Foreman Wolf is taking over the Milton Inn, which shut down last year amid coronavirus difficulties. The restaurant, Foreman Wolf’s first in Baltimore County, is set to open this spring.
The Baltimore restaurant group founded by Tony Foreman and chef Cindy Wolf acquired the historic property late last year.
The restaurant has long been an institution of the area’s dining scene, with various generations of ownership in its 70 years. Most recent was chef Brian Boston, who took over in 1997. Boston shut it down last year at the start of the pandemic, saying in a statement posted to the restaurant’s website that COVID-19 “was one challenge I couldn’t overcome. Our financial losses are overwhelming and I find it impossible to reopen.”
When the historic property became available, Foreman said he jumped at the chance to purchase it. “Very simply, it’s very exciting,” Foreman said. “It deserves our best work.”
The 18th century fieldstone building at 14833 York Road sits on a nearly 4-acre property in Sparks. In a statement, Wolf called it “a dream restaurant,” and recalled visiting it as a young chef when she still lived in South Carolina. “A house, made out of stone. Working fireplaces in all of the rooms. So many windows!”
The restaurant’s new head chef and business partner will be Chris Scanga, 31, currently executive chef at Foreman Wolf-owned Petit Louis Bistro in Roland Park. After a year of terrible news for the restaurant industry, Scanga said the reopening represents a “glimmer of hope” in Baltimore.
Under his direction, the restaurant’s new seasonally focused menu will bear French influences at what he says will be a price point similar to those at Petit Louis. He hopes to grow at least some of the ingredients for the restaurant on the land. “We always like to have the freshest ingredients,” he said. “If you have the space, why not grow some of your own stuff?”
The Lutherville native has a personal connection to the restaurant. As an 18-year-old, he ate his first-ever fine dining meal at the Milton Inn before heading to study at New York’s Culinary Institute of America. He still remembers what he ate — down to the amuse-bouche, salmon mousse with puff pastry.
The building, which seats about 100 people inside and 30 outside, is in good condition despite being vacant for several months, Foreman said. The previous owners “left the tables set and walked out the door,” he said. Designer Katie Destefano is in charge of décor. “There’s certainly work to do to get the space to feel the way we want it to feel,” Foreman said.
But opening a restaurant in the COVID-19 era requires more than just an innovative menu and design: there will be face masks and hand sanitizers, too. Scanga said his time working at Petit Louis during the pandemic will help shape how he approaches the task of running a restaurant this spring, for example, by increasing attention to health and hygiene. “If there is a market for take-away food, perhaps we will continue that over there,” he said.
The Milton Inn will be Foreman Wolf’s first restaurant in Baltimore County. The group’s flagship restaurant, Charleston, sits in the city’s Harbor East neighborhood. Last fall, they opened Cindy Lou’s Fish House in The Canopy by Hilton, a new hotel in Harbor Point. Lupa, an earlier restaurant in Howard County, shut down in 2019. That restaurant had replaced a second branch of Petit Louis in Columbia.
Foreman said the new place isn’t a signal that he’s leaving Baltimore behind. “I have six businesses in the city — they’re not going anywhere. Unless we don’t get to operate again.” On-premises dining is currently banned in city restaurants, an issue that’s been controversial among some business owners, who attempted to sue to reopen them. Restaurants in Baltimore County are limited to 50% capacity indoors.
Although he had been on the lookout for a space to buy a property since before the pandemic, Foreman said the decision to purchase made even more sense in light of the coronavirus. The revenue losses resulting from the pandemic have led business owners who rent space to seek more favorable terms with their landlords and in some cases move to new locations. Foreman Wolf rents space for its restaurants in Baltimore.
Foreman also praised Baltimore County leadership for its help in getting the new restaurant off the ground. “We had really great help from Johnny O’s office,” he said, referring to Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. In a statement, Olszewski called the restaurant a local “institution” for generations of residents and said he was “thrilled that a new generation will now be able to make their memories there.”