Baltimore’s restaurant scene was marked by widespread closures as competition reached a fever pitch in 2017.
Novel dining concepts thrived as they made their entrance. Charm Kitty Cafe became Baltimore’s first cat cafe, while pop-up dining gained a foothold with Diner en Blanc’s inaugural Baltimore event in July.
Communal spaces for food businesses continued to open, including Share Kitchen in Locust Point and the first building on the Baltimore Food Hub campus.
Meanwhile, celebrity chefs made inroads in Baltimore-area casinos and hotels. Gordon Ramsay Steak opened in the Horseshoe Casino, where Giada de Laurentiis announced plans for GDL by Giada to open in 2018. At Live Casino & Hotel in Hanover, Todd English will open David’s by Todd English next year.
Several Baltimore chefs received national recognition. Brian Lavin of Gnocco was named to Zagat’s “30 Under 30,” and Woodberry Kitchen’s Lou Sumpter was named to Eater’s 2017 class of “Young Guns.” Baltimore did not clinch any James Beard Awards, but Charleston’s Cindy Wolf again was a finalist in the “best chef: mid-Atlantic” category, and chef and author Allison Robicelli was among the personal essay finalists.
Baltimore restaurants opened additional locations and laid plans for new spots across the region. The Point in Fells, Mi & Yu Noodle Bar, Clark Burger and Connie’s Chicken and Waffles opened new eateries, while the Bun Shop, the Local Fry and the Charmery have new locations in the works.
Despite its growth, no segment of the industry was immune to closures, which restaurateurs attributed violence in the city, increasing labor costs and relentless competition, among other factors.
In Belvedere Square, Starlite Diner and Tooloulou closed. Greg’s Bagels reopened under new ownership not long before Greg Novik, the shop’s longtime proprietor, died of cancer.
In Bolton Hill, Park Cafe & Coffee Bar went cashless after being robbed five times in four months. The cafe subsequently closed but reopened under new ownership. B, A Bolton Hill Bistro also closed with plans to rebrand and reopen. And Dovecote Cafe launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to put a down payment on its building and expand.
In Canton, La Folie and Langermann’s closed. The owners of Jack’s Bistro are planning to close the restaurant and open another, Blair’s on Hudson. Iron Rooster’s owners opened DJ’s Ice House, a snowball and ice cream shack adjacent to the restaurant at Canton Crossing. Another ice cream shop, Bmore Licks, opened just south of Patterson Park, serving more than 100 flavors of soft-serve. Annabel Lee Tavern closed due to financial hardship and reopened months later with new investors. And Canners Row and Cask & Grain opened their doors.
In Charles Village, veteran sports bar PJ’s Pub closed. It’s set to be replaced by local pizza bar HomeSlyce.
Ida B.’s Table brought new soul food flavors to downtown this fall. Pappas Sports Bar opened a location in the Holiday Inn Baltimore-Inner Harbor. And Camden Pub shuttered after more than 25 years in business.
In Federal Hill and South Baltimore, Crossbar der Biergarten opened following a years-long dispute with the neighborhood. Liv2Eat was replaced by In Bloom. Fat Larry’s Cheesesteaks and Hoagies shuttered. No Way Jose was rebranded as One Star Country Club, while 101 Deli Bar replaced Forever Yogurt. DiPasquale’s opened a deli at HarborView Towers, and Minnow debuted in the 2 East Wells apartment building.
In Fells Point, James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini opened his first Baltimore restaurant, Rec Pier Chop House, in the Sagamore Pendry Hotel. (His second, Rye Street Tavern, opened in Port Covington.) Mare Nostrum closed. And Riptide by the Bay did not sell at auction Dec. 14
In Hamilton, Clementine closed for a second time. And a new British tea parlor, Emma’s Tea Spot, made its debut.
Aromes and Cafe Cito closed in Hampden so their respective owners could focus on new projects. Le Garage was replaced by the Avenue Kitchen & Bar. Holy Frijoles reopened after a fire put it out of business for a year. And Center Cut Doughnuts opened in January but closed in November.
In Harbor East, Atlas Restaurant Group converted Fleet Street Kitchen and Ten Ten American Bistro to Tagliata and the Elk Room, respectively. Charm City Cakes opened a small shop. And the growing Harbor Point development became home to Ceremony Coffee Roasters, honeygrow and Sandlot.
Jonestown saw the closure of Lenny’s Delicatessen as Corned Beef Row continued to shrink. And in Little Italy, Mugs’ Bistro by Chef Todd and Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar closed. (Boston’s Abingdon location closed as well.)
In Locust Point, Piaza and the Greene Turtle closed to make way for a fourth Iron Rooster. Jazz+Soju announced plans to open in the Anthem House apartment complex. Sweet Caroline’s also closed.
Longtime restaurateur Sascha Wolhandler sold her catering business to the owners of the Elephant and closed Sascha’s 527 Cafe in Mount Vernon. Ryleigh’s Oyster closed its Mount Vernon location, and TenTen Ramen was replaced by the Burning Hen. Ware House 518 closed and was replaced by G.A.Y Lounge, which also closed. The Room cafe closed its doors, too.
In Station North, Colette closed and Bottega, owned by the same chef, moved into the larger space. Showroom Cafe & Bar also opened in the Motor House artist incubator.
Pigtown Ale House made its debut. And in Remington, farmers market staple Blacksauce Kitchen launched a brick-and-mortar location.
The rampant turnover reached the suburbs, too. In Baltimore County, Christopher Daniel, Five Martini Bar and the Harp Restaurant, Sports Bar & Catering closed. DuClaw Brewing Co. closed in Bel Air, and Humagalas opened in its place. And historic Ellicott City’s Main Street saw the reopening of restaurants damaged in the 2016 flood, including Portalli’s, along with newcomers like Manor Hill Tavern.
Some national chains opened their first Maryland locations, such as Grabbagreen, Zinburger and Marco’s Pizza. Other chain restaurants closed in the Baltimore area, including Famous Dave’s in Bel Air and Timonium and Friendly’s in Catonsville.