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Bits & Bites: The skinny on slimmed-down menus; Good Neighbor to add hotel; a new place to find North Carolina BBQ

Bits & Bites highlights news and notes from the Baltimore area’s restaurant and dining scene.

First, here’s the scoop on a new hotel coming to Hampden. Then, let’s pick up some North Carolina barbecue in Federal Hill and figure out whose face is on the mural at Muir’s Tavern. Plus, hate the trend of abbreviated menus at local restaurants? Don’t hold your breath, it may be here to stay.

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Good Neighbor on Falls Road in Hampden offers coffee, tea, wine, beer and light food, as well as ceramics, furniture, textiles, plants and books, all with a modern design flair.
Good Neighbor on Falls Road in Hampden offers coffee, tea, wine, beer and light food, as well as ceramics, furniture, textiles, plants and books, all with a modern design flair. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Sleepover at Good Neighbor

Can’t get enough of Good Neighbor? The Hampden coffee and housewares shop is set to extend its operating hours during the week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You may soon be able to sleep there. Owner Shawn Chopra says he is hoping to bring a 7-unit hotel to the second and third floors of the building on Falls Road, which was formerly a hardware store. Chopra said the project has the support of the Hampden Community Council. A hearing before the city’s zoning department is set for Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.

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If the project gets the OK, Chopra says the hotel could open as early as next summer. “We’re super excited,” he said. “We think the area deserves a place for people to stay.”

Also starting this fall, Good Neighbor is introducing weekend “intimate dinners” prepared by head chef Durian Neal. Groups of 8-20 can book the space and have the entire restaurant to themselves.

Restaurant menus get trimmed

Limited menus have disappointed some diners lately. Many businesses lack the back of house staff to prepare their usual roster of dishes. What’s more, restaurants have had problems sourcing everything from chicken to container lids, says publicist Dave Seel of Blue Fork Marketing. For them, a brief menu will be both more cost-effective and easier to execute.

Seel thinks the slimmed-down menu trend may stick, given supply chain disruptions. Operations haven’t ”fully returned to normal for a lot of these food and beverage businesses,” he said. “I don’t know if that is necessarily going to improve” anytime soon, he said.

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Supply chain issues aren’t limited to small, local businesses, of course. Seel mentioned that during a recent visit to Chipotle, the chain store was out of basics like lettuce. For one day this month, many Baltimore-area Dunkins said they had no doughnuts to sell customers.

Owners Jacqueline and Stephan Murphy relocated to Baltimore from La Plata, Southern Maryland, bringing with them their recipes for homemade North Carolina barbecue.
Owners Jacqueline and Stephan Murphy relocated to Baltimore from La Plata, Southern Maryland, bringing with them their recipes for homemade North Carolina barbecue. (Christina Tkacik)

North Carolina barbecue via La Plata

The pandemic has not been easy for restaurant owners Jacqueline Murphy and her husband, Stephan. The couple, who previously lived in Southern Maryland, shut down their La Plata eatery, Johnny Boy’s, after Jacqueline contracted COVID-19 from a customer. She was sick for more than two months. “It was painful,” she said. “I was scared to lay down” because breathing was so difficult.

To start their next chapter, the couple relocated to Baltimore, where they have family and had previously sold during events like Artscape and the Farmer’s Market and Bazaar. A few weeks ago, they opened a new restaurant in Federal Hill, Smokin’ Joe’s, at 1448 Light St., previously the Blooming Deli. The eatery sells ribs, pit beef, brisket and North Carolina chopped barbecue, which comes with a spicy, vinegar-based sauce.

The restaurant is named for Jacqueline’s father. Like many in her hometown of Rocky Mount, N.C., he was a barbecue master — rising early in the morning to get the meat going. The smells drew everyone from the neighborhood.

Cross Street at a crossroads

There are so many new businesses opening in Federal Hill’s Cross Street it’s hard to keep track. A reader observed that two new bars have just opened next door to each other: Cross Street Public House, which sells Detroit-style pizza in the former Stalking Horse, and Nola Seafood and Spirits, which is bringing New Orleans vibes to the former Ryleigh’s Oyster. In addition, two-story Watershed from the Atlas Restaurant Group opened in the Cross Street Market earlier this year.

Nearby, construction looks to be just about complete on No Way Rosé, a French bistro-inspired restaurant from Duck Duck Goose owner Ashish Alfred. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Alfred has been an outspoken figure during the pandemic, taking on issues like the high commissions charged by delivery apps and joining in the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s failed lawsuit to allow indoor dining over the winter months.

A new mural outside Fort Ave.'s Muir's Tavern depicts former owner Roland "Brother" Muir.
A new mural outside Fort Ave.'s Muir's Tavern depicts former owner Roland "Brother" Muir. (Christina Tkacik)

Familiar faces

At the same time that so many new businesses are arriving, one generations-old bar is honoring its roots.

This week, artist Thomas Pearce, whose work is on view at Federal Hill’s Blue Moon Too, placed the finishing touches on a mural outside Muir’s Tavern on Fort Avenue. The work depicts the face of Roland “Brother” Muir,” a longtime owner who died around 2018. The pub is one of Baltimore’s oldest family-run bars, having opened in 1944.

This is a sushi roll combination at <a href="http://findlocal.baltimoresun.com/listings/xs-baltimore">XS</a> on Charles Street. "The Monster" is on the left; "Tornado" is on the right.
This is a sushi roll combination at XS on Charles Street. "The Monster" is on the left; "Tornado" is on the right. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Reopenings

Mt. Vernon sushi fans will be happy to hear that XS, located at 1307 N. Charles Street, is reopening after shutting down at the pandemic’s onset. Look for a streamlined menu — no more all-day brunch — with upgraded cocktail offerings designed by mixologist Chelsea Gregoire, whose own Church bar is set to open in Old Goucher. Try the “Yuzu Spritz” made with vodka, yuzu sake and orange blossom tea.

Have a tip about a new restaurant? Email ctkacik@baltsun.com

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