Hot Plate: Cafe Dear Leon opens, Sculpture Garden snowballs, dumplings at Ekiben and more

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Mt. Washington Tavern’s new meal and drink kits are just one of the creative offerings local restaurants have launched to expand business during the pandemic.

Every day, the Baltimore restaurant scene slowly inches its way back to normalcy. Over the next few weeks, Baltimore food lovers can look forward to fun events and trying some new places, as well as revisiting old favorites.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the restaurant world right now:

The usual disclaimer
As has been the case for the past several months, the experience of dining out in Baltimore continues to evolve. Restaurants are adapting to changing circumstances in different ways, adopting different protocols and approaches to try to keep their doors open and keep doing what they love – welcoming and feeding guests.

So before heading out, be sure to check with the restaurant to make sure you’re aware of any rules or regulations in place (and to make sure they’re open when you want to go). When you get there, be patient and kind to the staff; their jobs are tougher than usual these days.

Openings & Announcements
In Canton, the hotly anticipated Fuisine will finally open its doors in September. The restaurant will be open for friends and family (and carryout and delivery) the week of Sept. 4 and will open to the general public on Sept. 11.

Also in Canton, Café Dear Leon has opened on the Square. The café is already receiving rave reviews for its pastries, which are baked in house daily.

While The Tilted Row closed for the month of August, the crew will be back soon. The Bolton Hill restaurant reopens on Sept. 9. 

Unfortunately, the past couple weeks have brought news of more closings, as well.

The Baltimore Business Journal reports that downtown’s Luna Del Sea closed after nearly two decades on Pratt St. 

Federal Hill’s terrific Himalayan Bistro recently closed but, according to SouthBmore.com, the owners hope to reopen in a smaller space soon.

Trying something new
One positive side effect of the pandemic is seeing so much inspiring creativity from local restaurateurs. Over the past couple weeks, several spots have launched new programs that are both fun and smart.

Gertrude’s has opened a new outdoor kiosk, called Snow Cone Sisters Café. The Kiosk sells snowballs (both classic and creative flavors) and hot dogs, all of which can be enjoyed while checking out the gorgeous artwork in the Sculpture Garden.

While Dutch Courage’s daily cocktail choices continue to be impressive, the Old Goucher gin bar has stepped up its game in a few other ways recently. The team has added some new machinery – a custom-built smoker and grill to fuel the menu – and a cocktail club subscription service, so you can enjoy DC’s excellent drinks at home.

Mt. Washington Tavern is now offering meal and drink kits available for curbside pickup or delivery. The family meal kits are enough for two or four people and come ready to heat and serve. The drink kits cover all the bases for ten classic cocktails – margarita fixings even come with salt and mule kits come with ingredients and a pair of copper mule mugs.

Heading outdoors
Local restaurants continue to get creative with their outdoor spaces, opening up even more al fresco dining options each week.

In recent weeks, Fogo de Chao has added outdoor options, and starting on Aug. 22, Towson Tavern and the Rec Room are opening up dining on Shealy Ave. They plan to use Shealy Ave. for additional outdoor dining space every Saturday moving forward.

True Chesapeake Oyster Co.’s patio is partially tented with a sail; it’s very pretty and Rye Street Tavern’s waterfront outdoor space is tented, huge, and gorgeous.

Happy 7 years to The Charmery!
In honor of the seventh anniversary of the opening of the original Hampden location of The Charmery, the much-loved ice cream shop has created seven new flavors inspired by the shop owners’ past travels.

The Wanderlust collection, as it’s called, includes flavors like Ube Sticky Rice (inspired by Thailand) and a vegan Ginger Grater Cake (from Jamaica). The flavors will be available for scooping at the Hampden, Towson and Federal Hill locations on Friday, Aug. 21. But they won’t last long; they’re only on the menu through Sunday, Aug. 30.

Calling all vendors
Lexington Market’s transformation project is underway. While the new version of the market isn’t slated to open until early 2022, market management has already opened the application process to new vendors. Vendor applications are accepted online now through Oct. 2; the second round of applications will be accepted in early 2021.

La Cuchara back from break
After an extremely busy season full of shifting gears and operating as a market, the team at La Cuchara has taken a short but well-deserved break. They are back from time off on Saturday, Aug. 22 and will be back with market options and patio dining and happy hour on Saturday.

Family dumplings
On Sunday, Aug. 23, Ekiben will be even hotter of a spot than usual. Starting at 4:30 p.m., the Fells Point eatery will host a dumpling pop-up featuring dumplings Ekiben owner Steve Chu and his dad made together. Making dumplings is a family tradition for the Chus; there’s no doubt that they’re something special. There’s also no doubt that they’ll sell out quickly, so be sure to arrive early.

Foraged cook-along
Over the past several months, Foraged Eatery chef and expert forager Chris Amendola has been hosting Sunday night “cook-along” classes. Class attendees order the ingredients from the restaurant, pick them up then cook them at home, while interacting virtually with the chef.

The next class is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23 – and it’s all about mushrooms, as is appropriate for this time of year. Reservations must be made by Saturday morning, to make sure there are enough ingredients available for everyone joining the fun.

Schola classes
The crew at Schola is back to their fun and instructional ways, with a slate of upcoming classes that sound excellent. On Thursday, Aug. 27, learn about the art of making pasta. Friday, Aug. 28, grab a date for steak night. Or on Sunday, Aug. 30, head to the charming spot for Sunday supper.

Future classes cover sushi making, New Orleans cooking, Chesapeake cuisine and more.

Stickers at Checkerspot
On Thursday, Aug. 27, Baltimore Beer Babes are hosting a meet-up and sticker exchange at Checkerspot Brewing Company.

To stay safe and socially distant, the event will take place in the beer-gating lot at Checkerspot. Guests are invited to hang out, try some brews, and trade a few stickers, just like you did in elementary school. But leave your Lisa Frank-filled sticker book at home – this sticker trade is all about stickers collected from breweries.

Max’s Hopfest
Max’s annual Hopfest is on this year, taking place on Friday, Aug. 28, though it’ll look a little different than in the past. This year, beers will be listed online and everything will be available for outdoor dining and to go only. But it’s still happening – and this year, the event features local hops.

Suckling pig at Clavel
On Saturday, Aug. 29, Clavel will celebrate all things pig (and seafood) with a suckling pig roast. The menu includes suckling pig tacos and culichi fish tacos – and meals will be available for outdoor dining or packaged for takeaway.

Congrats to MPT
Maryland Public Television, which produces some high quality shows about the local food scene, has won several regional Emmy awards, including one for its “Maryland Crabs: Tradition & Taste” program, which won in the Chesapeake Heritage category.

Planning for the future
Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:
Sept. 12: Manor Hill Farm Fest 
Sept. 19: Baltimore Seafood Festival  
Oct. 3: Trifecta Food Truck & Music Festival 



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