Top 10 Local Restaurant News Stories of the Decade
I can't think of another decade while I've been restaurant critic for the Sun in which so much happened on the local dining scene.
Unfortunately, much of news involved the unexpected demise of some very important restaurants. I could do a Top 10 just of closings. No, wait. I did that already.
Although closings dominated, a lot else was going on in the aughts. (And please don't tell me the decade ends next year. You can't call 2010 an aught. It's a teen.)
Anyway, here's my list of the most important local news stories where restaurants were concerned. You may not agree. If not, please post your suggestions below.
Also, Editor Rebecca has made a photo gallery of the list, which you can check out here. ...
1) The number of restaurants that closed directly or indirectly because of the recession. Of course, the reasons were often more complicated that just a troubled economy, but it seemed to give many of the restaurants that were trying to hang on a final push. I'm thinking of the Brass Elephant, Ixia, Bicycle, Northwoods in Annapolis, to mention just a few.
2) Morris Martick retired in August of 2008, and for many Baltimoreans, it was the end of an era. While the economy may have been a factor, the closing of Martick's Restaurant Francais was an event that transcended the other closings of the decade.
3) The emergence of tapas and small plates as a way to eat in area restaurants. Tapas Teatro opened in 2001, followed by Red Maple in 2002, Iron Bridge Wine Company and Mezze in 2003, and Pazo in 2005. These days many of our restaurants offer tapas even if they aren't small plates places. And tapas restaurants continue to open. Witness La Tasca, Ranazul, Tapabar, Sam's Kid, Talara and Tapas Adela.
4) The dominance of Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman on the Baltimore restaurant scene. True, Charleston opened in December, 1997; but it wasn't until it was followed by Petit Louis, Pazo and Cinghiale in the 2000s that people began talking about the Wolf-Foreman dynasty.
5) The development of the Harbor East area as destination dining, with a range of restaurants including RA Sushi, Lebanese Taverna, Oceanaire Seafood Room, Roy's, Cinghiale, Charleston, Bagby Pizza Co. and several more.
6) National recognition for our chefs and restaurants. It started with Wolf being nominated for a James Beard Foundation award as best chef in the Mid-Atlantic in mid-decade. It continued with several local chefs appearing on the popular reality show Top Chef. We even had a finalist in Bryan Voltaggio of Volt in Frederick. Restaurants from the Prime Rib to Woodberry Kitchen have been on recent Best Lists in national magazines.
7) The appearance of socially conscious restaurants on the local dining scene. Some have done very well, like Woodberry Kitchen; some have struggled, like Dogwood. But those two led the way, and many restaurants followed to a greater or lesser degree -- even if they merely focused on organic ingredients, local sourcing or recycling. (And, yes, some local restaurants did all these things before this decade; we just didn't hear about it.)
8) The decline of Little Italy and crab houses as places locals frequent. Not to say we don't still go to both; but these eating places don't have the prominence in our dining lives that they used to, and they are often geared to the tourist trade.
9) The rise of the Lauraville/Hamilton neighborhood as a place to get very good food. It began with the Chameleon Cafe, which opened in 2001 but was something of an anomaly. It wasn't until later in this decade that we also got Hamilton Tavern, Clementine, Red Canoe, Parkside and Zeke's Coffee.
10) Although it started in the '90s, the increasing use of imported crab meat in restaurant crab cakes has become a major point of contention in this decade for those who love the Maryland blue crab.
(Kim Hairston/Sun photographer)