Come mid-April, you'll be able to jump off the Light Rail and, within minutes, be sitting at a bar throwing back skewered snacks and sipping on wine while you watch your dinner get cooked over a wood charcoal grill. That's the scene chef Ben Lefenfeld (formerly from the kitchens of Petit Louis Bistro and Charleston), his wife Amy, and brother Jacob envisioned when they started planning La Cuchara, the soon-to-open Basque Country-focused restaurant within Woodberry's Meadow Mill complex. The Basque region is along the border of southern France and northern Spain and known for serving pintxos (smaller tapas) and wood-grilled meats.
"I love the idea of going to a bar, nibbling on pintxos, and having a couple glasses of [Basque] Txakoli wine," Ben Lefenfeld excitedly said.
The wood-fire asador grill, Lefenfeld said, is not unlike an Argentinean grill, "but instead of cooking with raw wood, we produce charcoal with fire cages that will be behind the wood grill." He said that the use of charcoal eliminates the bitterness you can get from raw wood without losing the good sear and smoky flavor.
The menu will feature eight rotating pintxos at $2 each, six to 10 tapas for $7-$10, and a handful of entrees from $18-$32. The pintxos are also, as Lefenfeld described, a risk-free way to sample the goods. "Even if you're just getting a glass of beer or wine, you can try four or five things for under $10," he said.
The space will seat 185 people and feature two dining areas and a long 40-seat bar area where guests can watch the open kitchen and wood grill in action just behind it.
Pending permits and construction, Lefenfeld said they plan to have La Cuchara open for dinner service by the second or third week of April. Asked about being in the Woodberry neighborhood, where the food scene has grown dramatically since the opening of Woodberry Kitchen, Lefenfeld saw only positives.
"We're excited to grow with a lot of the restaurants in that area and really become another food destination in Baltimore," he said.