Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos became vegan 25 years ago, when “all I could get was a salad,” she wrote in a text message. Now, she has a wealth of options from which to choose.
Case in point: Maryland Vegan Restaurant Month started last weekend, showcasing plant-based meals at eateries in Baltimore and beyond. You can try curry mung bean soup at Heritage Kitchen in Hampden or a three-course, $50 prix fixe meal at Alma Cocina Latina in Station North that includes a vegan take on Venezuelan pabellón.
The promotional event is the evolution of Baltimore Vegan Restaurant Week, founded in 2017 by Naijha Wright-Brown, owner of vegan soul eatery Land of Kush, and veg-friendly Golden West owner Sam Claassen. The first event “was a hit,” Wright-Brown said, and has grown into a statewide, monthlong affair that happens twice a year and has spawned imitators across the country.
Vegan restaurants have become one of the fastest-growing types of eateries in Baltimore as more people have leaned into plant-based diets for either ethical, health or environmental reasons. Recent arrivals to the scene include casual takeout spot My Mamas Vegan, which moved to a new location inside Urban Reads Bookstore on Greenmount Avenue. High-end spots Liora and Double Zero took root in the Inner Harbor in 2021. Wild Heart Bistro just opened in Belvedere Square.
And the options are growing: The Chihuahua Brothers food truck is working on opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and Slutty Vegan has hinted at plans to launch in Baltimore soon. Ramos said two additional vegan restaurants are coming to the Town Hall building on 31st and Greenmount Avenue.
Land of Kush, which Wright-Brown opened 12 years ago with her now-husband, Greg Brown, predates them all. Since launching their restaurant at 840 N. Eutaw St., the couple have seen an explosion of interest in plant-based diets, particularly among Black customers.
Groups like the 10 Million Black Vegan Women Movement have helped make Black diners the fastest-growing demographic of vegan consumers, while restaurants like Land of Kush have spread the word about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Through the nonprofit Black Veg Society, where she is also executive director, Wright-Brown emphasizes to Black diners that “This is not a white thing. This is for us.” She added: “We’ve been eating like this since before we were enslaved.”
Today, more cooks are opting to make soul food staples like collard greens and sweet potatoes without any meat and dairy. “People are trying to eat healthier,” Wright-Brown said. “It couldn’t be a better time to go vegan. There’s so many options available.”
Add one more to the list: Land of Kush is still hoping to launch an East Baltimore location near Johns Hopkins Hospital. While the plan was first made public five years ago, the project remains up in the air. We’re “taking it one day at a time,” Wright-Brown said.
Pinch, the dumpling shop at Mt. Vernon Marketplace, shut down Sunday, according to a Facebook post. The owners called it “a farewell as we continue to evolve our business model.” Pinch will continue to appear at pop-ups and sell dumplings wholesale as it searches for its next location.
But One-Eyed Mike’s isn’t going anywhere. Akbar Vaiya, who announced earlier this year that he was putting the Fells Point restaurant famous for its Grand Marnier club up for auction, told me he called off the sale when the bidding didn’t reach the price that he wanted.
If you’ll recall, that’s just what happened with Bertha’s Mussels, whose longtime owners called off the auction of the Fells Point institution last year. That restaurant remains open as a motley crew of regulars are still trying to buy it. Cofounder Tony Norris said it will remain open until something is settled.
Hampden is welcoming a new coffee shop. Catalog Coffee will launch this summer at 916 W. 36th Street, according to The Baltimore Sun. The new business comes from the owners of Ground & Griddled, an R. House stall that closed in 2021.
Contrary to the “coming soon” sign outside the window, Lagniappe Baltimore is not actually opening anytime soon in Remington. “It’s going to take a long time to be comfortable opening up a new restaurant,” said co-owner Patrick Hudson, who also is behind True Chesapeake Oyster Co. and Local Oyster.
These days, Hudson would discourage others from getting into the business. “It’s just a very different industry than it was before the pandemic and much more challenging.” Still stinging: the lack of relief his eateries got from the federal government’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund and ongoing pressures from high labor and food costs.
Meanwhile, in Harbor East, Kneads Bakeshop & Cafe is preparing to launch at the end of March. Keep an eye out for my story on co-owner Adam Paterakis and his plans to bring Baltimore’s H&S Bakery into the future.