Basque restaurant coming to Meadow Mill

The former executive chef at Petit Louis will open La Cuchara, a Basque restaurant in the Meadow Mill complex, this summer.

The chef is Ben Lefenfeld, a veteran of the Foreman Wolf restaurant group, who also worked at Charleston and who helped Foreman Wolf open Johnny's in Roland Park.

Lefenfeld has signed a lease with Eutaw Property Enterprises at Meadow Mill, which was built by the sailcloth manufacturer William Hooper Co. in 1877 and whose most notable tenant was the London Fog company.

The 185-seat restaurant will the occupy the first floor of the mill's "packer house," a space that has never been accessible to the general public. Lefenfeld said it was ideal for the communal feeling he wanted to create.

La Cuchara will specialize in the cuisine of the Basque region of northern Spain and southern France and particularly the kind of food found in typical "asadors" and "pinxto bars." The specialty at an asador, Lefenfeld said, is grilled meats. The centerpiece of La Cuchara will be an open kitchen designed around a wood-fire grill.

Pinxto bars serve "pinxtos," which are similar to tapas, but Lefenfeld said that pinxtos are smaller than tapas. A pinxto can be "anything under the sun," Lefenfeld said, but tends to be a one- or two-bite combination of meats, fish, olives, cheese or pickled vegetables, which is fastened with a small skewer or pick —"pinxto" — which is how it got its name.

Cuchara is Spanish for "spoon."

"The name embodies a lot of what we're trying to do," Lefenfeld said. "The spoon is the simplest apparatus. The cuisine of northern Spain and southern France is simple. Not too many dishes have more than a few ingredients."

Before joining the Foreman Wolf team, Lefenfeld trained in Washington with Gerard Pangaud, the youngest chef ever to receive a Michelin 2-star rating.

Lefenfeld, who was born in Baltimore and grew up in Columbia, will operate the 185-seat restaurant with his wife, Amy Lefenfeld, and his brother, Jacob Lefenfeld.

The Board of Liquor License Commissioners of Baltimore City has granted La Cuchara a license to serve beer, wine and liquor.

Chefs helping chefs This is the season for pop-ups, takeovers and collaborations in Baltimore's dining community. Every time you turn around, another restaurant is being "taken over" by the chef from another restaurant.

Maggie's Farm has launched the Rabbit Hole Dining Series, a regular Sunday night dining event featuring special menus and collaborations with outside chefs. Recently, Artifact Coffee in Hamdpen hosted a six-night visit by Erik-Bruner Yang of Toki Underground, an acclaimed Taiwanese restaurant in Washington, and for two nights, Jonah Kim, the executive chef at Pabu, dropped into Shoo-Fly for a "fried-chicken takeover."

The next pop-up event is at The Fork & Wrench (2232 Boston St., 443-759-9360, on Monday, when Chad Gauss, the executive chef and co-owner of Hampden's The Food Market, will convert the Canton restaurant into a Mexican-inspired eatery he's calling "Estafado Cantina."

The one-night-only cantina will serve an a la carte menu of typical Mexican cantina food, including grilled lamb rack, free-range chicken fajitas, smoked trout taquitos and fried ice cream.

The Fork & Wrench's executive chef, Cyrus Keefer, will be in New York City, presenting a "Charm City Common" dinner at the James Beard House.

Burgers in the neighborhood Four restaurants in the Mount Vernon and Mid-Town Belvedere neighborhoods are partnering up for a hamburger discount program.

The Mount Vernon Burger Passport costs $32 but is worth more than $70 of ground meat and draft beer, according to its promoters.

The passport, which went on sale Monday, must be redeemed by May 15. The participating restaurants are the Owl Bar at the Belvedere, City Cafe, Turp's and Dooby's.

The passport, which can be purchased at or in person at Dooby's (802 N. Charles St., 410-702-5144,, can be redeemed once at each restaurant.

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