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Table Talk: The dining stories to watch in 2011

Burke's Restaurant didn't make it into 2011 — the downtown institution served its last onion rings in the final days of 2010. But most of the area's big dining stories of 2011 we won't know about until they happen; that's the way of the world.

There are a few stories that began developing last year (or even longer ago) that should be heading to some kind of a conclusion this year. We should be hearing soon about Bryan Voltaggio's plans for a second restaurant that he intends to open in Frederick, a more casual alternative to Volt. The owners of Aldo's in Little Italy are close to announcing a spinoff restaurant, too.

County diners are waiting to see if the sale of the Valley Inn to the Oregon Grille's Ted Bauer will go through, and what he'll do with the old dowager if it does. By the end of last year, construction had either stalled or had slowed to a snail's pace at the old Admiral's Cup, now in the Kali's Group (Kali's Court, Tapas Adela, Meli) and at the old Orchard Inn, which is now in the Mo's Seafood family. Construction on The Chesapeake restaurant will likely not be completed before the end of 2011, and no date has been set for the reopening for the restaurants disabled in the Dec. 7 Mount Vernon fire, Donna's, Indigma, and My Thai.

The Hippodrome will soon be announcing the headliner(s) for its second annual Foodie Experience. The first one last May, featuring Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, was a big success, in no small part because of those chefs' easy rapport with the audience and each other. Baltimore Green Works is pursuing at least one big-name celebrity judge for its third annual EcoBall, scheduled this year for March 18, an event that features a "Top Chef"-inspired cooking competition among Baltimore International College students.

The only certain restaurant closing of 2011 is Obrycki's, which will finish up its 65-year run on Pratt Street in November, the restaurant's owners have announced.

Winter restaurant promotions

The first big event of 2011 is just around the corner. Both Baltimore City and Baltimore County will be launching their winter dining promotions, which are still quaintly called "Restaurant Weeks." The county's version, its first winter edition, begins on Jan. 14 and runs through Jan. 28. The city's promotion runs from Jan. 21 through Jan. 30.

The county's first attempt at a seasonal promotion, which debuted in the summer, didn't really have county-wide representation; it was confined mostly to the northern communities. The latest promotion, thought, spreads to the southeast reaches of Middle River and Essex, but not, as far as I can tell, to western communities — notably absent are Catonsville Gourmet, Matthew's 1600, and Regions. The list (baltimorecountyrestaurantweek.com) was still being finalized this week.

The county's promotion includes an innovation worth noting. Participating restaurants can fix their promotional multicourse prices at $35.11, $30.11 or $25.11 for dinner and at $20.11, $15.11 or $10.11 for lunch. Obviously, this allows inclusion of restaurants that wouldn't normally be able to participate meaningfully in a one-fixed-price-fits-all promotion. Some diners might see a downside to this inclusiveness, though; elsewhere, seasonal dining promotions are designed to showcase the cream of an area's restaurant crop.

The city's promotion (baltimorerestaurantweek.com) will offer fixed price dinners for $35.11 and lunches for $20.11. There looks to still be the critical mass of participants an event like this depends on, but there do appear to be some notable omissions this year, restaurants that have participated before but aren't showing up on the current roster, at least not yet. Among them are Abacrombie, Brewer's Art, B&O Brasserie and Chameleon Cafe.

Every year you hear rumblings about Restaurant Week Fatigue, but these promotions continue to be successful.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

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