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Bits & Bites: Baltimore’s Le Comptoir du Vin brings back in-person dining; Matthew’s Pizza gets a new owner who’s an old friend

Of all the post-pandemic restaurant reopenings in Baltimore one place has been large on my radar: Le Comptoir du Vin. The charming French bistro in Station North became one of the city’s most buzzed-about eateries after it opened in late 2018 — making it to Bon Appetit’s “Hot 10″ list and getting rave reviews from critics, myself included. Diners gobbled up reservations a month in advance.

Last year, owners Rosemary Liss and Will Mester pivoted to a carryout bottle and sandwich shop, and kept it that way. Would we ever sit indoors again at the place Esquire dubbed “the sexiest third date spot in America”?

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Co-owners Will Mester and Rosemary Liss stand in the dining room of Le Comptoir du Vin, their French bistro and wine bar on Maryland Avenue in the Station North Arts District.
Co-owners Will Mester and Rosemary Liss stand in the dining room of Le Comptoir du Vin, their French bistro and wine bar on Maryland Avenue in the Station North Arts District. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

So I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped by for a recent carryout order and Liss emerged from the kitchen to reveal her pandemic project. We walked down the stairs of the restaurant — speakeasy style — to a heated, covered patio outside where diners will soon be able to eat and drink. Upstairs, in the dining room, a few tables are now set up for on-premise dining.

This isn’t to say everything at Le Comp is going back to the Before Times.

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Liss seems uneasy with all the attention her rowhouse restaurant has attracted, and was even hesitant to say when Le Comptoir du Vin will reopen, worried they’ll be overwhelmed.

When she and Mester originally took over the former Bottega space on Maryland Avenue, they wanted to create a space where people could drop by for a drink and a bite — not a special occasion spot.

After it reopens this weekend, the restaurant will no longer take reservations. Hours are limited to Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m., though the sandwich shop will continue to operate during the week. The kitchen closes at 10; counter service is available upstairs and table service on the patio. The website calls it a “patio wine bar,” but Liss says food won’t take a back seat.

“Our wine list has expanded, customers need only pick a bottle off our retail shelves and we will add a corkage fee,” Liss explained. When it comes to the food, look for some familiar favorites — with the exception of one. “French Lentils will be officially retired.”

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A pourover coffee at Aveley Farms Coffee Roasters.
A pourover coffee at Aveley Farms Coffee Roasters. (Christina Tkacik)

Aveley Farms Coffee Roasters will close Harbor East shop, open in Towson

Harbor East’s Aveley Farms Coffee Roasters is getting evicted from 1400 Aliceanna St. in Harbor East.

As the BBJ reported, Chasen Companies is looking to redevelop the property as well as another nearby.

But Harbor East fans of the specialty coffee shop, which opened in May of 2019, can take heart. Owner Corey Voelkel is also looking for another storefront in Harbor East.

“We’ve been supported from day one by the Harbor East community,” he said. Meanwhile, Aveley’s roasting operation and training lab will move to a 1350-square-foot industrial space in Owings Mills.

Voelkel is also in the process of opening another Aveley Coffee shop in downtown Towson. Voelkel, who grew up in Towson, declined to provide the address until the lease is signed, but said that when it opens — hopefully by next spring or summer — the new shop will be significantly larger than the 900-square-foot space in Harbor East that doubles as a roaster and coffee shop.

He thinks the new shop will be a welcome addition to the area. Right now, “There’s really only the Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts,” in Towson, said Voelkel. “We’re excited to bring sustainably sourced locally roasted coffee to the county in general.”

The last day for Aveley Coffee Roaster’s Harbor East location will be sometime around the end of the year.

Yes Chef! Local Marketplace coming to Locust Point

The local meal delivery service Yes Chef! is opening a brick and mortar shop at Locust Point’s McHenry Row. The shop opens Friday at 1704 Whetstone Way in Locust Point, formerly the Urban Oyster. Customers will be able to pick up pre-made meals, catering orders and locally-made goods.

The business was founded in 2019 by Jodi and Clint Roze. Previously operating out of the nearby Share Kitchen, Yes Chef! delivers up to 700 meals per week, according to a release.

Hours at the Local Marketplace will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The shop will be closed on Sundays.

Shop owner Courtney Fix poses with a platter of delectables at Full Circle in Hampden. The doughnut shop is closing soon.
Shop owner Courtney Fix poses with a platter of delectables at Full Circle in Hampden. The doughnut shop is closing soon. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Full Circle Doughnuts to close

Hampden’s Full Circle Doughnuts is closing. Founder Courtney Fix shared on Instagram that she is moving to Salt Lake City. “This isn’t a sad ending for me so I don’t want y’all feeling all upset; the shop has always been for smiles,” she wrote in the post.

Fix is currently being sued in connection with posts she made to social media this year. I stopped by the shop last week to pick up some final doughnuts and get some insight, but Fix was not in the chatting mood.

The shop’s last day will be Nov. 28.

Matthew's Pizza has a new owner, Damion DeSantis, whose parents once owned the pizzeria decades ago.
Matthew's Pizza has a new owner, Damion DeSantis, whose parents once owned the pizzeria decades ago. (Amy Davis)

A homecoming for new owner of Matthew’s Pizza

Baltimore’s oldest pizzeria has a new owner: former employee Damion DeSantis, who purchased the business this summer.

For the 42-year-old restaurateur, taking over the Eastern Avenue pizza shop — the oldest pizzeria in Baltimore — “was literally like buying my childhood home back.”

DeSantis’ parents owned Matthew’s Pizza in the 1980s and 1990s, and even got the rights to start selling the same pizza at their restaurant in Perry Hall. The restaurateur’s Highlandtown roots date back even farther. Until a few years ago, he lived above the Venice Tavern, the basement bar his great-great grandparents opened in 1933.

DeSantis has no plans to change the menu at Matthew’s.

“As far as the food goes, nothings going to change,” he said. But he may tone down the decor. “There’s a lot of artwork. To me it seems a little gaudy.”

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