Welcome back to “Let’s dish.” This week, I’ll recommend an Ellicott City spot for soup dumplings and give you the rundown on a Black-owned vegan restaurant planning to merge with a bookstore in Waverly, as well as a new seafood restaurant preparing to fill the hole left by Clyde’s in Columbia.
But first, let’s prep for Ravens game day.
The best wings for Ravens vs. Bills matchup
Chicken wings are required eating for any football game in my book, but especially when the Ravens are playing the Buffalo Bills.
Ahead of this Sunday’s matchup, I went on Twitter to ask readers where to eat wings near M&T Bank Stadium.
Mary Miles recommends Delia Foley’s, an Irish-themed pub in Federal Hill that’s open during Ravens home games. You can pore over the menu that includes 40 varieties of wings before just sticking with the tried and true: Buffalo-style.
Ray Conaway recommends Friends Grille in Pigtown, “a stone’s throw” from the stadium. “Great atmosphere, the honey old bay wings (my favorite) are flavorful, and drinks from the bar are delicious and reasonably priced.”
You might have so much fun you forget to go to the stadium: bartenders ring a bell every time the Ravens score a touchdown. You can read my colleague Jasmine Vaughn-Hall’s feature on the tavern to learn more.
Farther afield, Old Goucher’s iBar sells wings made from the same recipe used at Buffalo, New York’s own Anchor Bar, which has long claimed to be the originator of the city’s signature snack. iBar’s wings even made a list of must-try dishes from The Banner’s John-John Williams IV, a native of upstate New York and bona fide foodie.
My Mamas moving
My Mamas Vegan is shutting down its location at 2915 Greenmount Ave. But the popular plant-based restaurant won’t go far; it’s reopening about a block away in the 3000 block of Greenmount to an address it will share with Urban Reads Bookstore.
The vibe will be “small business Barnes & Noble,” said owner Debonette Wyatt, with a more streamlined menu geared toward coffee, soups, burritos and sandwiches — all of which are vegan.
The move comes after a trying summer for Wyatt and her business, during which she said the restaurant’s sign and dumpster were set on fire. “It definitely impacted our business,” she said. “It just really dampened the morale.” While she had been planning on building an outdoor oasis for customers to sit, in the wake of the incidents she said, “I’m so glad I didn’t do it — it would have been burned to the ground.”
In addition, struggles such as rising food prices and staff turnover left Wyatt feeling like she was running on a “hamster wheel.” Moving forward, she said: “I want something small, I want something quaint — and I don’t have to depend on staff to have it run.”
Merging with Urban Reads — which her friend Tia Hamilton owns — will make both businesses stronger, Wyatt said. Look for a grand opening Oct. 15.
Ciao, Bella Italia
That didn’t last long. Bella Italia had only been open a few months on Hampden’s Avenue — it replaced 13.5% Wine Bar — when the owners rebranded it as a new, seafood-oriented concept, Bar Fusion. A spokeswoman for the restaurant, Alanah Nichole Davis, said Bella Italia “didn’t really reflect the needs of the neighborhood.” Online business records list Bar Fusion’s owner as Joyce Chong of Pikesville.
Offshore and The 3rd to liven up Columbia lakefront
Let’s take a detour to Howard County. Things had been getting quiet on the Columbia lakefront, the heart of James Rouse’s visionary development in Howard County.
But some new businesses promise to liven things up. A new seafood restaurant, Offshore, is coming soon to the former Clyde’s, which shut down during the pandemic after nearly 50 years. Offshore’s owners are planning to launch Encore, a separate concert venue, next door in the space that was previously home to The Soundry.
“The lakefront has always been the flagship of downtown Columbia,” said Staci Samaras, who is opening Offshore and Encore with her husband, Randy Smith, and business partners Josh and Joyce Butts. All are Howard County locals. “We are excited to become that anchor again.”
The Buttses co-own Ellicott City’s HoCo Brew Hive, and will bring the chef from that location with them to oversee the menu, which will place seafood front and center. “There’s not much good coastal seafood in Columbia,” Samaras said.
Samaras, a longtime event planner, has been overseeing the renovation of the building, which has left intact many of the fine wood touches from the old Clyde’s while brightening up the space with white paint and coastal-themed decor. An outdoor patio will offer al fresco dining overlooking the lake.
In addition to the 150-seat restaurant, Encore, an intimate music venue, will open in the same building. Given the space’s proximity to Merriweather Post Pavilion, “We should be the place that people continue their party or start their party,” Josh Butts said. The early acts will skew to tribute bands; Samaras and her husband are founding members of the ’70s tribute band, Foreplay.
And nearby, the former Lupa space is getting a new tenant three years after the Foreman Wolf-owned restaurant closed permanently (it was Petit Louis before the Lupa rebrand).
The 3rd, a nonprofit community hub and business incubator focused on women of color, will offer an onsite cafe with coffee from Baltimore’s Black Acres Roastery, and sweets and tea from Howard County’s own AppleCore’s Bake Shoppe and Cured Leaves Tea.
Until recently, soup dumplings — or xiao long bao, a specialty of Shanghai, China — were hard to find in the Baltimore area; now, you don’t need to go farther than Ellicott City to pick up an order.
Nan Xiang Express, named for the area where soup dumplings were born, opened up its first Maryland location at a nondescript shopping center on Baltimore National Pike. Enter the restaurant through Kung Fu Tea — a chain cafe selling boba tea that’s right next door — and get ready to carb load.
I placed my order through a touch kiosk and couldn’t resist ordering just about everything on the menu, which includes dim sum offerings such as pan-fried pork buns and siu mai.
Two of my favorite things: the crab meat and pork soup dumplings ($10.95), which featured a richly-flavored broth and pork filling encased in a glutinous rice wrapper. How to eat them without making a mess? I’m still figuring that out. Try taking a bite while holding the dumpling in a spoon and slowly slurping the filling. I enjoyed the cucumber salad with garlic ($6.95), a refreshing and zesty side that stayed crunchy and flavorful hours later.