Much has happened since our last restaurant review: the Orioles participated in their first postseason in 15 years; the Ravens took home their second Lombardi Trophy; and Bob Ganoosh's CEO tied the knot with his better half. But most importantly, the Baltimore area restaurant scene has continued to grow and mature.
So, let's kick the summer off right with a digest of some of the many Baltimore restuarant happenings from the past year!
Hampden Restaurant Renaissance Excellerates
We have touched upon Hampden's growth as a restaurant destination over the past few years. While Hampden's restaurant scene has for years been fun and eclectic, the opening of the 13.5% Wine Bar marked the symbolic beginning of Hampden's restaurant revolution. To follow would be the opening of Alchemy, Luigi's Deli, Daniela's, and "big" Grano - and we couldn't help but notice that Hampden was becoming a bit more mature and a bit more, well, Italian.
|The Food Market in Hampden|
Continuing the Italian uprising of Hampden, Birroteca, located on Clipper Road in the space of the former Kolper's Restaurant, focuses on craft beers and artisanal pizzas. Birroteca has been a hit since day 1 - reservations can be challenging to get, and are usually a necessity - and has finally breathed some life into a location that has long struggled to draw a restaurant crowd. And Paulie Gee's Pizza, the first satellite branch of the famous Brooklyn, NY pizzaria, is expected to open any day in the old Republican Club building on Chestnut Avenue. Paulie Gee's will be run in partnership with local pizza enthusiast PizzaBlogger, and will use wood burner ovens that are en route from Naples, Italy as we speak.
And then, the recent renovation and rebranding of David's Diner into David's 1st and 10 Sports Bar has afforded Hampden with a niche it previously lacked: a good ol' sports bar, a place where you can watch not only the O's beat up on Boston, but also the USA soccer team beat up on Brazil! The new space is twice the size, full of new fixtures and big TVs, and just the right balance of old-school Hampden, hipster Hampden, and normalcy. The menu is concise, but well done.
Details are starting to unfold about: a potential Belgian brasserie; a concept by the owners of the Wine Market Bistro (read on); and something to fill the restaurant space in the newly-revitalized Mill No. 1. We're keeping our eye out for more details on those.
Columbia Indy Restaurant Scene Improves
Baltimore's younger sister has had a few exciting additions to its restaurant community as well. With Bob Ganoosh's new satellite branch in the Owen Brown village of Columbia, we couldn't help but notice some positive change in the restaurant scene there. Maryland's second largest city has always more than enough chain restaurants and fast food, but it's selection of unique independent restaurants always left something to be desired. Not any more!
About a year and half ago, we discovered Frisco Taphouse. Frisco is located in a small, unassuming strip of businesses off of Dobbins Road, but don't be fooled by the exterior. Inside you will discover a fun, bright space with a surprisingly large seating capacity, and a massive TV screen displaying the extensive draught list of the day. And the food menu is fun - definitely try the corn dogs.
And another Baltimore staple will be opening a Columbia branch soon, in some form. The Foreman-Wolf Group, proprietors of well-know restaurants such as The Charleston and Petit Louis, have announced their intention to open a restaurant in downtown Columbia this year.
We also found a new fun joint, in a place you'd least expect it. But stay tuned, as we plan a full review soon!
Loved Ones Lost
While many great new restaurants have opened this year, we are sad to report that some well-known and well-liked establishments had to shut their doors. Let's take a moment to remember some of those whom we've lost during the past year.
The Dogwood: A Hampden favorite, and perhaps the first farm-to-table restaurant in town, the Dogwood's great food and resonable prices (all things considered) weren't enough to keep the doors open. The owners closed earlier this year, citing several bad weeks of business. A new restauranteur is already eyeballing the site (read on).
The Chameleon Cafe: The Chameleon, a Lauraville staple and one of the sparks behind the Hamilton/Lauraville restaurant revival, closed under that name and format. Don't fret though, the restaurant was reopened shortly later with a new name and menu (keep reading).
S'ghetti Eddie's: In one of the most bizarre restaurant closings this author has ever encountered, the owner of S'ghetti Eddie's in Roland Park annouced the restaurant's closure, solely for the purpose of creating additional parking for sister restaurant Miss Shirley's. S'ghetti Eddie's was a popular spot for Loyola students to grab a hoagie or a slice of pizza. For us locals, they also served as an excellent delivery option if we didn't want pizza or Chinese food.
New Restaurants with Big Shoes to Fill
The good news is, a handful of shuttered restaurants have been (or will be) re-opened, either as an entirely new concept with a new owner, or as a derivation of its former self. Here are some examples:
The Chesapeake: The original Chesapeake Restaurant, on the corner of Charles and Lanvale Streets, was the place to be on a Friday night from the 1930s until the 1970s. During the decade to follow, though, the restaurant suffered, and closed it's doors permanently in the 1980s. After significant efforts from the City and several restauranteurs, the Chesepeake has reopened! While the new restaurant is in no way attempting to be the same as its predacessor, the new menu gives a few nods to the original joint all of Baltimore loved.
|UPDATE: Le Garage in May 2016|
Maggie's Farm: Located in the former Chameleon Cafe space, Maggie's Farm opened just days after its predecessor closed. The restaurant has a farm-to-table focus and has won the love of Lauraville restaurant patrons.
Spike Gjerde Ventures: Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen is planning to open a small diner in the former Crush space at Belvedere Square, as well as move his canning/preserving operations to that location. Mr. Gjerde is also planning to open a butcher shop in a building to-be-renovated in Remington, and still plans to convert a vacant property in Hampden (corner of Falls Road and 38th Street) into a new local eatery If Mr. Gjerde's Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact Coffee are any indication, these shops will significantly augment the Baltimore food scene.
Team Bob Ganoosh will be getting off of our butts and doing reviews again soon! So stay tuned for more news and gossip around the Baltimore restaurant scene!