Preserve owners to open beer garden at former Cafe Bretton in Severna Park

Excavators were repaving the parking lot during a recent visit to Garten; the dining room was empty of furniture. Yet it was easy to see Michelle Hoffman’s vision for her new restaurant opening in early October in Severna Park.


Walking through the space, the 38-year-old restaurateur pointed out the future wine shop, which will also sell cheese and meats for neighbors who don’t want to cook dinner. Across the room will be a tile-floored dining area; the fireplace is a holdover from when the building was home to Cafe Bretton, which shut down during the pandemic.

Chef de cuisine Greg Anderson, left, and general manager Chris Walker, right, walk in the garden behind Garten, a new restaurant that is set to open soon in Severna Park.

Garten is both informed by lessons learned during COVID-19 and financed by grants and loans received during the pandemic.


“The thing we learned in COVID-19 is you can’t just do traditional dining anymore,” said Hoffman. “I think that the future of restaurants is very much expanding your streams of revenue by being very creative and ... offering experiences outside of the traditional dining-in,” said Hoffman.

Garten, perhaps, is tradition with a twist.

Since 2015, Hoffman and her husband, Jeremy, have also owned and operated Preserve, a farm-to-table restaurant on Annapolis’ Main Street.

The couple met while attending the Culinary Institute of America, and later moved to Queens, New York, while working at various big-name restaurants — she at Tribeca Grill and Union Square Cafe, he at Nobu and Per Se — in what Hoffman says was “New York City before everyone took pictures of their food.”

Garten, a new restaurant, wine and beer garden, is set to open soon in Severna Park.

Moving to Annapolis to launch Preserve, they were embraced by the community and began something of a food revolution for the more than 300-year-old city.

Far from the tourist traps that line the waterfront, the centrally-located restaurant has become synonymous with innovative and locally sourced fare that’s simultaneously exciting enough for a special occasion and familiar enough for lunch with kids.

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Customers have embraced the Hoffmans, and Preserve, like family. During lockdown, when the restaurant closed, some regulars continued to purchase gift cards at the restaurant for weeks, hoping to help keep their favorite bistro in business.

“It’s humbling,” said Chris Walker, the restaurant’s longtime general manager who is closely involved with the Garten opening.


Walker is overseeing the wine list at Garten, which features exclusively natural wines from places like Georgia (the country, not the state).

Outside, a patio will offer tables and chairs beneath a pergola. A garage-door style window will transform an indoor/outdoor bar out back, with heaters planned for colder months. On tap: a rotating signature brew from Pherm Brewing Company in Gambrills. A garden behind the building will provide not only a pastoral landscape for diners to admire but fresh herbs for chefs to use in the kitchen.

Chris Walker, left, general manager, and Greg Anderson, right, chef de cuisine, look at the grape arbor and garden behind Garten, a new restaurant that is set to open soon in Severna Park.

And there are bees that Hoffman has begun keeping during the pandemic. Should all go according to plan, Garten will use honey she’s harvested from the apiary. (A bee mural adorns the outside of the building, too.)

Guests can expect the menu to be a somewhat streamlined versions of the offerings at Preserve, including sauerkraut and sandwiches and salads. Greg Anderson, the chef de cuisine at both restaurants, calls it: “Familiar food — with a twist.”

It could be Garten’s credo.

A mural painted by Annapolis artist Jeff Huntington adorns the side of Garten, a new restaurant, wine and beer garden that is set to open  in September in Severna Park.