Room with a view

Agnes Thompson, co-owner of The Grandview Penthouse restaurant, takes in the view from the roof with binoculars Sept. 25. (Photo by Noah Scialom / September 26, 2011)

The view is spectacular from The Grandview Penthouse, a rooftop restaurant in a senior citizens apartment building at 3838 Roland Ave.

But as a business, the eatery atop the 14-story Roland View Towers, in Hampden ,has had a tough go of it, with several name and ownership changes in recent years.

New owners Robert and Agnes Thompson hope to change that history. And although the space is still best known for its view of the city and beyond, the Thompsons are aiming to make the menu memorable too, serving everything from sandwiches to crab cakes and Cajun-seasoned tilapia.

"I'll throw down the gauntlet," said Robert Thompson, 65, of Remington. "We'll put our food up against anybody."


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Hopes were high in the Hampden area in September 2010, when Elaine Stevens, manager of The Dizz in Remington, and her brother-in-law, Tom Basta, took over the rooftop restaurant too, and renamed it The Dizz at Grandview.

It was a godsend to residents of the apartment building and served a senior high rise across the street as well — plus, it was open to the general public.

But Stevens closed it eight months later, frustrated by high turnover and indifference among her staff, she said.

Enter the Thompsons, longtime restaurateurs who also own an Italian eatery in Jarrettsville (it's up for sale) and used to own a TCYB store in the White Marsh area.

"I heard they were closed for renovation and I got curious," said Robert Thompson, who also renovates homes and calls himself an entrepreneur.

Thompson asked Stevens, who encouraged him to apply to the board of director of the apartment building.

"She knew we had a restaurant," said Agnes Thompson, 50, a native of South Korea, who also sells real estate and does settlements. "She said, 'You'd be great.'"

The Thompsons reopened the restaurant on Sept. 2, with its new name, Grandview Penthouse, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The couple has spent $25,000 on a new stove and grill for the small kitchen and on new floor in the 55-seat dining room.

"The wheelchairs and walkers do a job on the waxing," said Robert Thompson.

They also hired Robert's cousin, Dora Wilgis, as cook, and retained Charlene Caldwell, who has now worked for three different owners and knows most of the customers.

"She gets all the hugs and kisses," Robert Thompson said.

In its first month, the restaurant has seen mostly business from senior citizens who live in the two buildings. It also delivers to seniors and plans to do carryout business, too.

But in recent days, "we're seeing new faces," as the public catches on to the reopened eatery, Agnes Thompson said.

The Thompsons plan to apply for a beer and wine license, and to advertise and distribute fliers, because they believe most people don't know the restaurant is there. They also have a website, http://www.grandviewpenthouserestaurant.com.

"I never knew (the restaurant) existed," Agnes Thompson said. "That's one disadvantage.

"But the view is very nice. That's the reason we took it."

She believes publicity, reasonable prices and a varied menu will be the key to the eatery's success.

"This place has closed so many times," she said. "Once people get to know it, I think we're going to make it."