"I've always been around good food," Dahlgren said. "I grew up running around Sisson's."
Dahlgren's stepfather is Hugh Sisson, who established Baltimore's first microbrewery in Federal Hill back in 1989 and went on to found Clipper City Brewing Co., producers of Heavy Seas beers. Dahlgren is part of the team behind the eagerly awaited Heavy Seas Alehouse, scheduled for a Feb. 15 opening in the Old Holland Tack Factory.
But Dahlgren is also the owner and general manager of the Rowhouse Grille, which he opened in 2009 in the old Light Street Station.
"Ramping up to full dinner service took some time," Dahlgren said. "We were figuring out what our niche was going to be."
After a couple of chefs came and left the kitchen in short order, Tess Mosely settled into the executive position, and Rowhouse Grille has won fans with her hearty pub menu of steak frites, slow-braised lamb shanks and mussels, which are offered every night in anywhere from six to eight preparations.
Now Rowhouse Grille is expanding. On Thursday , the restaurant will unveil the Tasting Bar, a four-seat counter that will serve a changing lineup of five-course small-plate menus created by Mosely, who will personally bring out and describe the inspirations behind her dishes.
Although the idea of a restaurant within a restaurant may have been inspired Minibar, Jose Andres' molecular-gastronomy temple at Cafe Atlantico in Washington, Dahlgren says the Tasting Bar will be a foam-free zone.
"We just want to take things a little further. The small plates are going to push what we do normally."
The Tasting Bar will take reservation for two seatings, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The cost will be $38 or $50, with suggested parings of wines or Heavy Seas beers.
Rowhouse Grille is at 1400 Light St. Call 443-438-7289 or go to therowhousegrille.com.
Once-a-year dinner: The Miss Shirley's restaurants, beloved for their hearty Southern breakfasts, serve dinner only one night a year, on Valentine's Day.
For the fifth time, the Miss Shirley's restaurants are opening up for evening service this Valentine's Day, but they're not serving breakfast for dinner. The Valentine's Dinner to Remember is a $49 three-course menu by executive chef Brigitte Bledsoe that includes fare like a trio of bisques, chilled poached Maine lobster, pan-seared diver scallops with cauliflower and goat-cheese puree, and a pair of tenderloin fillets. Selected wines are available by the glass and bottle, and dessert is a choice of raspberry white-chocolate cheesecake or a sampler of homemade truffles.
"It's a very different atmosphere," says Jennifer McIllwain of Miss Shirley's, about the white-tablecloth dinner. "The Valentine's dinner gives us a chance to show off our chefs. We love doing it, and the food is amazing."
The Valentine's Dinner to Remember is being offered at all three Miss Shirley's restaurants, including the recently opened Annapolis location, the original on Cold Spring Lane and the one on Pratt Street in the Constellation Energy Building.
The Valentine's dinners at Miss Shirley's tend to book solid, McIllwain says, with many repeat guests. For information, go to missshirleys.com
Bittersweet valentine: The dinner on Valentine's Day at the Feast @ 4 East will be its last. Sandy Lawler, the restaurant's chef, who also owns the 4 East Madison Inn, the boutique hotel in Mount Vernon, will stop offering dinner service. Lawler says she will make 4 East available for special events for between 25 and 60 people.
The Valentine's Day menu at Feast @ 4 East includes fresh oysters, a half-rack of pistachio-crusted lamb, New England scallops in vanilla cream and, for dessert, red velvet cake, ricotta cheesecake with Grand Marnier, and Pavlova, a meringue confection named for the Russian ballerina.
You can enjoy it all with your own bottle of wine. Feast @ 4 East is BYOB,
Feast @ 4 East is at 4 E. Madison St. Call 410-605-2020 or go to 4eastmadisoninn.com