The Five and Dime Ale House closed permanently this week in Hampden, but I predict the two-story building on the Avenue won’t stay vacant for long.

In most parts of Baltimore, restaurants are shutting down faster than they are opening. But not here. Even as some eateries are closing down, by my count, there are eight new ones in the works in this North Baltimore neighborhood.

For owners like Shawn Chopra, of the popular coffee shop Good Neighbor, “Hampden is an exciting place to try something.” And it offers opportunities for growth; Chopra’s business is adding a guesthouse above the shop this summer.

One key ingredient to the area’s success? Residents who love to dine out. “The local support we get is better than any other neighborhood,” said Lou Catelli, whose legal name is William Bauer. The shorts-loving ambassador of Hampden works with owners who are preparing to launch new restaurants.

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Lou Catelli stands outside Hampden’s Treehouse Cafe and Juice Bar. (Christina Tkacik)

City business owners often tell me it’s hard to get people to come in from Baltimore County, but comments like that are less frequent in Hampden. Perhaps that’s because it’s an easy drive down I-83 from Towson and beyond.

The traditionally white and working-class neighborhood is finally growing in diversity, too, with business owners of color making their mark on the Avenue and patrons of all backgrounds enjoying the scene.

Demand for space is so intense that restaurateurs are turning to some unlikely locations to set up shop. This year, we’ll see an all-outdoor restaurant in the backyard of a former parsonage. We may also get a wine bar in a converted Falls Road garage, as long as the owner and the neighbors can get on the same page (but that’s another story).

Wayne Laing, former owner of 13.5% Wine Bar, plans to launch a new restaurant behind Red Fish Liquors on Falls Road. The concept, previously pitched as a karaoke bar, has encountered opposition in the neighborhood. (Christina Tkacik)

“Places are opening in Hampden because places closed, remember that,” said Tony Foreman, whose Foreman Wolf restaurant group is preparing to launch a new concept in the former Cafe Hon space on The Avenue. He attributes the churn to “post-pandemic volatility.”

Generally speaking, though, in Hampden, where one business closes, another one — or more — opens.

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New and coming attractions

Asian Taste is relocating from 916 W. 36th St. to the former Treehouse Cafe and Juice Bar at 3400 Chestnut Ave. The restaurant opens this summer and will be called New Asian Taste. The revamped menu will include noodle dishes, sushi, rice bowls, cocktails and bubble tea, said owner Ming Zheng.

A new bar serving sangria, tapas and dessert is planned for the former 13.5% Wine Bar and Bar Fusion space on The Avenue. Owner Latoya Johnson said she is still working out the details of the concept but plans to open by the end of June. It’s the first restaurant for Johnson, who created her own sangria company, Brenology, from her house. “It’s not your traditional sangria,” she said. “It’s not too sweet, it’s just right.”

Johnson said she was initially leery of opening at the old Bar Fusion location, given the drama that engulfed that restaurant during its short time on the Avenue. But she’s looking forward to bringing back a relaxed atmosphere similar to the 13.5% Wine Bar days. “I just hope the rest of the community will be welcoming,” she said.

1117 W. 36th St., formerly known as Bar Fusion.

A hotel above Good Neighbor on Falls Road is opening this summer, Chopra said. Guesthouse at Good Neighbor will feature seven rooms decorated in the same modern Japanese/Scandinavian-inspired design as the coffee shop and homewares store. A full outdoor kitchen is in the works, too, offering a lunch and dinner menu as well as cocktails. Look for that this fall.

Steakhouse Medium Rare seems closer to arriving in Hampden’s Rotunda soon, having applied for a new liquor license. Owner Mark Howard Bucher did not respond to a request for comment. His restaurant has locations in Washington, D.C., Bethesda and Arlington, Virginia, and is known for its steak frites. Meanwhile, the neighboring movie theater, Warehouse Cinemas, is set to open within a few weeks in the former CineBistro space, according to a Facebook post.

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Urban Oyster has submitted an application for a liquor license, suggesting it’s one step nearer to a planned spring opening date at 916 W. 36 St., right by the new Kandahar Afghan Kitchen.

Neighboring Catalog Coffee should launch sometime this summer. Owner Dave Sherman shut down his Ground & Griddled business at the end of 2021 and says he is looking to fill a void left by Spro, which closed in 2021. The shop will serve breakfast and lunch five days a week.

916 W. 36th St. will soon be Urban Oyster and Catalog Coffee.


Whitehall Market, a tony food hall that opened during the pandemic, has been losing vendors seemingly since it launched. Now, Ceremony Coffee is preparing to shut down its outpost in the market, while Garrett County-based cheese shop FireFly Farms is closing Memorial Day weekend.

The Five and Dime Ale House shut down Sunday, according to a post on their Facebook page. The two-story restaurant opened in 2016 following a $2 million renovation in a building that had once been a five-and-dime store. Owner Donald Kelly of the 206 Restaurant Group said the business closed for 320 days during the pandemic and never recovered. Kelly and partner Justin Dvorkin have sold the building and offered all the staff jobs at Pratt Street Ale House, their other restaurant near Camden Yards, which Kelly said is also struggling: “We’re giving it one last go.”

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