World Is Your Oyster Fest takes place on Thursday, Sept. 28. Photo courtesy of The Urban Oyster.

Autumn is officially here, which means a robust schedule of food-oriented festivals, new menus stacked with fall flavors, and a shift from summer drinks to toasty dark spirits and more. Here’s a look at what’s coming up this week in the Baltimore food world:

Openings & announcements

The New York Times included Little Donna’s on their 2023 list of the 50 best restaurants in the United States. The Upper Fells Point eatery, which replaced the former Henninger’s Tavern in June 2022, is known for dishes like tavern-style pizzas and pierogis, inspired by chef-owner Robbie Tutlewski’s Midwestern upbringing in Gary, Indiana. It’s the first time that a Baltimore restaurant has made it onto the list.

The Victoria Gastro Pub and Manor Hill Tavern announced a big new hire this week: Chef Jay Rohlfing has joined the team as Culinary Director. Chef Rohlfing is a terrific chef; most recently, he helmed the kitchen at Perennial and, before that, at Perennial’s Towson predecessor, Cunningham’s.

This week, The Baltimore Banner provided status updates on restaurants mentioned in an early 2023 article about the year’s most exciting prospective restaurant openings. The restaurants included in the follow-up – from Nana in south Towson to Zander’s downtown – are all places that generated a lot of buzz when they were announced but, for one reason or another, haven’t yet opened. The good news is that most are still in the works – even if opening dates have been pushed back repeatedly.

Festival weekend – with some updates

This weekend is a big one for fun food-related festivals in the Baltimore area, including a few that are scheduled specifically for Saturday, like the Trifecta Food Truck & Music Festival at the Fairgrounds and the Susquehanna Wine & Seafood Festival in Havre de Grace.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Saturday is a tough one, full of rain, so no matter what your plans, you’ll want to double check before you leave the house. The Trifecta Festival is a rain-or-shine event. The Susquehanna Wine & Seafood Festival has more moving parts: depending on the weather and on the input of VIP ticket holders, the event may be moved to Sunday (its established rain date).

Artscape is scheduled from Friday through Sunday of this weekend. Restaurants within the festival area – which extends throughout Bolton Hill and into Station North – have plans to embrace the party, moving some seating outside. That will be contingent on the weather, of course, but keep an eye out for extra energy at places like Alma Cocina Latina, Nancy by SNAC, Tapas Teatro and Foraged Eatery, all of which are in the event area.

The Big Dill Pickle Party was originally scheduled to take over Power Plant Live! this weekend. However, due to the forecast, the event has been rescheduled for Nov. 11 and 12.

World Is Your Oyster Fest

On Thursday, Sept. 28, the Oyster Recovery Partnership hosts its popular annual event, The World Is Your Oyster Fest, at the B&O Railroad Museum.

The event, which benefits ORP’s initiatives to promote a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay through oyster conservation, features live music, a painting class by Annapolis artist Kim Hovell (who is known for her paintings of oysters), shopping, shucking lessons, the opportunity to chat with oyster farmers and watermen, and – of course – tons of oysters and other seafood to eat.

Participating restaurants include a who’s who of Baltimore spots where oysters are available, including Thames St. Oyster House, The Urban Oyster, Mama’s on the Half Shell, State Fare, The Local Oyster (and True Chesapeake), Mt. Washington Tavern, Nick’s Fish House, Faidley’s, Federal House, Atlantic Food & Spirits, The Beaumont, La Food Marketa and Capital Grille. Teams from Graul’s and Chef’s Expressions will also be on hand, as will the crew from Prigel Familiy Creamery.

Pig Roast Luau

On Friday, Sept. 29, Grand View Farm in Forest Hill hosts a whole pig roast luau party, with a buffet from Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz, Polynesian dancers from Pacific Tempo, games, prizes and more.

Maryland Italian Festival

Also on Sept. 29, the Maryland Italian Festival kicks off a weekend of fun at the Harford County Equestrian Center.

The festival, which is sponsored by The Society of Italian American Businessmen, features a huge bocce tournament that benefits the Special Olympics, cooking and wine demos, tons of Italian food for purchase, and more.

Oktoberfest season

Oktoberfest celebrations are going strong throughout the region.

Weekend parties at Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Maienfels Biergarten are in high gear, with music, food and lots of beer.

The celebrations have also begun at Das Bierhalle. On Thursday, Sept. 21, the Parkville restaurant hosted Das Boot Race – a drinking contest for teams of four – and the seasonal games and events will last for weeks.

On Thursday, Sept. 28, The Elkridge Furnace Inn hosts a somewhat unexpected Oktoberfest celebration: a wine dinner. The five-course German meal will feature the cuisine and wines of Germany – a perfect way to mark the month for non-beer lovers (or anyone who likes wine).

Brandy at Silver Queen

Silver Queen Café just announced the next in its Spirit Series of dinners: a meal featuring pairings with brandy cocktails. Tickets have almost sold out, though, so if you’re interested in joining the Oct. 19 event, grab yours now.

Shift to Fall

Oktoberfest plans aren’t the only sign that fall is here. Restaurant menus are swinging into the season with the addition of heartier, cold-weather fare.

Meat Monday is back at Thames Street Oyster House. The carnivorous occasion returned this past week, with braised local rabbit ravioli.

At La Cuchara, an oyster mushroom bourguignon is flavored with roasted tomato and red wine and served over olive oil polenta.

The Corner Pantry is all about apples and pumpkins in its lineup of breakfast items and sweets.

At Johnny’s, the cocktail list is getting a seasonal update, including Aja’s Crisp Apple Spritz – a Campari and apple cider concoction.

Of Love & Regret jumped into the season this week with a risotto special featuring grilled filet and roasted butternut squash.

The menu at Little Donna’s is always evolving – and as the weather changes, the kitchen promises more pot pies and hand pies to match.

Planning for the future

Mark your calendars for:

Sept. 30: Wine in the Wilderness at the Maryland Zoo

Oct. 11: ArdBBQ at Magdalena

Oct. 19: Brandy Dinner at Silver Queen Cafe

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