud ones. From me. (And I’m not usually the biggest crab pretzel fan. This one was pretty darn good.)

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Of course, I had to have oysters. I love them. The menu listed four options: Fresh shucked with mignonette sauce, chargrilled with garlic butter, chargrilled with crab and Old Bay and Rockfeller with Pernod, Spinach and cream cheese. We went the garlic butter…delicious. I’d like to have the Rockefeller next time since I saw them go by our table. Looked mighty fine.

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One thing I really loved was the Yard Dog – a bacon wrapped hot dog served with pickled fennel and brown sugar mustard. I would almost certainly never ordered this on my own, but the chef recommended it, partially because it comes with feta steak fries with a cremini mushroom gravy. Chef Bill was very proud of these – his version of disco fries – a nod to his Jersey roots. SO good – perfectly crispy on the outside, soft and smooth inside. I seriously thought about them for a few days. That good. Thanks for recommending the Yard Dog, Chef!

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I was fascinated by the self-serve beer and wine taps. All you do is have your server load a card for you and you march yourself across the hotel lobby to an area with sofas and a big screen tv where you will find the taps with four local craft brews and four wines. I went for a small pour of Riesling and a equally small pour of one of my very favorite local beers, Union Craft Brewing’s Balt Altbier. Happy girl. The beer was a perfect match with my hot dog. And, I still had room on my card for more pours, but I had to drive, so no more for me…this visit, anyway. The cards are smart…otherwise people (like me) would be walking in there and just filling up their travel mugs.

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I also enjoyed the diver scallops over mushroom risotto, served with salsa verde and roasted fennel. Scallops are one of my favorite things and they were cooked perfectly. I wanted more but I had to pace myself. I was thinking about dessert.

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So…dessert, yes. Do it. Doughnuts are everywhere now and I would definitely not skip them at The Yard. Lemon ricotta doughnuts with a citrus glaze. Warm. A tiny bit of sweet crispness on the outside, contrasted perfectly by its moistness inside. Warm! They are served as a mini-dessert, just three small doughnuts and I loved that. I am not a believer of ‘bigger is better’ when it comes to dessert, or food in general for that matter. No. Make me want more, that will win me (and lots of people) over. These doughnuts did that.

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My friend and I also tried the Sweet Baby Jesus milkshake. It was insanely good. Made with DuClaw Brewing’s Sweet Baby Jesus peanut butter porter. I loved it so much. The beer on its own was a bit much for me but in the shake, GIVE ME MORE. (See how that works?)

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The Yard Bar & Grille at the Marriott is at 110 S. Eutaw Street – right in between Oriole Park and The Hippodrome. Their location is perfect for a great casual meal before or after a show or game! Recommend it highly, hon. Goh.

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