Lost City Diner materialized in Charles North last August. Now, the fountain shop and late-night stop has shut itself down. Don't worry, though — its owner, Joy Martin, said it's an intermission.
Martin, who also own the Club Charles, gave no firm date for the reopening of Lost City. In an email, she said she's "just closing to do some renovations to the kitchen and try to get my sign up."
When Lost City Diner opened suddenly last summer, it seemed to be the final chapter of a long-running serial that played out for years on the corner of Charles and Lanvale streets, half a block up from the Club Charles
Lost City Diner, when it revealed itself, was beautiful, with antique fixtures and fanciful retro-industrial elements gorgeously evoking the giddy atmosphere of a Buck Rogers serial from the 1930s. A devotee of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, Martin acknowledged that the diner's long gestation was a result of her meticulous nature — "We researched things down to the last detail," Martin said.
The big hits early on at Lost City Diner were hand-made fountain treats — specialty sundaes, milkshakes and malteds, classics like the Knickerbocker and the Tin Roof, and newfangled creations like the Utopia and the Vector, made with soy ice cream. In the opening days at Lost City, fountain sales were even outpacing beer sales at the Club Charles. "Who would have thought ice cream would outsell beer?" Martin said.
In the months following its opening, however, the restaurant seemed to frustrate diners (or potential diners) with an inconsistent operating schedule.
When will Lost City Diner return? Stay tuned.
On the sunny side Historically, only a few restaurants in Little Italy have offered al fresco dining options.
But now, inspired by a one-time outdoor dining event held on the Friday of Grand Prix weekend, a few restaurants on and off High Street are looking into expanding their dining options to the sidewalks of Little Italy.
Cafe Gia offers year-round dining on a heated balcony overlooking Eastern Avenue. The 20-seat balcony is particularly popular in the summer, according to Gia Daniella, who helps operate the cafe with her mother, Giovanna Blatterman.
"Our guests will wait 45 minutes for a seat on the balcony," Daniella said. "It's been a very popular amenity here." Cafe Gia is permitted to offer seating under a canopy on its High Street side but offers that option on a more occasional basis.
By most accounts, Germano's has had outdoor dining the longest of any Little Italy restaurants — since about 1990, according to Cyd Wolf, who operates the restaurant with her husband, Germano Fabiani. Germano's puts out six tables on Fawn Street from April to October (earlier or later, depending on the weather).
"People love it," Wolf said about the outdoor dining. "But even people who don't sit out here see people dining outside. The best advertisement is our food. It brings us a lot of business."
But Grand Prix Friday, when High Street was closed off to traffic, was the first time in anyone's memory that so many restaurants offered outdoor dining.
"We had a nice time with Grand Prix," said Amiccis co-owner Roland Keh.
While Keh acknowledges that the crowds didn't show up for the neighborhood's experiment in outdoor dining, the pleasures of eating al fresco were still obvious to the neighborhood's restaurateurs.
"The whole neighborhood banded together,' Keh said. "We came away pleasantly surprised." And Wolf said that recent improvements to the neighborhood's infrastructure, including new paving and Venetian-style lampposts, make the notion of outdoor dining in Little Italy even sweeter.
Keh said he's all ready to go with the outdoor seating but will likely wait until the good weather looks like it's here to stay.
"We'll definitely have it out in time for [the Orioles'] Opening Day," Keh said.