Amid closing of old favorites, Baltimore's dining world welcomed new entrants in 2018

The past year brought a slew of changes to Baltimore’s food landscape. That meant welcoming a crop of new upstarts while bidding adieu to some familiar faces.

Additions

Patterson Public House, a sleek new American restaurant, opened in July in the former Bistro Rx space on the edge of Patterson Park. Executive chef Wilbur Cox brought fresh-from-the-sea dishes to Topside, the bar and restaurant atop Mount Vernon’s Hotel Revival, which opened in May. Vida Taco Bar branched out from its Anne Arundel locations and brought specialty margaritas (the 24 carrot is a must) and artisanal tacos (the octopus on lettuce is equal parts popular and decadent) as it opened up a new location at Harbor Point in July.

Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House became the company’s first American brewery to open in 64 years when it made its debut in August in Halethorpe. Hampden’s dairy darling, The Charmery, opened locations in Towson in May and then a third location in the Union Collective complex in Medfield in June.

Ampersea, a New American restaurant with a harbor view, opened on the ground level of the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum. It replaced Waterfront Kitchen, which closed in January. Little Bird Coffee Bar, an Italian-inspired cafe from the group that runs the uber-popular cocktail bar Bluebird Cocktail Room, opened in Hampden in August.

In April, Lupa, an Italian restaurant from Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf, replaced Petit Louis in Columbia. Also in Columbia, Cured, a casual American restaurant, and 18th & 21st, a Prohibition-themed cocktail lounge, opened in May. The restaurants, which are on the ground level of the One Merriweather office building, are helmed by Steve Wecker, co-owner of Iron Bridge Wine Co, and Vince Culotta, the restaurant’s former general manager.

Farewells

January brought a slew of closures: Jack’s Bistro; watering hole Dimitri’s Tavern in Hampden; Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, the upstate New York-based chain,closed suddenly in Harbor East; Ryan’s Daughter Irish Pub & Restaurant in Belvedere Square, and Bagby Pizza Co. in Harbor East.

Bryan Voltaggio’s last remaining Baltimore restaurant, Aggio, closed in March after being open four years at Power Plant Live. After 40 years in business, Regi’s American Bistro in Federal Hill closed in April. Corner Restaurant and Charcuterie Bar also closed in April. Modern Cook Shop, the morning to midnight restaurant in Fells Point, closed in May. Earlier in the year, its sister restaurant in Canton, Fork & Wrench, also shuttered. Rachel New American Cuisine closed in May in South Baltimore.

June was also a particularly rough month for restaurants with closures to New America Diner, the restaurant near Mount Vernon; Hampden’s Grano Emporio; and downtown gastropub Alewife closed after opening in 2010. Heavy Seas Alehouse closed its restaurant in Little Italy in June. Blue Dog BBQ Co. replaced it in July.

Parts & Labor, the meat-centric restaurant from the group that owns Woodberry Kitchen and Sandlot, closed its doors in August. Also in August, Grilled Cheese & Co. closed in Federal Hill. In October, The BoatHouse Canton closed; M&S Grill closed at the Inner Harbor in October after being open since 2003, and The Nickel Taphouse closed just shy of its fifth anniversary. In November, Bonchon, the Korean fried chicken chain, closed its Canton location and Rosina Gourmet closed its Canton location to the public.

In December, Wit & Wisdom, a tavern by Michael Mina, announced it would be closing at Harbor East’s Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore on New Year’s Day. An unnamed Atlas Restaurant Group concept is scheduled to take its place. Wit & Wisdom had operated at the hotel since it opened in November 2012.

Also in December, Donna’s, the once-popular restaurant in the Village of Cross Keys, closed after 19 years in business.

French restaurants

Fells Point welcomed French flare with the addition of Duck Duck Goose, a modern French brasserie, which replaced 8 Ball Bar & Grill, the meatball-themed restaurant. Chez Hugo, a cozy French bistro from Chef Steve Monnier, opened in the same building that houses Shakespeare Theater downtown in February. Monnier closed his Hampden restaurant Aromes last fall. Le Comptoir du Vin took over the old Bottega space on Maryland Avenue in November. And non-meat lovers have a new destination in Harbor East with L’Eau de Vie, which replaced the old Inn at the Black Olive space.

Royal restaurants

You didn’t have to cross the pond to get in on the royal wedding this year.

The Corner Pantry, which is led by British chef and owner Neil Howell, offered a specialty menu peppered with plenty of British tea favors such as tea sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and petit fours.

Chef Nancy Longo opened up her Fells Point restaurant, Pierpoint, to guests for a watching party. The 50-seat restaurant was filled to capacity as guests were served bangers and mash, scones, wedding cake, bloody Marys and mimosas.

Emma’s Tea Spot in Hamilton offered a “breakfast toastie menu” and encouraged guests to wear pajamas and hats.

Milestones

Goetze’s Candy Company celebrated its 100th Anniversary of its buttery, rich caramel creams. John Shield’s restaurant Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen celebrated its 20th anniversary with a party that attracted 400 people in October. The Charmery celebrated its fifth anniversary in August. Cunningham’s also celebrated its fifth anniversary in November.

Accolades

In January, Chef Kiran Patnam, executive sous chef for the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel’s Apropoe’s, won an episode of Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.” Chef David Thomas, founder and executive chef at Ida B’s Table, brought his modern soul food approach to a Thanksgiving episode of “Chopped” in November. He also confirmed that he will appear on another Food Network competition show.Three Maryland restaurants made OpenTable’s 100 Best Restaurants for Wine Lovers in America for 2018; Petit Louis Bistro in Roland Park. Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia and Charleston in Harbor East.

Casinos

Maryland Casinos are quickly becoming a hot spot for finer dining options. Giada de Laurentiis opened GDL by Giada in May in the former Johnny Sanchez space at Horseshoe Casino. The Italian-themed restaurant joined Gordon Ramsay and Guy Fieri at the Baltimore casino. At Live Casino & Hotel in Hanover, David’s opened in July. The restaurant, which features menu items inspired by developer David Cordish, features a mix of American, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. The biggest standout at the restaurant is its all-day breakfast with specials like the Hong Kong French Toast.

Pop-ups, reoccurring events and collaborations

Charm City Night Market highlighted Baltimore’s Asian culture through its food offerings when it popped up in September. The event, which attracted 13,000 people, is expected to return next year. Secret Sauce Co., a Baltimore-made spicy ketchup, ran a pop-up in the fall in the old Lost City Diner space. Its owners are eyeing another pop-up in the spring, as well as releasing additional sauces. Chez Hugo teamed with popular Washington, D.C., restaurant Momofuku CCDC for an August collaboration.Organizers Jason Bass and DJ Impulse have curated a series of hotly coveted parties in The Night Brunch, a concept that revolves around brunch-themed parties — at different restaurants and venues — each month.

Atlas Group ascending

One of the biggest moments for the Atlas Group came in June when the head chefs from five of its restaurants prepared a meal at the famed James Beard House in New York City.

Italian Disco, an Italian-themed restaurant, opened in May 2018 in the space that used to house Bagby Pizza. At the top of the Four Seasons, the group opened The Bygone, an American cuisine restaurant, with a 1920s feel and arguably the best views in the city. The group also opened up Loch Bar in Boca Raton as well as Ouzo Bay and another Loch Bar location in Houston. Expect The Choptank, a fish and crab house, to open in the summer in Broadway Market in Fells Point.

Celebrity sightings

A year after rapper Drake popped up at Azumi for a night of food and listening to Jay-Z’s “4:44” album, celebs followed suit and ate their way through Charm City.

British comedian John Oliver ate at two Baltimore restaurants to kick off 2018. He popped up at Hersh’s just after midnight on New Year’s Eve. The next day, he enjoyed brunch at Alexander’s Tavern.

In November, comedian Dave Chappelle ate at Weiland’s Barbeque in Catonsville. The owner of the restaurant said that Chappelle praised the spicy beans, which have brisket added to them.

And yet another comedian — this time it was Howard Stern — had brunch at Citron in October. No word on what Stern ate at the Quarry Lake-based restaurant, which opened in 2016.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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