Welcome back to Let’s Dish from The Baltimore Banner, your source for Charm City’s food and dining news.
It’s the slow season in the hospitality industry, with many workers and business owners heading off for some much-needed vacations before things kick into high gear in September. And this fall is shaping up to be a bustling time for the region’s dining scene.
This week, I have information on some new spots to try this fall and winter in Baltimore as well as Columbia, and an update on Baltimore’s signature cookie.
Crust by Mack will open by Thanksgiving, ‘no matter what’
Amanda Mack is shutting down her popular Crust by Mack bakery at Hampden food hall Whitehall Mill on Aug. 28.
“We have been operating in a state of emergency since we opened,” said Mack, who first launched her bakery in 2020. “We’ve just been so used to making it work we didn’t realize how taxing and how impossible it had become at times.”
Among the challenges: changing restrictions on indoor dining, product shortages, not to mention rising prices on ingredients. (Butter alone, she says, has doubled in price from $89 per case to $174 per case.)
After catching up on some rest over the next few weeks, she’ll reopen her business this fall at a new, larger location in Midtown-Belvedere. The restaurant was originally set to open this summer, but — hello, supply chain delays — Mack had problems sourcing everything from steel to tile and lighting. “That definitely pushed us back,” she said.
When it arrives at the first block of East Preston Street, the new space will include a mural by local artist and former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin, as well as custom-designed tables from Heavy Paper Co.
As for the timeline, Mack is confident: “No matter what, we’re going to be open the week of Thanksgiving, even if we’re selling pies on the curb.”
Customers who need one last crab pie fix before then can find Mack at Whitehall Mill’s Night Brunch event on Sept. 7.
Merriweather District welcomes new restaurants
This fall and winter will busy in Howard County, where several new restaurants are applying for liquor licenses.
The Blackwall Barn and Lodge is slated to launch a more than 10,000-square-foot restaurant in Columbia’s Merriweather District next year. The trendy new mixed-use development is also home to tasty Thai eatery Dok Khao and cafe and bookstore chain Busboys and Poets.
Carlos Oseguera, director of operations for the Titan Hospitality Group, which operates the Blackwall Barn and Lodge with a location in Gambrills, said the Columbia location should launch sometime in February, “depending on the availability of furniture and equipment.” The restaurant will offer several private event spaces and a menu focused on locally sourced American cuisine.
A new branch of Peter Chang is also set to open in Merriweather District this winter, a date that has been pushed back by permitting delays, according to Chang’s daughter, Lydia.
Additionally, a new branch of Banditos will bring its brand of high-end tacos and tequila to Merriweather District residents in late fall. “We’re very excited about catering to that population and to the music scene,” said Jen Cruise, senior vice president of marketing for White Oak Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns Banditos. As concerts return to Merriweather Post Pavilion, Cruise said, there’s “nothing like being next door to a music arena.”
It’s the second Howard County location planned for Banditos, which has another branch coming to 8170 Westside Blvd. in the Fulton area. The chain first opened in Federal Hill in 2012; White Oak has since added Banditos restaurants in White Marsh and Towson, as well as Northern Virginia.
Both branches of Banditos and Blackwell Barn and Lodge are slated to go before the Howard County Liquor Board on Sept. 13.
Noisy Burger is exiting Remington’s R. House food hall in December, leaving Seawall developers in search of a new tenant for the space. In a release, Seawall called the stall, created by Baltimore company Noisy Tenants in partnership with students from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, “among the most successful in R. House’s history.”
The collaboration with Mervo culinary students started in 2016 and “really just took off,” said Christopher Landrum of Noisy Tenants. Now nearing the end of a two-year lease at R. House, Landrum said the concept will transition to a mobile pop-up model, serving burgers at events around the city. “We want to be able to touch more communities,” Landrum said. Further plans could include a food truck or even another stall. “Nothing’s off the table.”
Berger cookies are back
After my last column, which discussed the current Berger cookie shortage, I heard from reader Mark Matassa in Towson: “I’m new to Baltimore so I’ve never had a Berger cookie. You made me want one and told me I probably can’t have one all in the same breath. Sheesh.”
Good news, Mark! Berger’s copycats abound in Baltimore. Check out Graul’s Market in Ruxton, one of my favorite destinations for old-fashioned baked goods and sides. (I still have yet to try their take on smearcase, which is an old-time Baltimore cheesecake).
And in even better news, the Berger’s manufacturing plant was up and running again as of Thursday, and the company website is now accepting orders.
“We’re back up. We’re still behind,” said owner Charlie DeBaufre. The company had been waiting on a replacement part to arrive and is now cranking out Baltimore’s signature fudge and shortbread snack to deliver to local stores.
“The timing was good,” DeBaufre said. August, he said, is the second-slowest month of the year, after January.