The Bluebird Cocktail Room’s bottled cocktail gift boxes are one of several creative gift ideas local restaurants are serving up this holiday season. Photo credit: Justin Tsucalas
The Bluebird Cocktail Room’s bottled cocktail gift boxes are one of several creative gift ideas local restaurants are serving up this holiday season. Photo credit: Justin Tsucalas

Baltimore dining during the holiday season will look a little different than usual this year, as we trade jam-packed holiday party buffets and crowded shopping trips for safer and more socially distant options.

But there’s still a lot to look forward to this month, from private dinner opportunities to pop-ups and tastings. Here’s a look at what’s coming up:

Openings & Announcements
This week has been a mixed bag in terms of restaurant news.

On the happy front, more information has been revealed about the next steps for The Dizz. It will reopen as Lily’s, with a menu full of high quality pub fare and serious restaurant expertise both in the kitchen and managing the front of house.

Joe Squared, which closed earlier this year, will be reopening as a worker-owned co-op.

Urban Burger Bar, the new concept from The Urban Oyster’s Jasmine Norton, will open at Whitehall Market on Friday.

Unfortunately, the past few weeks have also delivered some sad news on the restaurant front, with the closings of James Joyce Irish Pub in Harbor East and the New Wyman Park Restaurant.

Approach adjustments
As we head into the coldest months of the year, local restaurateurs are increasingly concerned about staying busy and solvent. Some, like the team behind the Foreman Wolf group, have issued heartfelt requests to customers to continue patronage in one form or another, whether it’s bundling up for outdoor dining, carryout, or something else.

Others are adjusting their business models for the winter, even going so far as to temporarily close or shift operations away from inside dining.

Aldo’s will, for the time being, not be open for walk-in dining but will still be open for private dining opportunities. The restaurant will also have a special holiday carryout menu and will be selling bottles of its incredible limoncello.

Gunther & Co. has also suspended regular dining, though the restaurant promises it will be busy offering meal kits, holiday dinners, pop-ups and other safe gatherings.

Bluebird Pub is open for private, two-hour dinner parties for groups of up to six diners.

Café Troia has created a lineup of holiday dinner gift packages designed for individuals or for groups of four.

True Chesapeake Oyster Co. is closing until early 2021 but will be back then, shucking and cooking.

Especially during this tough times, it’s fun to celebrate restaurants marking an anniversary. Late last month, Silver Queen Café celebrated its fifth anniversary and this week, Farm to Face’s café turns two – congratulations to both!

Holiday Light Walk at Guinness
Guinness Open Gate Brewery launches it Holiday Light Walk on Thursday, Dec. 10. The brewery has added a variety of light installations features around its space, including nods to iconic Guinness advertising, and a “tree” constructed from over 250 kegs. (Note: an earlier version of this column reported the date as Dec. 3. The lights have been delayed due to weather but the keg tree is in place.)

The installation is open to the public and pairs nicely with one of the brewery’s special holiday beers, like the Gingerbread Spiced Stout or the Barrel Aged Coffee and Coconut Porter.

BBQ in Hunt Valley
On Friday, Ryleigh’s in Hunt Valley welcomes a new BBQ pop-up, The Woodpile, in its back lot. The pop-up features Roseda Beef and drinks from Sagamore Spirit and Inverness Brewing.

Seeing Santa
Santa will say hi to brunch guests at Cindy Lou’s Fish House on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 – in an extra special way. The big guy will be at a safe, social distance – on his sailboat!

Santa will also be spotted around town, including at Whitehall Mill on Dec. 9 and 10. Reservations for visits with him can be made in advance.

Sweet stuff at Cosima
On Dec. 6, Cosima hosts a safe and socially distant Italian desserts cooking class with Chef Donna Crivello – just in time for the holidays.

Best of the Best Wine Supper at Gramercy Mansion
On Dec. 9, Chef’s Expressions will take over Gramercy Mansion for a fabulous meal featuring the best wine and food pairings discovered by the chef throughout the year. This year’s event will be organized slightly differently than in the past, with social distance and safety measures observed. But the wine and food will still be top-notch.

Time to sparkle
We could all use a little festivity this year – and what’s more festive than champagne? On Dec. 10, V-NO Winebar will host a guided tasting of Billecart-Salmon champagnes, lead by the shop’s sommelier Dwight Phyall. Tickets are limited, given COVID regulations, so grab one now.

Shopping local
This isn’t typically a shopping column but this isn’t a typical year. Many restaurants have put together products and packages that will make great holiday gifts.

The Johnny’s parking lot will transform into a holiday market on Sundays, Dec. 6 and Dec. 13.

Clavel will have its annual Mercado Navideno on Sunday. The market will be held outside and online this year and features art, ceramics and other items (along with carryout specials at the restaurant).

The Bluebird Cocktail Room’s holiday shop includes prettily packaged cocktail sets and housemade bitters.

Magdalena’s gift options include whiskey tastings for two or three people, run by The Ivy Hotel’s Director of Food & Beverage Emmanuel West.

Foraged is gearing up for a holiday cookie sale.

Liberatore’s annual gift card sale – get a $5 bonus gift certificate with the purchase of every $50 gift certificate – is underway. The sale lasts until Dec. 8.

Gertrude’s gift shop includes t-shirts, gift certificates, and signed copies of Chef John Shield’s cookbooks.

And of course, most restaurants offer gift cards, which are always welcome in any food-lover’s stocking.

Planning for the future
Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:
Dec. 19: Just Call Me Chef Takeover at Hollins Market
Dec. 23: Feast of the Seven Fishes at Elkridge Furnace Inn 
Jan. 17: Gnocchi Cooking Class at Cosima 

Kit Pollard

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