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Bits & Bites: Darker Than Blue returns to Baltimore, plans for karaoke bar hit a sour note, and a new bakery is set to open in Hampden

It didn’t take long for me to get sick of Thanksgiving leftovers. Some folks can eat the same meal for days at a time, not me. I can eat the same meal twice, but on the third night I’m ordering carryout.

Perhaps I’ve become spoiled by how easy restaurants have made it to order online. Can you imagine what a pain it would have been to order a single slice of cake from a restaurant before the pandemic? For one thing, you’d have had to pick up the phone.

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Here’s hoping the new bakery coming to Hampden takes my call — or better yet, has online ordering. Ditto for the beloved soul food restaurant returning to Baltimore. Also: Hampden residents really, really don’t want a karaoke bar on Falls Road.

Casey Jenkins, owner of Darker Than Blue Cafe, plans to reopen the restaurant in a new location in Mt. Vernon.
Casey Jenkins, owner of Darker Than Blue Cafe, plans to reopen the restaurant in a new location in Mt. Vernon. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Darker Than Blue makes a comeback

Eight years after it closed on Greenmount Avenue, soul food eatery Darker Than Blue is making a comeback in Baltimore. This time, it’s at a new location: 413 N. Charles Street in Mt. Vernon.

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After opening on Dec. 3, the intimate, 40-seat restaurant will conjure up memories of the Harlem Renaissance, with a menu that includes shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and blackened catfish.

“My original restaurant was very popular, but it was a little ahead of its time,” owner Casey Jenkins said in a news release. “Now, the entire city understands the cuisine and the culture, now is our time to really shine.”

Hampden residents oppose karaoke bar on Falls Road

Baltimore’s zoning board voted down plans for a karaoke bar on Falls Road Tuesday after hearing complaints from residents and a member of the City Council.

The location is 4001 Falls Road in Hampden, a former garage where developer Wayne Laing told the board he plans to bring “a unique concept,” including an open-air courtyard space and indoor karaoke bar and restaurant.

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Laing, who also owns the 13.5% Wine Bar on West 36th Street, said “There isn’t anything similar in the neighborhood and I’m excited to bring it forth.”

The project, tentatively titled Empty Orchestra, will feature multiple, private rooms for 10-12 guests each, according to spokesman Lou Catelli. The building is also home to Red Fish Liquors, which will remain on the street level at the site.

But around 10 neighbors spoke out against the project Tuesday at the zoning board’s virtual hearing, expressing concerns about the impact on parking and plans to keep the bar open until midnight or later. Several said that noise from the business — and plans to have karaoke on site —would destroy the residential feel of the area.

“Any live entertainment at this location is inappropriate and invasive,” said resident Steven Loew. He read a letter from his neighbors Evan Parker and Marci Brewer: “We find Wayne’s repeated requests to have operating hours into the early morning to be like a new neighbor moving in and telling the surrounding residents, ‘Hi, I’m going to be having around 100 people every night.’”

Responding to the neighbors’ testimony, Laing said residents “basically want me to open six hours a day. To open at four and close at 10 doesn’t make any sense.”

Democratic City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who represents Hampden, also opposed the project, saying that despite multiple rounds of negotiations, residents and business developers haven’t been able to come to a compromise.

The board voted two to two on the project; three votes are needed to move forward.

Catelli said despite the board’s voting down the karaoke bar, the location is already zoned to allow a restaurant. He expects to open next summer. “I guess we’ll have to move forward without microphones.”

Loew said the neighbors will continue to protest the project.

New bakery coming to Full Circle spot

Meanwhile, a new bakery is coming to the former Full Circle Doughnuts shop on Hampden’s Chestnut Avenue, according to a post on Instagram. As first reported in the BBJ, owner Caitlin Kiehl will bring Maillard Pastries to the storefront.

You may have already tried Kiehl’s pastries without realizing it: the Charleston and Woodberry Kitchen alum has sold her goodies at local shops like Cafe Los Suenos in Remington, Good Neighbor in Hampden and Sophomore Coffee.

Foraged sets an opening date

Foraged, which recently closed its Hampden location, is already accepting reservations at its new spot in Station North. The restaurant arrives to the former Orto space Dec. 7, according to a publicist.

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