The former executive chef at Petit Louis will open La Cuchara, a Basque restaurant in the Meadow Mill complex this summer.
The chef is Ben Lefenfeld, a veteran of the Foreman Wolf restaurant group, who also worked at Charleston and who helped Foreman Wolf open Johnny's.
Lefenfeld has signed a lease with Eutaw Property Enterprises at Meadow Mill, which was built by the sailcloth manufacturer William Hooper Co. in 1877 and whose most notable tenant was the London Fog company.
The 185-seat restaurant will the occupy the first floor of the mill's "packer house," a space that has never been accessible to the general public. Lefenfeld said it was ideal for the communal feeling he wanted to create.
La Cuchara will specialize in the cuisine of the Basque region and particularly the kind of food found in typical "asadors" and "pinxto bars." The specialty at an asador, Lefenfeld said, is grilled meats, and La Cuchara will include a wood-fired grill with movable racks.
Pinxto bars serve "pinxtos," which are similar to tapas, but Lefenfeld said that pinxtos are smaller than tapas. They tend to be a one-bite skewer of meats and peppers.
The name, La Cuchara, is Spanish for "spoon."
"The name embodies a lot of what we're trying to do," Lefenfeld said. "The spoon is the simplest apparatus. The cuisine of Northern Spain and Southern France is simple. Not too many dishes have more than a few ingredients."
Before joining the Foreman Wolf team, Lefenfeld trained in Washington with Gerard Pangaud, the youngest chef ever to receive a Michelin 2-star rating.
The chef, who was born in Baltimore and grew up in Columbia, will operate the 185-seat restaurant, La Cuchara, with his wife, Amy Lefenfeld, and his brother, Jacob Lefenfeld.