Peek into the former 8 Ball Bar & Grill in Fells Point lately, and chances are you’ll see Ashish Alfred with a tool belt on, working to put the final touches on his new restaurant.
“I’m there with the build-out every single day,” Alfred said. “My day consists of being in that space, and doing whatever needs to be done to get us open.”
The finish line is coming, as Alfred plans to open a second location of Duck Duck Goose, a French brasserie he started in Bethesda two years ago, by mid-June. The 1,800-square-foot space will seat approximately 100 people, he said, and will feature a frequently changing menu of Parisian-inspired dishes, along with staples including chicken forgione, cauliflower steak and ratatouille.
“For the most part, the menu is an evolving document,” said Alfred, who goes by Al. “The menu changes all the time based on what we can get and when we can get it.”
The original location’s pasta program is coming to Baltimore as well, he said, so diners can expect housemade pappardelle and lamb Bolognese.
Alfred first planned to open Duck Duck Goose in the original Bad Decisions bar on Fleet Street, but plans fell through after he was unable to secure a lease, so Alfred pivoted to the 8 Ball space after it became available. (8 Ball closed, after two years, in early April.)
Duck Duck Goose will open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, which will have a bottomless mimosa option with an entrée purchase. The brunch will also offer a sharable cocktail popularized in New York that hasn’t infiltrated Charm City yet: a Moscow mule that weighs 10 pounds.
Operating hours are still to be determined, Alfred said. While the restaurant and bar will stay open into the night, Alfred said Duck Duck Goose won’t transform into a sports bar or nightclub after dinner service.
“We’re not somewhere that’s going to carry 17 different flavors of vodka. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that. It has a place — it’s just not our place,” he said. “Our rule of thumb is as long as people are hanging out, and eating and drinking, we’re staying open.”
Restaurants and bars in Manhattan and New York City’s West Village inspired the “French chic” design, he said. (Alfred knows them well first-hand, after being trained at Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute and working in nearby kitchens.)
For Alfred — who moved from Bethesda to Canton last year to be closer to the restaurant — bringing Duck Duck Goose to Baltimore has turned into a passion project with a larger purpose. When people would hear of his plans, Alfred was met with skepticism, he said.
“Everybody [said], ‘Oh, you should go to D.C. It’s so much easier in D.C.,’” he said. “When I would tell people, ‘Well, I want to go to Baltimore,’ everybody kind of shied away from it.”
Alfred said the reactions were “really unfair to Baltimore.” He’s been impressed by the “great people” he’s met, who are “doing a lot of really hard work to bring that city back.”
“The city is definitely on the come-up, and me and my team are really privileged and excited to be a part of that,” Alfred said.
He’s particularly excited to be in Fells Point, a neighborhood that attracts “people of all walks of life,” Alfred said.
“You sit on the corner of Broadway and Thames [Street] long enough, you’ll eventually watch the world go by,” he said. “You see everything down there. What better place would there be to open a restaurant?”
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