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Table Talk: Low Country Kitchen opens in Old Town Mall

There's a new Carolina cuisine joint in Baltimore. It's called, appropriately enough, Low Country Kitchen but just try to find it. Unless you had a good reason to be walking past Hannah Williams' new takeout place, you might never see it.

It's in the Old Town neighborhood, more specifically the Old Town Mall. Once a model of progressive 1970s urban development, the Old Town Mall, except for a stray pawnbroker and barbershop, today sits all but abandoned. But the opening of Low Country Kitchen might be the spark the once-thriving commercial center has been waiting for.

"There's something very special about Hannah that's going to impact how people … feel about the mall," says Kristen Mitchell, senior development coordinator with the Baltimore Development Corp.

Williams saw Old Town Mall as an opportunity. There's almost no competition around for blocks, and although there are fewer than a handful of remaining businesses in Old Town Mall, foot traffic is heavy in the morning, especially with students and workers rushing to their morning buses

At first, Williams thought she'd focus on breakfast sandwiches and burgers. But when her new regulars started to ask if there was anything else Williams could make, she had an answer ready.

Williams' specialty is the Gullah cuisine she grew up with. She was born in Greenwich, Conn., but spent her summers on Frogmore Island, one of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, where her elderly aunts still put out fishing nets.

Low Country Kitchen features daily specials, some of which are permanent items for the asking, like shrimp and grits, pulled pork and Gullah dirty rice. Given advance notice, Williams is ready to prepare Frogmore Stew, the Sea Islands variation of the classic crawfish boil.

There's no seating inside, but Williams said she's planning to reinstall the counter she removed when students started hanging around and acting up. Now that Low Country Kitchen has made friends with those same students, Williams thinks it's time to put the counter back.

Other eyes are on Old Town Mall, and if a grant goes through, the pocket courtyard next to Low Country Kitchen could be decorated with a mural. In the spring, there could even be cafe tables.

Low Country Kitchen is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The carryout is at 544 Old Town Mall. For information, call 443-438-6791.

The Rogue Sessions When R.J. Cooper, the chef/owner of Rogue 24, was forced to take a three-month break for planned open-heart surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the D.C. restaurant didn't temporarily close. Instead, 12 of Cooper's friends are stepping in — each for a week — to lend a hand while Cooper recovers.

The restaurant is calling the series of collaborations the Rogue Sessions. Each evening features a menu consisting of 12 of the visiting chef's dishes and 12 Rogue 24 favorites.

Rogue 24 announced the full roster of visiting chefs early on but is revealing the exact schedule week by week. The lineup of chefs includes Bryan Voltaggio; Jose Andres, the 2011 James Beard Award outstanding chef; and other boldface names from San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas and just up the road in Baltimore.

Voltaggio launched the first Rogue Session on Jan. 10, and Woodberry Kitchen's Spike Gjerde will be taking the third Rogue Session, which begins Jan. 24. Tickets to the Rogue Session dinners are being sold exclusively through the Gilt City website (giltcity.com) for $185 per person, with 250 seats available per week (50 per night).

Restaurant Week reminders Baltimore City Restaurant Week begins Friday and runs through Jan. 29. The fixed price for a three-course dinner menu is either $30 or $20, depending on the restaurant. Lunch is $15 for two courses. For more information, go to baltimorerestaurantweek.com.

Baltimore County Restaurant Week finishes up on Saturday. Participating restaurants have set the prices for a lunch or dinner menu from $10 to $35, for anywhere from one to three courses. For a full list of participating restaurants, go to baltimorecountyrestaurantweek.com.

And Howard County Restaurant Weeks are running through Jan. 30, with participating restaurants offering fixed-price menus ranging from $10 to $40. For more information, go to howardcountyrestaurantweek.com.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

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