Comings and Goings: New Hampden spot Pique, Mara Nostrum, Clark Burger, and more

City Paper
  • Former Fork & Wrench chef Cyrus Keefer (City Paper’s Best Chef of 2013) is looking to go solo when he opens Pique on The Avenue in Hampden. Focusing on French and Asian cuisine with a menu that will be “more ingredient driven,” Keefer said he hopes to have the space at 846 W. 36th St.—currently occupied by Luigi’s Italian Deli, which will close Jan. 30 and reopen in an as-yet-undetermined location—open by this spring. Keefer says he’s always wanted to be an owner of his own place and the idea of a smaller-scale micro restaurant made it feasible. While there’s no set opening date yet, Keefer is currently trying to raise money through a Kickstarter campaign and pop-up dinners (he held one last week at Sotto Sopra) that would allow him to take over the space and build out a bigger kitchen and make some changes to the small dining area.

    Asked what might be on the menu at the BYOB place, Keefer said to expect a more artistic take on items such as duck, octopus, and “lots of dumplings.”

    “I’m just trying to be the Rocky of Baltimore,” Keefer said when talking about the challenges of opening his own place. “The philosophy is, I’m trying to take the Baltimore BELIEVE thing to heart. That’s my mission.” 

  • Fells Point now has an authentic Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant with the opening of Mare Nostrum (716 S. Broadway, [410] 327-6173marenostrumbaltimore.com), next to Alexander’s Tavern. The space—owned and operated by Murat Mercan and Merter Akbay (who also own the gourmet pizza shop Toss on York Road)—opened just after the new year and specializes in authentic kebabs, Mediterranean-style seafood, and cold and hot mezze plates.

    Mercan, who’s originally from Istanbul, said that their kebabs are cooked using the traditional method of roasting over oak wood charcoals and only use meat that’s sourced from farms whose animals are not only grass-fed but also hormone- and antibiotic-free. The name Mare Nostrum—the Roman name for the Mediterranean sea that literally translates to “our sea”—also helped to dictate their stance on the sourcing of their seafood. As Mercan said, “All of our fish is coming in fresh from the Aegean Sea. It’s flown into Washington, D.C. and we get it delivered to us on a daily basis.”

    Having recently taken a sneak peek into the (currently) BYOB space, we thought the stunning white marble tables and rustic dark wood walls adorned with nautically themed art created a vibe that, if the food matches the looks, could make for a nice break from these cold, dark months of winter.

  • With the opening of Clark Burger (5906 York Road) you can now enjoy a beer, burger, and authentic poutine before taking in the latest Hollywood epic at The Senator Theatre. 

    Adjoined to the theater (but with its own entrance), the space is owned by James Clark, a born-and-raised Canadian whose dream has always been to open a place showcasing eastern Canada’s most famous dish: poutine, a plate of french fries slathered in gravy and topped with cheese curds. The dish has been gaining popularity stateside, but Clark felt he could offer something more authentic in Baltimore. 

    “I think it’s really close to what I had growing up,” said Clark. “We put a lot of time to get the gravy right, and double frying our fries, and make sure the cheese curds we get are never frozen so they have that squeak, and that’s the trademark signature of real poutine.” 

    But you don’t have to stick with the authentic version. Clark Burger also has vegetarian, vegan, and “super heavy-duty protein” options. Of course, there are also fresh burgers, which feature toppings such as Montreal-style smoked beef brisket and, if you’re feeling indulgent, poutine (whoa). 

    With a full bar offering cocktails, beer, and wine, and plans to open a smaller bar within the Senator—anything purchased at Clark Burger can be brought into the theater lobby—we’re thinking going to the movies just became a lot more appetizing.

  • In what it hopes will become an annual event, the Women’s Committee of The Walters Art Museum is hosting Rye Rocks At The Walters: A Drinks Party on Saturday, Jan. 31. The party, which goes from 7-10 p.m., will focus on Maryland’s most storied spirit: rye whiskey. The event kicks off with a talk from James Beard Award winner and Esquire Magazine’s resident cocktail historian David Wondrich and continues with tastings of the spicy whiskey from 10 esteemed distillers from around the country (Angels Envy and Redemption Rye among them) and eight specialty cocktails from members of The Baltimore Bartenders Guild. Swing and jazz music will spin as guests enjoy food from Sascha’s of Mount Vernon and take in the boozy creations from the likes of B & O American Brasserie’s Brendan Dorr, Rye’s Doug Atwell, and Bookmakers’ Briana Carlson, to name a few. We’re told Mayor SRB herself will be on hand, and if you’ve decided you need a booze breather, The Walters’ lower-level galleries and new installation, “From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story,” will be open to all guests. 1920s cocktail attire is encouraged and tickets ($75/person) can be purchased online at walters.org/events.
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