Hot Plate: Gunther, La Cuchara, Mama’s on the Half Shell reopen, Vaccaro’s turns 65, St. Patrick’s Day specials and more

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Even though the parade is canceled, there are lots of ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week – including a trip to Guinness Open Gate Brewery. Photo credit: Justin Tsucalas.

With temperatures rising and COVID numbers dropping, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate this week. Baltimore restaurants are ready, with news of reopenings, fun events and specials. Here’s a look at what’s coming up:

Openings & announcements
After a long winter hibernation, Gunther & Co., La Cuchara and Mama’s on the Half Shell have all reopened for dining. The restaurants have kept themselves busy over the past several months, selling meals to go and market goods and, for Mama’s, shifting menu items to the Towson location of Nacho Mama’s – and the city is certainly tastier now they are once again open for dining.

Fadensonnen and Larder are also on the list of spots preparing to open their doors once again; the Old Goucher businesses will reopen on April 1.

The Charmery’s newest location will open on Friday in Columbia. The ice cream shop has a new space in the Merriweather District – and during its first weekend in business 20% of proceeds will be donated to HopeWorks, a non-profit supporting people impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse and human trafficking.

Helmand Kabobi now has online ordering capabilities. The Hopkins hospital-area spot offers many of the same dishes as the original Helmand, in a fast casual setting.

Homegrown biscuits and more
Have you tried Mason Dixie baked goods? The brand’s biscuits, scones and rolls are available in the frozen food section of stores like Target and Whole Foods, and they’re really good. Even better: the company is based right here in Baltimore.

Mason Dixie’s owner, Ayeshah Abuelhiga grew up in Baltimore public housing and as a kid, went to H&S Bakery’s outlet store to buy the low-cost “ugly” loaves. As anyone who has stood outside H&S knows, the yeasty scent of bread baking is addictive. For Abuelhiga, it was inspiring. From her modest roots, she’s created a nationally-distributed line of baked goods. Next time you spot them, give them a try!

Happy 65th to Vaccaro’s
The iconic Little Italy pastry shop turns 65 this week and is celebrating with 65-cent cannoli on Tuesday. That’s not their only news this week, either – they have also added cookie decorating kits to their in-store lineup and have sfinges – pastries honoring St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) – available for a limited time.

Happy 5th to EKIBEN
Fells Point and Hampden favorite EKIBEN turned five last week and to celebrate, the team added a new menu item: spicy shrimp snacks. They look great!

Congrats to Chef Harper
If you spot Orto Executive Chef Matt Harper around town (or around the restaurant), be sure to offer him a big congrats: he was just named to Phaidon’s prestigious 100 Emerging Chefs list. It’s a major honor and well-deserved.

Big Softy Pizza
Big Softy – known for its excellent soft shell crab sandwiches, among other things – has a Detroit-style pizza pop-up event happening the weekend of March 12 and 13. The menu includes traditional cheese and pepperoni pies plus a very Big Softy cream of crab pie made with a cream of crab base and topped with a half-pound of Maryland crab.

St. Patrick’s Day fun
St. Patrick’s Day falls on Wednesday this year. Even though it’s a midweek holiday – and even though the parade and big parties are still on hold – there are plenty of ways to celebrate the spirit of the Irish.

Guinness’s monthlong St. Pat’s celebration is in full swing. The brewery will have special Wednesday hours on St. Patrick’s Day proper, and throughout the month, Guinness has featured extra-Irish specials and traditional music and performances by Irish dancers.

Gertrude’s St. Pat’s specials are available Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday and include classic corned beef and cabbage, Irish bacon and cabbage, colcannon and more.

Le Comptoir du Vin has a special St. Paddy’s Day box available for pre-order and pickup Wednesday afternoon. The box includes two Irish cheeses, bread, champ, sticky toffee pudding and Kerry pie, a lamb pie traditionally made on the Dingle Peninsula.

Johnny’s will serve a corned beef and cabbage special on St. Patrick’s Day. Plus, since the holiday falls midweek, it coincides with the Roland Park restaurant’s weekly Whiskey Wednesday, featuring half-priced whiskey and whiskey cocktails. Slainte!

Pierpoint Restaurant will have Irish pocket pies available for purchase on Saturday. They look terrific!

Irish Whiskey Dinner at The Elkridge Furnace Inn
On Thursday, Elkridge Furnace Inn hosts a five-course dinner featuring Irish-inspired dishes paired with whiskies from Teelings to Redbreast. Courses include dishes like burnt orange and fennel seed-cured salmon and hay-smoked lamb.

Spanish Wine Supper at The Manor Tavern
If by Thursday night, you’re ready to move on from Irish festivities, Manor Tavern has you covered with a wine dinner showcasing the wines of Spain. The meal includes passed appetizers followed by a multi-course seated dinner paired with Spanish wines. It sounds fabulous, starting with oysters and caviar, moving on to dishes like veal cheeks in cream, and ending with tres leches cake.

Planning for the future
Mark your calendars for:
March 21: Weekend Backpacks Dueling Bartenders 
March 27: Make Your Own Mixers with CaNe Collective at Sagamore Spirit 
April 24: OMGFood Benefiting The League for People with Disabilities 



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