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The year in dining: New restaurants and stronger support systems for Baltimore’s food industry

Nacole Lee, owner of Frucasion Fruit Boutique, carves a watermelon as her husband, Robert Lee, covers a cut fruit arrangement. They are working in B-More Kitchen, a food incubator that provides members with commercial kitchen space and services to help small businesses grow.
Nacole Lee, owner of Frucasion Fruit Boutique, carves a watermelon as her husband, Robert Lee, covers a cut fruit arrangement. They are working in B-More Kitchen, a food incubator that provides members with commercial kitchen space and services to help small businesses grow.(Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore's restaurant landscape continued to flourish in 2016 as more eateries opened and more structures emerged to support the growth of chefs and food endeavors.

Spaces for small food businesses to grow took root in Baltimore, including the opening of the B-more Kitchen incubator in North Baltimore in September and Remington's R. House food hall this month. The Baltimore Coffee Alliance was also created to support the development of local baristas.

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A number of Baltimore chefs made moves this year. Cinghiale got a new chef, James Lewandowski, after Julian Marucci left to work with Atlas Restaurant Group, where he will help rebrand Ten Ten American Bistro and Fleet Street Kitchen next year. Also within the Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, Ryan Shaffner joined Johnny's as the new executive chef, after David Garcia Reyes' short stint as head chef and partner earlier in the year.

Diners in 2016 enjoyed more avenues than ever before to have their food delivered. Both Amazon Prime and UberEATS launched in Baltimore, adding to existing options like OrderUp. Meanwhile, city food trucks challenged regulations that prohibit them from operating within 300 feet of restaurants. Local food truck operators also pushed for legislation to streamline their health inspections statewide, a measure that will be revisited next year.

The city saw a number of notable restaurant openings, and among them, more restaurants opening with higher prices — such as the French restaurant Colette in Station North, or Mill No. 1's Sicilian and Southern Italian restaurant Cosima — were commonplace.

A view of the new Cosima restaurant in Mill No. 1 from the front door.
A view of the new Cosima restaurant in Mill No. 1 from the front door.(Greg Haughey / Baltimore Sun)

New restaurants seemed to outnumber closures in 2016. On the east side of the harbor, Gnocco opened its doors in Brewers Hill, along with Gunther & Co. Nearby in Canton, La Folie Steak Frites & Wine bar opened where Tavern on the Square closed; Saute was transformed to Lee's Pint & Shell; and Jokers and Thieves was changed to Southern Provisions. In Butchers Hill, chef Malcolm Mitchell opened both Ryder's and Butchers Hill Society in the span of several months.

Although some Fells Point spots like Smashburger closed, the neighborhood got its share of new restaurants, including Sammy's Enoteca, 8 Ball Meatball, Points South Latin Kitchen and Sajhoma Restaurant. Woody's Cantina was refashioned from Woody's Rum Bar & Grille. And Ekiben opened its first brick-and-mortar location.

The grand shellfish tower at Loch Bar includes 12 oysters, 12 clams, 6 mussels, half a lobster, Alaskan king crab, 6 shrimp, scallop carpaccio and Bigeye tuna poke.
The grand shellfish tower at Loch Bar includes 12 oysters, 12 clams, 6 mussels, half a lobster, Alaskan king crab, 6 shrimp, scallop carpaccio and Bigeye tuna poke.(Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

In Harbor East, the first-floor Agora Market at the Inn at the Black Olive was reconfigured into Agora Bar & Grille. And Loch Bar opened at the Four Seasons Baltimore. Nearby, Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group closed Pazo and quickly transformed the space into the Argentine restaurant Bar Vasquez.

In Little Italy, Little India opened in a space left vacant by India Rasoi, and Mugs' Italian Bistro reopened its doors under new ownership.

Across the harbor in Federal Hill, Cowboys & Rednecks was rebranded under new ownership as Wayward Southern Bar & Kitchen. Urban Deli brought more breakfast and lunch offerings to Light Street. McHenry Row got new vendors, including Ruby 8 Noodle Bar and Samos Greek Island Grill, while concepts like Breadbangers and Umi Sake closed. And on Key Highway, Order & Chaos opened down the street from a new brunch spot, Home Maid, which relocated from Towson.

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Baltimore saw a few key restaurant closures in 2016, among them Bryan Voltaggio's Family Meal and Ruth's Chris Steak House on Water Street, which closed after 24 years.

Some of Baltimore's landmark restaurant sites saw major changes, too. The Haussner's building was demolished to make way for a Highlandtown apartment complex. And the old Brass Elephant space was restored and reopened as the Elephant in Mount Vernon.

Also in Mount Vernon, Trinacria Cafe reopened after a redesign. Baby's on Fire, a cafe and record shop, debuted, as did the coffeehouse The Room. The Mount Vernon Marketplace got a few new vendors, including Between 2 Buns and Mi & Yu (its second location). And Waterstone rebranded as West Madison Craft Beer & Wine Bar. Closures in Mount Vernon included the 13th Floor at the Belvedere and Red Maple, which is slated to be replaced with a concept called Sangria.

Up the road in Charles Village, Donna's closed its doors. Alchemy in Hampden closed and was replaced by Mount Everest Restaurant, and B Doughnut closed, too, making way for Center Cut Doughnuts to open its first permanent store. Other openings in Hampden included Paulie Gee's and Five and Dime Ale House.

At Belvedere Square, Starlite Diner opened in the former Shoo-fly space, while Greg's Bagels closed.

Nacho Mama's made its way to Towson, opening in November. Elsewhere in Baltimore County, caterer Charles Levine opened Citron at the Shops at Quarry Lake, where The Food Market owner Chad Gauss also opened La Food Marketa. Iron Rooster also opened its third location in Hunt Valley.

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Tersiguel's English cut lamb chop with sweet potatoes, pears and wilted greens.
Tersiguel's English cut lamb chop with sweet potatoes, pears and wilted greens.(Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

In Ellicott City, flood damage in July shut down a number of bars and restaurants along the city's main street. Some, like Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant, reopened after repairs. Others, like the Rumor Mill, will not return.

New restaurants also meant more options for Baltimore diners making reservations. Some Baltimore restaurateurs, such as Riccardo Bosio of Sotto Sopra, became increasingly intolerant of no-show customers and began penalizing guests who reserved tables and failed to appear.

Baltimore got plenty of love from the theFood Network and the Travel Channel in 2016, with appearances by local chefs and restaurateurs including Josh Hershkovitz of Hersh's Pizza and Drinks, Sarah Murray of La Cuchara and Cindy Wolf of Charleston on shows including "Chopped," "Burgers, Brews & 'Que," and "Beat Bobby Flay."

If plans laid in 2016 are any indication, 2017 is poised to be another year of growth for Baltimore's restaurant industry. Charm City will get an infusion of New York flavor as James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini's NoHo Hospitality Group partners with Kevin Plank to open restaurants at the Sagamore Spirit distillery in Port Covington and the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore hotel in Fells Point. And Spike Gjerde will expand beyond Baltimore with his first Washington restaurants at the forthcoming The Line hotel in Adams Morgan.

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

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