Order & Chaos will celebrate National Waffle Day (March 25) with free waffle toppings.

Spring is here, Baltimore, and with it, tons of restaurant news, from the opening of a swanky new chop house to the return of a beloved brunch to food-related classes popping up all over town. Here’s a look at what Baltimore’s restaurants have to offer this week:

Openings & Anniversaries

The big news this week, you may have heard, is that the Sagamore Pendry hotel has opened its doors. The Kevin Plank-funded project, which is located on the old Recreation Pier in Fells Point is by all accounts breathtaking.

It’s also home to several dining and drinking options that will officially open this weekend. Rec Pier Chop House is an Italian chophouse helmed by New York chef Andrew Carmellini, and The Cannon Room is “an American whiskey bar.”

Federal Hill mainstay Bluegrass Tavern officially opened a new outpost last week. Bluegrass Etc. is located in the Fairfield Inn & Suites on S. President Street. The new spot promises the same food and “spirit” as the original – just in a new place.

Lib’s Grill, the fun and very good Perry Hall spot run by the Liberatore family, is about to get a new location. The restaurant’s owners have signed a lease for a space in Maple Lawn, which is quickly becoming a Howard County restaurant hotspot.

Starting April 1, brunch is back at Clementine, which is great news for locals who missed the restaurant’s house-made sausage and bacon and enticing takes on savory and sweet breakfast options.

And there’s more to celebrate as a new local classic celebrates a big birthday this week. Stop by Union Craft Brewing tonight to say happy first anniversary to Ekiben, the uber-popular casual Asian spot that has taken Fells Point by storm.

Saying Goodbye

Unfortunately, not all the restaurant news this week is good.

Hampden breakfast and lunch spot Café Cito announced this week that Saturday, March 25, will be its last day in business. Sad news overall, but fortunately for fans of owner Dave Sherman’s sandwiches and coffee, his R. House spot, Ground & Griddled, will remain open.

On March 26, the storied Bel-Loc Diner will close after 53 years in business. This won’t come as a surprise to locals, who have likely heard about (and debated) the plans for a Starbucks on the site. Still, it will be a sad day for those in the area.

Busy Saturday

Tomorrow is a big day. Not only is it Maryland Day, but it’s also National Waffle Day. Plus, there are a ton of other events happening around town.

On Saturday at Order & Chaos, a coffee shop that truly celebrates the waffle, anyone purchasing one will receive a free topping. Toppings include fruit, from strawberry to mango, whipped cream, peanut butter and Nutella.

Saturday is also WTMD’s 2nd Annual Rock & Roll Chili Bowl, a throwdown featuring hot and spicy creations from some of the city’s best restaurants and other expert chili-makers, plus music from Haint Blue and the Kurt Deemer Band.

The event takes place at the station in Towson and will include more than 25 competitors from eight different states. This is Maryland’s official state championship cookoff for the World Championships for Chili, Chili Verde & Salsa (an event governed by the International Chili Society). It’s the real deal!

In addition to all of this, tomorrow evening, Chef Patrick Caufield of Rice Paper and cocktail expert Andre Barnhill of Clavel will host a Vietnamese-inspired pop-up dinner at New America Café, the charming new downtown spot that has already become popular for its brunch scene. The dinner is a fundraiser for the Baltimore Montessori Student Kitchen, and 10 percent of revenue will be donated to the cause.

Mt. Vernon Marketplace will also be hopping on Saturday, with Taste of the Market. Throughout the day, there will be $5 specials all through the market.

In addition, Juniper Culinary Apothecary will host a seasoning workshop, dubbed “Seasoning Your Food for Flavor and Nutrition,” designed to help people learn how to most effectively season their food (a critical skill). The workshop is also a fundraiser: every ticket sold will also pay for one student from the organization Black Girls Cook, a nonprofit that helps inner-city girls understand the importance of food prep, cooking, food hygiene and health, to take the same workshop the following week.

Lots of Learning

Baltimore-area restaurants are offering a ton of ways to learn about food this week.

First up, on Sunday, learn to make pasta at Birroteca’s Sunday School: Advanced Pasta Making class. pupils will receive instruction in how to make stuffed pasta like agnolotti and ravioli.

The Corner Pantry launches a series of mini coffee workshops this week, with a Wednesday afternoon look at the plant behind coffee and how different coffees end up with different flavors. The class will be taught by Corner Pantry “coffee guru” Tim DeLouis; future sessions will cover brewing methods and different coffee drinks.

Finally, are you intimidated by unshucked oysters? Not sure what to do when handed an oyster knife? If you’ve always wanted to learn to shuck, or even if you know how but want to refine your technique, head to The Local Oyster in Mt. Vernon Marketplace on Thursday for a “Learn to Shuck Like a Pro” event put on by the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

The Local Oyster’s Nick Schauman – a guy who knows a lot about shucking – will instruct the class on proper shucking techniques. The class is free and will likely be a popular one. Make sure you get a space by making an advance reservation through ORP.

Date Night at Cinghiale

Friday night daters have an appealing new option at Cinghiale in Harbor East. Every Friday night, the restaurant is offering a great deal – a three-course meal for $50 per couple, plus an additional $25 wine pairing option.

The menu includes a shared first course, two entrees and chocolate hazelnut semi freddo for dessert.

Animal Support at Great Sage

Great Sage, the top-notch vegan restaurant in Clarksville, is hosting a prix fixe dinner supporting Animal Defenders International (ADI) on Monday evening. The meal includes dishes like rapini, cherry pepper and artichoke-topped spaghetti and an amaretto-soaked almond cake for dessert and features wines from Tenth Harvest.

Champagne Campaign at Bookmakers

Bookmakers Cocktail Club in Federal Hill will hold its first-ever Champagne Campaign event on Tuesday, March 28. The event is free and includes specials on a host of sparkling wines. The evening will include a raffle, with all proceeds going to benefit Simple Sacrifice, a nonprofit that fights childhood hunger in Baltimore.

Springtime at Clavel

Despite the cold temps this week, it truly is spring. Clavel is marking the change of seasons with a brand new, refreshed cocktail menu that will debut on Wednesday, March 29. If you haven’t tried Clavel’s cocktails, consider going twice this week – once for the winter batch and once again for the spring menu. They’re that good.

Firestone Walker Beer Dinner at Victoria Gastro Pub

Also on Wednesday, Victoria Gastro Pub will celebrate the beers of Firestone Walker with a six-course beer dinner featuring some intriguing, Mexican-inspired courses like ancho-roasted chicken tortilla soup, slow-roasted pork enchiladas and one very local course of crab, citrus and snakehead ceviche.

Old World Wine with the Liberatores

Go old school (wine) with the chef from Lib’s Grill on Thursday, March 30. Chef Daniel Chaustit has put together an impressive menu featuring old world wines from France, Spain and Italy, paired with courses created tableside! Dishes include Parmesan flan with micro basil, prosciutto and balsamic glaze, roasted pork medallions and beef tenderloin with mushroom risotto flambe.

Though the dinner is hosted by Lib’s Grill, due to space constraints, it will take place at Liberatore’s (the one in the same Perry Hall shopping center as Lib’s Grill; not the one in Timonium).

It’s Almost Emporiyum Time!

The Emporiyum, the big market/celebration of food that remains one of the hottest tickets in town, returns next weekend. On April 1 and 2, over 90 excellent and interesting food vendors will converge upon 600 E. Pratt Street, sharing their wares with excited foodies from all over.

VIP tickets for Saturday have already sold out, so if you’re considering going – either Saturday or Sunday – go ahead and snag some tickets before they’re gone. This is a fun event with a lot to see and do.

This year, it also happens to coincide with the first weekend of Light City, now in its second year. With both events happening concurrently, there’s a lot to look forward to next weekend.

Planning Ahead

Here are a few events over the next few weeks:

April 4: No Kid Hungry Chef’s Cycle Fundraiser at Gunther & Co. 

April 9: Maize y Cacao at Clavel

May 6: Heavy Seas Taco Festival

Kit Pollard

Kit Waskom Pollard is a Baltimore Fishbowl contributing writer. She writes Hot Plate every Friday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.