The 25 Best Food Moments in The Wire

From pit beef to lake trout sandwiches, the beloved HBO series delves deep into the guts of Baltimore.

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It's often said the most compelling character in HBO's The Wire isn't Jimmy McNulty, Avon Barksdale, or Omar Little, but the city of Baltimore itself. Throughout the show's unforgettable five seasons, the Charm City isn't just a passive bystander in the drama, but rather the vital, beating heart at the center of creator David Simon's sprawling web of storylines.

Nowhere is this consuming sense of place more apparent than in the series' brilliant use of food—after all, if a city is going to be the star, its regional flavors should be front and center. So many TV shows gloss over the way we eat, deeming it too mundane to warrant screen time. But Simon is no average storyteller, and by taking us straight into the literal gut of the city, he gives us a fascinating lens into what nourishes it.

For a show obsessively devoted to realism, it's no surprise that The Wire nails Baltimore's hyperregional eats, from Chaps Pit Beef and lake trout, to Faidley's crab cakes and spicy fish sandwiches. But breaking bread runs much deeper than surface authenticity—indeed, meals are at center of many of the show's most poignant moments, such as Bunny's tragic attempt to treat his students to a steak dinner at a restaurant where their outsider status is palpable.

The symbolism of food isn't lost on Simon either. He artfully plays on the connotations of beef and chicken in exploring the relationship between Wey Bey (the muscle) and D'Angelo Barksdale (the nervous thinker), or uses relatable details—like Omar's penchant for Honey Nut Cheerios—to humanize even the most cold-blooded characters. He also shows how the places where characters dine—from the politico diner where corrupt deals go down, to the bulletproof glass-covered carryout spots of the Westside—reflect their place in the system.

Here, we break down the 25 most memorable food-centric scenes in the series. Got a favorite that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Click to start the list
  • Jakest

    Slide 4: “may be”

    • First We Feast

      @4931c3b0e816719b8455a0659bd11f27:disqus got it, thanks for the catch

  • McNulty

    The scene in slide 1 is also referencing a famous scene from Lawrence of Arabia (“The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYNElueJj_w)

  • Actually…

    The meal in Clyburn Park did not get Bodie killed. Being seen outside Central Booking talking to McNulty later — that was the telltale.

    • First We Feast

      @5fbd72948ededfe29020e2d5a172b5bc:disqus good call. cleared up the language, was meant to connect it to the string of meeting between the two.

  • Mike

    There’s some good character insight when Bubbles visits & volunteers at the soup kitchen.

  • BunnynSunny

    I’m from Baltimore and I don’t ever recall Lake Trout as local food.

    • Actually…

      Are you white or black? Selling whiting as “lake trout” is a fundamental in Baltimore’s inner city, and a journey to any sandwich shop or seafood joint between Hilton Street and Milton Avenue will confirm as much. If you are a white Baltimorean, it may well have eluded you. My favorite: Tyrone’s on North Avenue, although the place at Woodland and Park Heights brings it as well.

    • Zack

      Dude, Lake Trout is a MAJOR city food. Have you never food heard of a chicken box, either? You must be the whitest person or actually from Bel Air.

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  • technoreaper

    How did this writer miss the scene where the prosecutor, detectives and I forgot who else were wearing the bibs and eating the crab outdoors? That was in season one, I think. Very memorable. Holy fail.

  • Bubs N McNutty The Sitcom

    How about the Chinese food McNutty spills on himself the night Prez shoots another cop? If Prez wouldn’t have gone to pick up the order, he’d still be a cop.

  • JenR

    David Simon is pure genius, Baltimore is one of the most amazing food cities and the Wire is hands down the best show ever. I’ve seen every epi 3x+ and am still wowed.

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  • t-mack

    Season four when Namond treats the boys to Chinese food and Dukie orders his meal and ask for Turkey Grease, not knowing that’s what helps drunks like his parents throw up the liquor so they can sober up.

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  • T Inman

    MISSING: Season 2, ‘White Mike’ McCardle. Interrogation with McNulty and Greggs. White Mike offers confession against ‘The Greek’s’ people for “Two hot dogs and a strawberry soda…Hook a brotha up.”

  • ash333

    Four glaring omissions as far as I can see: 1. Bubbles sitting down for dinner with his sister in the final episode. 2. ‘Snatchpops’ (The craze of smacking a friends food out of his hands and on to the floor). 3. Marlo stealing the lollypop and having the guy who dares stand up to him killed. 4. Landsman’s lunch times. Always a bottle of Peptobismal on the desk to wash down his mammoth meals of sandwiches that barely hold together to ‘Chicken Doo-Hickys’.

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