Hot Plate: Tacopalooza’s on the Way, Sandlot Opens, Gnocco Turns One & More

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Tacos won’t be the only thing on the menu at Tacopalooza: Chef Chad Gauss will also be working the grill, serving up everything from meat to octopus. (Photo credit: Plaid Photo)

Summer officially rolls into Baltimore (and everywhere else) this week and local restaurants are in celebration mode. This week brings tons of restaurant buzz – openings, closings and anniversaries – plus Father’s Day plans, live music and more.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around town:

Get Ready for Tacopalooza

Are you free July 3? La Food Marketa is orchestrating a fun event for people staying in town over the July 4th holiday. It’s called Tacopalooza and, as the name suggests, it’s a festival of tacos (among other things).

The event starts at 5 p.m. and will take place outside the Quarry Lake restaurant. Tickets are $50 in advance or $75 at the door (and you have to be 21 to join).

The ticket includes music, non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails (Sangria! Margaritas! Mojitos! Beer!), churrasco meats and octopus, a full buffet of La Food Marketa classics and many, many tacos served from multiple taco bars.

The event benefits ShareBaby, an organization that helps Baltimore families meet basic needs, like diapers, bottles and car seats. It’s a cause close to the heart of Food Market and Food Marketa owner Chad Gauss – and one that helps improve lives of many Baltimoreans.

Openings & Announcements

Spike Gjerde’s much anticipated Harbor Point venture, Sandlot Baltimore, opened yesterday, bringing casual, beachy food, outdoor sports, picnic tables and plenty of space to play to the Harbor area.

Fans of authentic Mexican food will be happy to hear that a new spot, Cocina Luchadora, recently opened at the corner of Broadway and Gough Streets in Fells Point. By all accounts, both the food and the owners are terrific.

Annabel Lee Tavern fans breathed a sigh of relief this week when the restaurant announced that, thanks to two new investors – locals who are regulars at the Tavern – it will reopen sometime within the next month. The Poe-themed restaurant closed last month, leaving many longtime fans distraught.

Baltimore got a new personal chef service and catering company this week, with the official launch of Yellow Hen, a company that caters small and large events and also offers home delivery of freshly prepared meals that can be served immediately or frozen for use later.

The owners of Colette announced recently that the French restaurant would close down and the space would be taken over by Italian sister spot Bottega. The changeover will take place today, starting at 5 p.m., when Bottega opens in its new, larger digs.

Though Colette offered a full bar, Bottega will be BYOB (like it was in its former space). The menu will be slightly larger (though similar to the old Bottega menu)…and the management promises that walk-ins are welcome.

Mutiny Pirate Bar announced this week that it will move from its waterside (but tough to find) Glen Burnie location to the Pasadena space that formerly housed The BBQ Joint. The owners also announced plans to open a second location in a new Elkridge development – hopefully by October.

Happy Birthday to Gnocco

Gnocco, the uber-charming corner restaurant in Canton, turns one on Thursday. The restaurant is celebrating with a party featuring some of the kitchen’s favorite dishes and the bar’s excellent drinks.

Festival Season Continues

Tomorrow, June 17, Feastival takes place in front of the Four Seasons, on Harbor East’s waterfront promenade. The event is a serious food-lovers paradise, featuring food and drinks from restaurants like Azumi, Blue Pit BBQ, Cask & Grain, Clavel, Colette, Gnocco, Gunther & Co., Loch Bar and Wit & Wisdom.

Pride comes to Baltimore this weekend and with it, tons of specials and events, including drag performances at Points South Latin Kitchen on Sunday at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. In addition to the performers who regularly entertain during the Points South drag brunches, Sunday’s show will include a performance by Points South owner Bryson Keens.

Father’s Day Fun

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 18 and restaurants around town have made a variety of plans, from BBQ specials to prix fixe deals, to help celebrate dad.

La Cuchara has a special Father’s Day option on the menu: a Creekstone Farms steak with green peppercorn sauce. Plus, the restaurant is offering happy hour prices all evening and 50% off wines over $100.

At Maggie’s Farm, a three-course menu includes dishes like Zeke’s Coffee-rubbed brisket and a BBQ pork belly bun.

At RegionAle, a Dad’s Day Out special means kids (with a paying adult) eat free all day long.

Small Batch BBQ will pop-up at Chuck’s Trading Post in Hamden, with a smoked meats-themed Father’s Day brunch.

BBQ is also on tap at the Mt. Washington Tavern, which will give all dads who dine in for Father’s day a complimentary bottle of Maker’s Mark BBQ sauce (while supplies last), plus a recipe for the Tavern’s Maker’s Mark burger.

WineD Down

On Tuesday, Wine Market Bistro will host its 9th Annual Spring WineD Down, a fun evening featuring 25 different wines paired with passed hors d’oeuvres like fried haloumi, braised short rib crostini and pickled shrimp with avocado puree.

Mulberry Madness

Starting this week, Baltimore Orchard Project is teaming up with a bunch of local restaurants to celebrate the mulberry. Mulberry Madness, as the event is dubbed, starts on Wednesday June 21 and lasts through June 27.

Throughout the week, mulberries will pop up at restaurants and bakeries around town. On Wednesday, look for them at Harmony Bakery; Thursday, they’ll be at Dovecote Café. On Friday, Bird in Hand and Artifact Coffee will feature mulberries, on Saturday, June 25, you can find them at blacksauce, Michele’s Granola and Harmony Bakery at the Waverly Farmer’s Market and on Sunday, they’ll be at Café Jovial. Plus, for a week starting Wednesday, Atwater’s will offer mulberry jam samplers for sale and taste testing.

Celebrate Summer at Mt. Vernon Marketplace

Jump into summer, tropical style, when Mt. Vernon Marketplace celebrates the Solstice with a luau-themed party. On Thursday, June 21, the Marketplace will go Hawaiian with a ukulele band, a pig roast, tiki drinks and tropical tea mocktails, plus an Ugly Hawaiian Shirt contest.

Thursday Tunes

Last month, Cask & Grain in Canton kicked off a new monthly event called The Storytellers Series: An Acoustic Evening. Every month, the restaurant will host a music dinner featuring a three-course meal and entertainment by a regional artist. On Thursday, June 21, Jordan Sokel of Pressing Strings will perform.

Sip Around Town

Visit Baltimore has set up the Baltimore Beverage Passport, a fun new program to encourage people to try new spots around the city. From now through August 31, you can pick up a free passport at the visitor center in the Inner Harbor. As you travel to participating restaurants, you’ll receive passport stamps (plus special deals and discounts). Passport holders who collect at least 10 different stamps can go back to the visitor center and will be given a complimentary glass as a prize for all their hard work.

Planning Ahead

Here are a few events to look forward to over the next few weeks:

June 24: Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival 

June 24: Farm Fest at Manor Hill Tavern 

July 28: Baltimore Restaurant Week 

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