The chef previously behind Herb & Soul Cafe is opening a new restaurant in downtown Baltimore that will serve modern soul food while paying homage to a 19th-century African-American journalist and civil rights activist.
Chef David Thomas is partnering with the Real News Network to open Ida B.'s Table. The 6,000-square-foot restaurant will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner from the Real News Network's building at 235 Holliday St.
The restaurant is named for Ida B. Wells, an African-American journalist and activist in the 1890s. Thomas said the restaurant is aiming to open in July to celebrate her birthday (July 16).
Thomas previously owned Herb & Soul in Parkville and a corresponding food truck. He sold them in 2015.
"I was looking for another project to work on and that's how — through my other business and the following that I had kind of gathered there — someone from the Real News staff told the CEO about it," Thomas said.
The 6,000-square-foot restaurant will seat between 160 and 190 patrons between its bar, dining room, private dining room and parlor room. Ida B.'s Table will also house a stage for live music on weekends.
Ida B.'s Table will serve Thomas' take on modern soul food.
"I'm now looking at that as what is the next stage in this long evolution of history of this Southern food?" Thomas said. "The approach is really going back to the roots."
For him, that means sourcing locally and placing an emphasis on presentation.
"Southern food or soul food really has not had the best reputation in terms of plating and presentation, so now it's our job to redirect that and make that plate look more appealing," Thomas said. "You couple that with local sustainable sourcing."
Some of the dishes on the menu include Navajo fry bread tacos and black-eyed pea scrapple.
The restaurant will offer casual counter service for breakfast and lunch, with more of a fine-dining dinner experience.
"The later you go into the evening, the service and the food elevates," Thomas said.
Thomas' wife, Tonya Thomas, will serve as the restaurant's general manager.
Crews are installing flooring, painting ceilings and finishing the last elements of major construction. Thomas expects Kitchen equipment to arrive and be installed in the next two to three weeks, after which his team will begin training.
As the final touches are put on the space, diners can get a preview of Ida B.'s menu this weekend.
Thomas will host a pop-up brunch at Cardinal Tavern (901 S. Clinton St.) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The brunch is part of the restaurant's Last Saturday Brunch Series and one in a four-part series on farmers and sustainability. Saturday's brunch will feature a four-course tasting and two drinks from Diamondback Brewing Co. Tickets, available through Eventbrite, are $35 each.
Ida B.'s Table will tentatively be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays for breakfast, lunch and happy hour; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.
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