Come spring, there will be new and FUN dining option in Hampden, Le Garage. As you might guess from the name, it’ll be French. But not fancy French…think fun, approachable French. Earlier this week, I met with the restaurant’s Executive Chef Sarah Acconcia over macchiatos at Spro, just down the street from where she will be cooking. Le Garage will be in the old Dogwood space.
I’ve known Sarah a few years now. She and I both live in Hampden and we both keep egg-laying hens. She’s a hard-working, focused, self-taught chef and her culinary background is primarily French. She’s cooked at places like Abercrombie Fine Foods and 13.5% Wine Bar and is now ready to take on an exciting, challenging project like opening a new place. Le Garage will feature classic French peasant dishes with a New American twist – think Beef Bourguignon with a unique, modern approach. She’s imagining colorful Keller-esque plates, a bit lighter in look and feel…but full of flavor. The best of both worlds, as it were. Entrees will be reasonably priced — about $16-$21 — with smaller plates, burgers and more running a bit less – plus nightly specials, too. It’s clear that in-season cooking using primarily local ingredients is something she is committed to – having most recently been the sous chef at Maggie’s Farm in Hamilton.
And, then there are the frites. Ah, the frites. Sarah recently recipe tested frites for 10 days straight in her own home kitchen to determine the perfect fry temperature and time, as well as the right cut and thickness. Gotta get it right. She’s also been working on what will be an ever-evolving list of dipping sauces – flavors like Old Bay ketchup, bacon horseradish, whole grain mustard and smoked honey aioli just to name a few. Sarah plans to have many of the sauces be seasonal, when the best local produce is available –like English pea and ginger aioli in the spring and peach ketchup later in the summer. You will be able to walk up and get frites served in paper cone with whatever sauce you want…and you can taste the sauces before you commit. It’s like an ice cream shop for french fries. I am a SAVORY person vs sweet. So, this…is awesome. Oh, and they plan to keep the frites shop open until 1:00am. Holy pickleback aioli, hon.
The space is being designed by SMG Architects, with Chuck Patterson as lead architect. Mr. Patterson has worked on spaces like Woodberry Kitchen, Artifact Coffee and Vino Rosina (now,Oliver Specks) and the general look and feel will be industrial, but with a bit more color. There will be new lighting and the space will include a few different dining areas. At the bar, you’ll be able to have a full dinner (I am a big fan of dinner at the bar…) or lighter snacks, craft beers, cocktails and more. The restaurant’s management consultant is Chris Spann, who is overseeing the entire restaurant project. Spann also owns Wine Market Bistro in Locust Point, one of my favorite restaurants. The bar will offer 14 handcrafted draft beers, including French, Belgian and local craft breweries, as well as small production brewers, distillers and winemakers. From beverage manager and GM Brendan Kirlin, “Today, some of the most perfect, inspiring and satisfying marriages are between beer and food. From Belgian Lambics and Saisons to French Bière de Garde, we’re hoping to highlight the traditional craft of brewing, while at the same time showcasing the innovative craft beer scene here in Baltimore and in the United States.” Hear, hear!
Also on the menu, there will be burgers (including, at all times, a delicious veggie burger), tartines and many other vegetarian options. The menu will not be huge…but will definitely include something for everyone’s tastes. Most of all, it will be easy and approachable. This is, after all, Hampden. (I love my ‘hood!)
Opening is currently planned for April or May. Get ready, Baltimore.
Now, I want fries…
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