What do you get when you mix the culinary creativity of Food Network’s Chopped winner, Chef Jay Rohlfing and world-renowned interior designer Patrick Sutton? You get a sophisticated dining experience in the heart of Towson, an area better known for fast food and chain restaurants.

Perennial replaces Cunningham’s, which closed last year after seven years, and will feature traditional American fare with locally sourced ingredients. Rohlfing, who served as executive chef of Cunningham’s, will serve in the same capacity when the new restaurant opens in May, a year behind schedule because of COVID-19.  Rohlfing won the top prize of the cable food show contest, Chopped, in 2019.

The restaurant is owned by MileOne Holdings, which owns Towson City Center, where the restaurant is located.

“We are ecstatic to collaborate with award-winning Chef Rohlfing and acclaimed designer Patrick Sutton to bring their vision to Towson. Perennial will be beautiful, lively and welcoming, and we cannot wait to get started,” said Michael Fader of MileOne Holdings, an entity associated with MileOne Autogroup.

Cunningham’s closed last January with plans to open months later, but when COVID-imposed restrictions changed the way restaurants operated, it gave Rohlfing and the design team time to reimagine a space with as much outdoor seating as indoor. 

 “The past year has been an evolution of thinking, imagining, inventing, pondering and testing that led us to create what will be an unparalleled dining experience for people who live and work in the Towson area as well as for those throughout the Baltimore region,” said Rohlfing. “We are excited to bring a new and modern dining concept to Towson and to be a part of the thriving community.”  

Rohlfing said he doesn’t want the restaurant to just be a place for a special event or date night, but one where people can just drop in for quick bite and a drink. That, he said, was always top of mind when considering the menu and the design of the restaurant.

Sutton, whose design philosophy is for spaces to tell a story, said he designed Perennial to take diners on a journey through a garden-like setting organized into three indoor spaces, consisting of a conservatory dining room that can seat 44, a more casual lounge with wood-paneled walls and ceilings that can accommodate 32, and a private dining area that can seat 25 people for events and celebrations. Wrapping the dining spaces is a covered, outdoor terrace that can accommodate 75 diners year-round. 

“The first thing I noticed is that the restaurant is in a corporate office building,” said Sutton, who has designed more than 20 restaurants in Baltimore, including Cinghiale, Rye Street Tavern, and the Rec Pier Chop House at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel. This is his first foray into Baltimore County, however.

“We had to create an experience where people didn’t think they were in an office building. We had to reinvent the garden to create a new view. No matter where you are sitting, you are always looking at a view.”

“One of the things I remember when talking to Patrick is that he said when people come out they want to be transported and put in a story, and I think we have done that,” Rohlfing said. Rohlfing said he is also creating a menu that will take diners on a culinary journey that is both appealing and approachable to drop-in diners as well as those there for a special occasion. 

The inaugural dinner menu will feature starters and brick oven flatbreads including a crispy lobster tail served with a wildflower honey vinaigrette, a Perennial Caesar salad and a mushroom and caramelized onion flatbread. The entrée menu features, among other items, a house-ground sirloin burger topped with roasted garlic mayonnaise and aged cheddar and served with fries; a New York strip steak served with fingerling potatoes and pickled peppers, and Ocean City scallops served with a spring pea salad and a tarragon vinaigrette. 

When the restaurant opens in May, it will serve guests seven days a week for dinner and bar service beginning at 5 p.m. The restaurant is also considering curbside service.

“The success of Perennial is sustainability based on community and relationship-building,” Rohlfing said. “Our success will be in satisfied diners who look to come back often.” 

Walinda West is an experienced communications professional who has served a variety of clients at the local, state and national level and is a longtime writer for Baltimore Fishbowl.