Comings and Goings: Hamilton's Herb and Soul, a new Mount Vernon marketplace, Bmore hops on the french fry craze
By By Ryan Detter
Dec 01, 2014 at 7:30 PM
Chefs and restaurateurs Brandon Taylor, David Thomas, and Yuri Chernov are bringing an express version of their Parkville restaurant Herb & Soul to Hamilton, where they will be showcasing a carryout version of their Southern fusion menu. Located at 5429 Harford Road, Herb & Soul Express opened this week in the former location of Cosmo’s Carryout. As co-founder Taylor said, “the cuisine at our newest location will be streamlined and catered toward faster takeout and delivery service. We are introducing new items such as fresh-made pizza, fusion po’boys, and fry bread tacos to Baltimore City that incorporate ingredients rarely tasted in traditional Southern or soul food.” Asked just where he came up with the idea of Navajo fry-bread tacos, Taylor said, “I went to a reservation out in Oklahoma and I saw how they prepared fry bread and thought ‘Let’s use that to make tacos.’ And people really seem to like them.” We have to admit, if the Korean steak tacos we inhaled last week at the farmers market are any indication of the flavors on the rest of the locally sourced menu, Hamilton’s takeout options just got a serious upgrade.
If the Time Group and development director Dominic Wiker have their way, the 15,000 square feet of empty space on the first floor of the newly renovated 520 Park apartment building will transform into Midtown and Mount Vernon’s first high-end market when Mount Vernon Marketplace opens in spring 2015. As developers of the building, they just received their liquor license for the space, and plan to have 14 vendors specializing in various prepared food, beer, wine, and groceries. Asked what they’ll be modeling it after, Wiker said, “the thing that really sealed the deal for us was when we saw Union Market [in Washington, D.C.].” Having recently visited the two-year-old swank D.C. market, we have to admit that’s a pretty lofty goal—it’s a cornucopia of artisanal food (and well-heeled patrons). Wiker said they have 11 letters of intent but couldn’t divulge specific vendor names. He did expound that “we’ve got a dumpling guy, we have a breakfast place that’s well known in the market, we have folks coming up from D.C. and folks from well-known restaurants in town who are spinning off and doing their own thing. We will have three to five different folks serving alcohol, we have one vendor specifically selling craft beer and wine,” along with other products. When completed, the market will be open from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. with room for 108 indoor seats and a permit for outdoor seating and live entertainment. Additionally, Wiker tells us that the group has just signed a lease with Annapolis’ Ceremony Coffee Roasters to open up a shop within the same building just south of the proposed market. As Wiker explains it, “a lot of the things will be very specific—we wanted our tenants to do one thing and be kick-ass at it.”
Now that Bmore has caught up a bit with the national ramen craze, it seems time to do the same with the city’s French fry game, something The Local Fry hopes they can help with when they open this month. Specializing not just in dipping fries but also a slew of other fried-potato specialties, this BYOB Federal Hill restaurant, located at 21 E. Cross St., will have seating for 35-40 people with bar seats at the front windows and a communal table in the middle. In addition to dipping fries and poutine, co-owner Kevin Irish (who’s opening the space with his wife Elizabeth Irish) says, “We’re trying to make it a whole meal with gourmet toppings . . . almost like a pizza. We’re going to have 12-15 loaded fry options.” Asked why French fries, Irish—who’s originally from Ireland—explained that “everybody likes fries. In Ireland and a lot of places in Europe, fries are a much bigger deal. When we would travel back to Europe, there were dishes we wanted that we couldn’t get in America. So a lot of the dishes are food we really liked [and are putting] on top of the fries. So there’s a lot of Asian cuisines, European, and some Irish. We’re trying to change people’s thinking of ‘oh, this is just fries.’” Asked what sets his chips apart, Irish said, “We have our own special way of cooking them, but we want to keep that a secret . . . but we think this way keeps them extra crispy.”
Six months after Pabu (sadly) closed its doors for the last time, Azumi will be opening in the space with its own take on high-end Japanese cuisine on Dec. 8. Owned and operated by Alex Smith and George Aligeorgas of The Atlas Group—who also own and operate Ouzo Bay—the restaurant’s kitchen, as previously reported by The Baltimore Sun, will be led by chef Eiji Takase. Originally from Tokyo, Takase most recently spent time as executive chef at Japonais in Chicago and Sushisamba in New York City before heading south to lead the culinary direction at The Four Seasons’ Azumi. We recently snuck a peek into the yet-to-be-completed space, and although it didn’t look all that much different than Pabu, the most distinct change is the addition of a massive bar on the right side that is outfitted with a wall full of boldly lit Japanese characters, a stark black and red color palette, and modern bamboo stools.