If you're wondering why a new place that specializes in barbecue Memphis-style is called the Alabama BBQ Co. (4311 Harford Road, 410-254-1440), it's because co-owner Jay Belle is originally from Huntsville. To make things even more confusing, he's a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society (as well as a certified pit master, event judge and event champion). Co-owner Louise Pantall makes the desserts.
"We cook everything over charcoal with a dry rub," says Belle. "In the Memphis tradition, it's not sauced unless the customer wants it."
This is an untraditional barbecue place. I've heard the chicken salad (made with chicken smoked four hours, dried cranberries and toasted almonds) is fabulous. There are Friday Fish Specials, and Belle is trying to come up with a genuine smoked crab cake, not just one with hickory smoke seasoning.
The term "Alabama barbecue," by the way, signifies white sauce on barbecued chicken. Who knew?
Just when you thought it was safe to drink water --The wine bar is back. Not as a trend, but literally. The restaurant formerly known as Vespa at 1117 S. Charles St. in Federal Hill should open sometime late this month or early July.
Jeff Minderlein, one of three partners, says when renovations are finished, the new place - as yet unnamed - will be about twice as big. It also will be "wine-centric, but not so Italian." Former Vespa executive chef Michael Russell, now a part owner, will be running the kitchen.
I'll have my tea with vodka --Late this summer a second Teavolve should open in Harbor East. Unlike the first teahouse, which opened a couple of years ago in Fells Point, this one will have a liquor license.
Owner Sunni Gilliam says the Teavolve Cafe and Lounge will have private-label teas, coffee drinks, wine, beer and tea-infused martinis. You'll be able to get breakfast, lunch and dinner there, but the place won't have a full kitchen. When the Landmark movie complex opens, stop in for late-night desserts and drinks.
Fab Friday --Don't forget that this week, because of my trip west this last weekend, my blog at baltimoresun.com/diningatlarge features a Fab Five Friday instead of a Top Ten Tuesday. I'll relive my five worst moments as a restaurant critic.
Send restaurant news, trends, questions of general interest or observations to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax me at 410-783-2519. Snail mail works, too: Elizabeth Large, The Sun, Box 1377, Baltimore 21278.