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It was a healthy dining scene in Baltimore this year

Dining was strong in Baltimore area this year

It was another healthy year for Baltimore dining. Each report of a sudden restaurant closing seemed to be followed by the announcement of a hopeful opening.

While neighborhoods like Hampden and Hamilton continued to assert themselves as dining districts, Bryan Voltaggio was focusing his attention on the Inner Harbor, which long ago was a premier dining destination for Baltimore diners but hasn't been for years.

The Frederick-based chef and "Top Chef" alumnus brought his contemporary Italian concept Aggio to Power Plant Live on Water Street in Baltimore. Another Voltaggio restaurant, this one a reprise of the contemporary Frederick diner Family Meal, was announced for a late 2014 opening at the Inner Harbor.

Italian cuisine continued to dominate, with the arrival of Aggio and with the changeover at Pazo from Spanish to Italian cuisine.

Peru was a small thing of its own. The owners of the Italian restaurant Facci opened a Peruvian restaurant named Pisco. And this year's out-of-nowhere success was Puerto 511, Jose Victorio Alarcon's Peruvian restaurant on tiny Clay Street in what is nearly a dining desert, a few blocks from what is now Royal Farms Arena. Most of the restaurant openings were from familiar sources, which made this even more satisfying.

But the year's biggest success story was the impressive growth of the Glen Burnie-based Mission BBQ, which added eight new stores, including locations in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, to its family of patriotic-themed fast-casual barbecue restaurants.

Openings and projects

All year long, established Baltimore restaurateurs were expanding their portfolios. Sometimes they were debuting new restaurant concepts, and sometimes reproducing proven concepts in new places.

One of the year's highlights came from Amy and Spike Gjerde's Foodshed restaurant group (Artifact Coffee, Shoo-Fly Diner and the flagship Woodberry Kitchen), which opened an upbeat and very satisfying combination retail butcher shop and restaurant named Parts & Labor this spring in Remington.

Baltimore-based restaurateurs Cindy Wolfe and Tony Foreman made their first foray into Howard County by bringing a second edition of their popular Roland Park French restaurant to the Columbia lakefront. Petit Louis Bistro opened in February on the ground floor of the Exhibit Building.

Elsewhere in Howard County, Keir and Binda Singh, the Baltimore-based restaurateurs best known for the Ambassador Dining Room in Baltimore's Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood, opened the opulent Ananda in Fulton. And Milton Inn proprietor Brian Boston opened Highland Inn on Highland Road in Highland.

The opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore brought to Baltimore chefs who have national followings from their appearances on various Food Network shows. John Besh and Aaron Sanchez collaborated on a contemporary taqueria named Johnny Sanchez for the casino, and Guy Fieri opened the third location, following ones in Las Vegas and New York City, of his high-energy Kitchen + Bar concept.

The owners of Trinacria, a 105-year-old Italian grocery and deli on Paca Street, opened Trinacria Italian Cafe on the corner of Centre Street and Park Avenue in Mount Vernon. And Cafe Poupon, a cafe version of Joseph Poupon's Baltimore Street patisserie, opened in March in the downtown storefront space adjoining the Grand Historic Venue.

Some new projects were just blocks away from the originals. In Fells Point, the team behind Bond Street Social opened a contemporary Mexican restaurant named Barcocina in the old Shuckers space on Brown's Wharf. The owners of Alexander's Tavern on Broadway opened Papi's Tacos Joint right around the corner on Aliceanna Street. And the owner of One-Eyed Mike's on Bond Street opened Lobo on the nearby corner of Aliceanna and Wolfe streets.

The owners of the popular Pappas seafood restaurants in Parkville and Glen Burnie added a Cockeysville location, taking over the old Patrick's location on Cranbrook Road. And Fazzini's Italian Kitchen closed its longtime Cranbrook Road eatery and reopened as Fazzini's Taverna on York Road in the old Piv's location.

Arturo Ottaviano, owner of Osteria 177 in Annapolis, opened a new restaurant named Arturo's Trattoria in the Crain Highway space that was for decades the memorable Trattoria Alberto.

And finally, Oregon Grille owner Ted Bauer reopened the old Valley Inn in Brooklandville.

Closings and transitions

The Japanese restaurant Pabu and the coffee shop Lamill were shut down at the Four Seasons Baltimore Hotel in June. Both spaces were taken over by Alex Smith's Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group, and the old Pabu space reopened Dec. 8 as a fine-dining Japanese restaurant named Azumi.

The Woman's Industrial Kitchen, the latest attempt to revive what had been the historic lunch operation housed within the Woman's Industrial Exchange building on North Charles Street, closed after a 21/2-year run.

Other notable closings were the Candle Light Inn and Regions in Catonsville, Oliver Speck's Eats and Drinks in Little Italy, Mr. Rain's Fun House at the American Visionary Art Museum and Jesse Wong's Kitchen in Hunt Valley.

A few familiar names resurfaced with new projects. Galen Sampson, who closed the doors on The Dogwood Restaurant in 2013, opened the Farmstead Grill, a new farm-to-table restaurant at The Shops at Canton Crossing. David Sherman, who ran the Japanese-Spanish fusion restaurant Nasu Blanca in Riverside, returned this spring with a Hampden cafe named Cafe Cito.

Lisa Heckman and Peter Wood sold their Mount Vernon restaurant Iggies in July and opened a Towson pizzeria named Local Pie in December. And Max Eggerl, the last owner of Blob's Park, the beloved 81-year-old Jessup beer garden that played its last polka this spring, opened the Bavarian Brauhaus in the Hanover location that was formerly a Gunnings seafood restaurant.

Notable deaths

Nelson Carey, the popular owner of the Grand Cru wine bar at Belvedere Square, died, suddenly, in July. He was 50 years old.

Anastasios "Tom" Kokkinakos, a co-owner of Maria's, a longtime pizza shop in Govans, died in September at age 74. Ethel Lineburg, a longtime Arbutus resident and co-owner of the former Leon's Triple L Restaurant, died in July at age 81, a few months after the death of her husband, Leon Leroy Lineburg. He was 82. The couple had been married for 55 years.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

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