Jimmy’s Restaurant in Fells Point has new owners, and the restaurant — soon to be called Denzel’s Shark Bar Grill — is poised to take on flavors from the Caribbean and the American South.
Seafood gumbo, jerk salmon, paella and chicken curry will all be on the menu, said Denzil Richards, the restaurant’s new owner. But, Richards said he plans to retain go-to American breakfast dishes — eggs, toast, pancakes — in the Jimmy’s spirit.
“We want to still keep that nostalgia of the breakfast business, and still support the community that’s been here with Jimmy’s,” said Richards, who purchased the property with his wife, Nedine, for about $1 million.
Richards, who’s from Jamaica, did much of his training as a chef in New York restaurants, but has also worked in Northern Virginia and has family ties to the area.
The Richards will offer Caribbean food alongside Maryland favorites like crabcakes, Richards said.
“I‘m excited about the Caribbean dishes,” Richards said. “It is something that is dear to my heart ... We’re going to be offering something that no other restaurant in here is going to be offering. That’s going to be very exciting to see people coming out and trying these dishes.
“So, for breakfast, folks can come in, they can have their American favorites and if folks want to try something different ... my wife will be in the dining room, they can ask her, and she will be more than happy to explain some of the Caribbean dishes.”
Sweet plantains, green bananas, fried dumplings and callaloo — a vegetable dish that’s comparable to spinach — are all likely to make an appearance on the menu, too, Richards said.
Richards said he and his wife are hoping to complete the necessary permits and ready the restaurant in six to eight weeks. The couple isn’t planning to make many changes to Jimmy’s interior, save a fresh coat of paint here and there, he said.
They did decide, however, to change Jimmy’s name. They chose “Denzel,” the American spelling made famous by Oscar winner Denzel Washington, instead of Richards’ Caribbean spelling, in hopes of keeping the name recognizable. They added “Shark” to hint at the seafood that will dominate the menu.
Vegetarians, vegans and seafood haters alike will have a place at Denzel’s, though, Richards said. He’s hoping to allow customers to build their own veggie dishes, featuring rice, black beans, grilled vegetables and plant-based sauces.
“I know some customers may not like one particular vegetable, and then you as a chef may organize and design a particular dish with a particular type of vegetables into it. And then, in the middle of service a customer will come in and they will dissect the dish,” he said. “So it is better.”
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“It’s very rich in its culture and it has this old world charm about it,” Richards said. “And it’s also in a very very heavy foot traffic area for tourists during the summer months.”
Currently, though, indoor and outdoor dining in the city is prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Baltimore City was one of few jurisdictions in Maryland to renew such restrictions in December as cases continued to rise, over fears that diners were at increased risk to spread COVID-19 since they must remove their masks.
Richards said he’s hopeful that the virus’s spread will decline and restrictions will loosen in Baltimore and around the country as more and more Americans are vaccinated.
“It’s perfect to get going now while you can get in on a business at a lower rate,” Richards said.
“When the numbers are starting to come back down and it’s OK enough for people to go out without a mask on, OK for people to go back out and have a nice meal or go to the mall without fear, it’ll be like a floodgate.”