Two weeks ago, my column was all about Baltimore restaurants that are venturing beyond the city’s borders. But local food businesses are growing at home, as well.
In today’s Bits & Bites, I have news about a new ghost kitchen concept from the chef behind Duck Duck Goose and No Way Rosé, as well as an update about a Baltimore chocolatier’s next steps.
I also have some more insight into the recent closure of Hampden’s Five & Dime Ale House. Plus, a Washington, D.C.-based boozy boating business is expanding to Charm City and Annapolis.
Duck Duck Burger
Fans of the foie gras burger at Duck Duck Goose in Fells Point will be pleased to know that Chef Ashish Alfred has more patties up his sleeve.
Alfred recently launched Good Ducking Burger, a ghost kitchen that focuses exclusively on burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a ghost kitchen refers to a delivery-only food concept that doesn’t offer sit-down dining and often shares another restaurant’s kitchen space).
Alfred, who specializes in French cuisine at Duck Duck Goose, said the burger concept is an opportunity for him to flex a different kind of culinary muscle. Some of the menu items — like the Delhi Hot Fried Chick, a fried chicken sandwich with butter chicken sauce, green chutney and yogurt aioli — reflect his own heritage as a second-generation Indian American. The Pato Del Sur burger, topped with plantains and a sunny-side-up egg, is a nod to the Peruvian roots of one of his cooks, while the Basic Ducking Burger serves up an American classic.
“This is a really fun way for me to express myself outside the lines,” Alfred said. “This is really me between two buns.”
Good Ducking Burger launched in mid-March and offers delivery throughout Baltimore City on Wednesdays through Sundays. Alfred hopes to bring the concept to other cities in the future. Washington, D.C. will likely be a first stop.
“I want to have 150 locations one day,” the chef said.
More on the Five & Dime closure
March 19 was the last chance to dine at Five & Dime. The Hampden ale house closed after more than six years in business in the former G.C. Murphy five-and-dime store on the Avenue, as my colleague Dan Belson reported over the weekend.
I checked in with Justin Dvorkin, a partner at 206 Restaurant Group, which owned the neighborhood tavern, for some more insight into the decision to close.
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic had a hand in the restaurant’s end. Dvorkin told me that Five & Dime thrived on private event business pre-COVID, but struggled when gatherings slammed to a halt. The restaurant was closed for about a year during the height of the pandemic.
The restaurant’s large footprint — 12,000 square feet — also meant steep overhead costs. Dvorkin said his restaurant group invested more than $2 million building out the dining space and then doubled down a few years later, buying the property for $2.2 million in 2018 according to property records.
“When we didn’t have those big private events coming in, it became a challengingly large space that does have high overhead,” Dvorkin said.
He and his business partners thought about rebranding the tavern, but ultimately decided to sell the building instead. Five & Dime staff were offered jobs at a sister restaurant, the Pratt Street Ale House, and most accepted the offer, Dvorkin said.
The downtown spot is gearing up for Orioles Opening Day and the launch of the newly renovated CFG Bank Arena. The 206 Restaurant Group also has restaurants in Anne Arundel County, including spots like Park Tavern, Donnelly’s Dockside and JB’s.
“We just decided that the best scenario for us was probably to step aside and let somebody else take over,” Dvorkin said. “As a company, we are very encouraged with what the future holds and the momentum of our other locations, and we’re disappointed we had to say goodbye to this one.”
Sweet news for Jinji’s
Pure Chocolate By Jinji just marked nine years in business at Belvedere Square Market, and the chocolatier is celebrating with an expansion.
Founder Jinji Fraser took to Instagram to announce she will open a store at 3100 Greenmount Ave. in Waverly later this year. The new brick-and-mortar will have a chocolate drinking bar, a retail area and room to accommodate production operations, from truffle-making to a bean-to-bar program. Fraser said the shop might host classes, as well.
An opening date has not been set, but Fraser said it will likely be “in a few months.”
“We’re so excited to have gotten to this point in what we’re doing, that we’re still here 10 years later which is in no small part due to our community,” she said, adding that opening the chocolate shop represents a “next phase” for the business founded in 2012.
“I want it to be this landing ground for our ideas and connections and dreams and everything that’s exciting — not only for us but for everyone that we touch along the way.”
A booze cruise pedals into the Inner Harbor
We all know and love the dragon boats floating around the Inner Harbor. But if you want to drink a beer while you pedal, a D.C.-based company will soon offer the option to do just that.
In April, Sea Suite Cruises will launch a passenger pedal boat with a bar in the center that can be rented for parties and events. The 30-foot, catamaran-style boat can hold up to 20 passengers and has 10 “cycle stations” that propel the boat forward. (The boat has a motor, too, in case the group gets tired of pedaling).
The cruises will be organized by Paddle Club Baltimore, an extension of Sea Suites Cruises, which also operates the Potomac Paddle Club and the Potomac Tiki Club in Washington as well as Paddle Club RVA in Richmond, Virginia. The company was founded by childhood friends and Arlington, Virginia natives Jack Maher and Jack Walten.
The company also has plans to offer boat rentals in Annapolis. The Naptown Tiki Club will hit the water next month and will offer a slightly different experience with a motorized tiki bar boat that can hold eight to 16 passengers. Cruises will travel through Ego Alley, under the Eastport Bridge and down Spa Creek, with views of the Naval Academy.
“Baltimore and Annapolis are iconic locations with incredible sightseeing opportunities, primed for cruising along the water,” Walten said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming groups at both locations that are looking for a unique outing, a new adventure in their own backyard and a memorable way to celebrate with colleagues, friends and family.”
In Baltimore, cruises will launch from Harborview Marina, next to Little Havana in Federal Hill. One-hour-and-45-minute boat rentals will cost between $39 to $54 per person, depending on group size, and come with a captain and deckhand. Parties bring their own booze and snacks.