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Food & Drink

Bits & Bites: State Fare owners take over 818 Market, Urban Oyster to open a new spot in Hampden

We’ve been wondering just what exactly is going on at 818 Market for a couple of weeks now. You remember, the Catonsville restaurant and grocery store that shut down abruptly, announcing it would reopen under new management? Well, I have some updates.

The upstairs restaurant remains closed for now, but the lower-level market and cafe are back in business — with an emphasis on adult beverages.

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“We currently are focused on providing great value on a range of beer, wine, and spirits — along with a cafe that offers the convenience of homemade quick bites like sandwiches, sweet treats, and coffees,” said an Instagram post late last week.

That left readers wondering, who was behind all the activity? And was this even allowed according to 818 Market’s liquor license?

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Evan Brown and Keith Holsey, owners of nearby restaurants State Fare, Beaumont Steakhouse and El Guapo, have taken over management of 818 Market, according to Michael Mohler, chief administrator for the Baltimore County liquor board.

Brown and Holsey, who did not respond to a request for comment, are currently operating the market as a deli and cafe and liquor store, an allowed use according to 818 Market’s liquor license.

“They’re trying to decide what to do” with the upstairs restaurant, said Mohler. “They’re not violating anything.”

The acquisition of 818 Market would mark the latest for Brown and Holsey’s rapidly growing restaurant group, Catonsville Hospitality LLC. The duo previously ran Portalli’s in Ellicott City; their Beaumont steakhouse opened last year in Catonsville while El Guapo opened in 2020. State Fare opened in 2019.

I also need to thank readers for sending in your tips and questions about this restaurant and other developments in the Baltimore-area dining scene. I often rely on you to be my eyes and ears in the restaurant world. You can reach me at ctkacik@baltsun.com.

Brick and mortar for Urban Oyster

Big moves are afoot for Urban Oyster.

Owner Jasmine Norton, in case you have forgotten, opened her business selling delectably-dressed and grilled oysters at Baltimore-area farmer’s markets five years ago. She later opened — and then closed — a brick-and-mortar shop at Locust Point’s McHenry Row, before launching The Urban Burger Bar stall in Hampden’s Whitehall Mill. In a pandemic pivot, she temporarily ran Urban Oyster as a ghost kitchen, though that business is now “on hiatus,” she said.

But not for long. Norton plans to open a new Urban Oyster in Hampden this year. She declined to give the exact location for the new restaurant, saying “I don’t want to jinx it.” But she expects to open the doors in July or August.

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News of the new spot will surely be welcome to Norton’s many fans — who have come from as far as Kentucky to try oysters at “the only Black, woman-owned oyster bar in the country.”

“It hurt me so bad when people were saying, ‘Where else can we find you?’” Norton said.

In addition to her trademark oysters, Norton says the new space will sell steamed crabs and burgers. “It’s hard to find steamed crabs in the city,” she said, adding that her own go-to spot is Mr. Bill’s Terrace Inn in Essex. Norton says she’s especially excited to be in Hampden, which she calls “the midpoint between the county and the city.”

As for the future of Urban Burger Bar, which is featured in an episode of the Cooking Channel’s “Food Paradise” that airs Feb. 16, Norton said that the eatery will continue to operate in Whitehall Mill “at least until the new space opens.”

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In the meantime, look for Norton’s Urban Oyster stand at the Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar, which opens April 3.

On Friday, Feb. 18, Norton will celebrate five years in business with a birthday bash at Hampden’s Layers Loft. Tickets are $60 and available on Eventbrite; proceeds will help pay for the build out of the new location in Hampden.

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Norton’s neighbor at Whitehall Market, Amanda Mack, announced she would shut down her Crust by Mack stall in the Hampden food hall and reopen at a larger location in Midtown-Belvedere.

Chicken + Whiskey coming to Columbia

Washington’s South American chicken eatery Chicken + Whiskey will open a new branch at The Mall in Columbia March 14, taking over the space formerly occupied by Urban Plates, which closed in 2021. The restaurant menu is designed by Venezuela native Enrique Limardo and includes arepas, Peruvian rotisserie chicken and 99 different whiskeys.

It will be located next to sister restaurant The Walrus Oyster. Both are owned by Washington-based Star Restaurant Group (SRG).

Des Reilly, principal of SRG, said he’s looking forward to bringing the new concept to Columbia, an area he said has long been saturated with national chains. But that’s changing, with the arrival of locally-owned restaurants like the Food Market and Busboys and Poets.

“The appetite and the demand is here... the truth is the landlords had to be open to it,” Reilly said. “Guess what? We do better than some of the national chains,” he said. “We’re very competitive.”


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