Baltimore’s Sandlot Brings the Beach to Town
Story and photos by Amy Pelsinsky
What could be better than a summer evening, cool drink in hand, toes in the sand, watching the iconic Domino Sugar sign light up as the sky turns purple over Baltimore?
The Sandlot combines beach fun with food and drinks from James Beard Award-winning Chef Spike Gjerde, best known for his popular farm-to-table restaurant Woodberry Kitchen, served on a sandy spit of land surrounded by the Inner Harbor. Play a volleyball match or just chill under a beach umbrella with a view of the tankers, tugs, and pleasure boats passing by. If you’re lucky, you may catch a tall ship cruising in for a visit.
At the very edge of the Baltimore’s modern Harbor East and historic Fells Point, the Sandlot serves up a creative menu of urban beach food and boozy slushies out of a collection of colorful shipping containers and a shiny silver Airstream trailer. It is meant to be a temporary project, making good use of a vacant corner lot and 270 degrees of water view in the Harbor Point development, which includes the new 21-story Exelon tower (that’s just a few feet higher than the Bay Bridge, by the way) next door. This is Sandlot’s second summer as a fun magnet at the water’s edge.
“Sandlot’s view and connection to a soft water’s edge make it a very special place in Baltimore,” said Corey Polyoka, a partner in the Foodshed restaurant group. “We’ve really focused on adding a lot more programming to make the space more dynamic.”
It is really a big sand box for grown-ups—although kids and dogs are welcome—open evenings during the week and all day on the weekends. On one side of the 40,000-foot shoreline, low-slung beach chairs and umbrellas line the water along with picnic tables and swank seating areas with outdoor couches with twinkling light bulbs strung overhead. The other is speckled with spots for playing cornhole, bocce, and volleyball, and, mercifully, hammocks. Note: it’s not a beach, so don’t bring your swimming trunks. There is no direct access to the water.
The site was one of the last undeveloped parcels in the Fells Point area in large part because it was the former home of a chromium plant which left the land in need of substantial cleanup and containment, including a five-foot thick clay and plastic cap over the entire site. That was finished in 1999, and in 2003 the site was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a model for brownfield redevelopment. This summer the Sandlot will get a new neighbor—a hydroponic farming operation that will supply food to area restaurants.
Other new events include Splash City Golf (a pop-up driving range) and other athletic programs on the sand, plus more weekend events and festivals throughout the season, along with weekly live music and monthly movie nights.
The menu changes seasonally, but it can range from Chesapeake fare like lightly grilled rockfish kebobs and scallion-crab fritters, to hulking German wieners, double patties, chili-cheese dogs and a smorgasbord of nachos, all with a locally sourced, gourmet twist.
This year, Conrad’s Crabs & Seafood Market brings a crab-boil trailer to serve up crabs by the dozen on the first Friday of each month through October 5.
Drink service will be streamlined this year, said Polyoka, and the bar will feature its own beer—“Soak up the Sun”—brewed by local friends at The Brewer’s Art.
The Sandlot is located at 1000 Wills Street, Baltimore. Hours are Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. and weekends 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Parking is $4.
Lifelong Marylander Amy Pelsinsky is an award-winning writer who enjoys sharing off-the-beaten-track travels and food finds from Chesapeake Bay and around the world.