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April 26, 2010

Elevation elimination

Harbor East DeliHarbor East Deli is expected to open this weekend in the storefront occupied ever so briefly by Elevation Burger.

Alex Smith, grandson of Harbor East godfather John Paterakis, is opening the restaurant with two partners.

Smith was a partner in Elevation Burger, the grass-fed burger restaurant that came and went in the space of nine months.

"I had a falling out with the franchise company," Smith said of his last venture. Namely, he said, Elevation HQ did not allow him to play background music, sell beer or wine, or have televisions in the dining area.

"When you have a franchise company that's not willing to work with you, not willing to learn, it's time to move on," he said. Smith invoked some McDonald's history, something he's familiar with since Grandpa bakes buns for the chain. "Franchisees proposed the Big Mac, proposed the salad, the wraps."

And so, at Smith's new venture, there will be music, beer, wine and liquor, and 10 plasma TVs. 

The new place will have one thing in common with Elevation: an affordable menu, at least compared to the fine-dining options that dominate that upscale corner of town.

There will be burgers, whole pizzas and pizza by the slice, deli sandwiches, lamb and chicken gyros, streamed and fried shrimp, and nine different types of cheese steak. I don't have all the prices, but the sandwiches start at $6.50.

Because Elevation was a franchise, Smith could not use any of the fixtures from the old restaurant. He said the space has been completely renovated and has 91 seats, up from 41. There will be 40 additional seats on the sidewalk.

"Anybody who ever ate at Elevation Burger will never know it existed," he said. "There is not a spec of Elevation in here."

No spec of Elevation in this deli. Photo courtesy of Alex Smith

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 3:42 PM | | Comments (25)


glad to finally see some news about this new joint.

I was wondering why elevation got canned. looking forward to trying this place out.

I am so exicted there is finally going to be pizza by the slice and a deli! This place will kill it in Harbor East!

The franchise company wouldn't work with him? It's called a business plan. Best to have one before you start the business and buy a franchise. I guess gramps has deep pockets.

Elevation Burger was awful! Good decision putting a deli there. When I get a burger I want it to taste good grass fed or not. Hopefully the deli's burger will be better!

A lame sandwich plus 12 TVs = a lame sandwich

I agree with skittles hopefully when they open they will have a great product. This article is dead on though.... the environment at Elevation was terrible. No music? No ESPN? It was like eating in a prison cafeteria!

I wanted to like Elevation Burger, but it was really hard to choke down. And yes, a sandwich place is a necessity in a high density area like that. So now there's two; the deli and Rosina.

I detect a spec of Elevation in that deli - those look like the same tables.

At any rate, I'm glad to see them part ways with the Elevation HQ. Any burger place that does not offer bacon is doomed. I look forward to swinging by and giving the team another shot. They will have heavy competition from a known quantity in the local sandwich biz in Rosina. Let's hope they keep costs down to keep it competitive. $6.50 starting prices for sandwiches is very high and probably prohibitive.

I have heard there is a subway as well as another high end deli/ wine bar coming to harbor east. I am a resident here.. Rosina and Bagby will compete more with each other and little italy clientel. They are too off the beaten trail for me. In addition Rosina is a great sandwich but one of the most expensive sandwiches in the city! I may eat at Charleston's new lunch for the same price!!


Just curious, which restaurants do you consider "on the beaten trail"? But I am intrigued by the idea of lunch for $10-15 at Charleston.


IMHO 10 tvs is too many tvs.

@Eric - "Off the beaten trail"??? Bagby is a whole block away from this place!

Sort of related question - does anyone know when Rosina is set to open? Or did it open already and I somehow missed it.

Whoops, I should read ahead.

I met one of the corporate EB guys when this location was opening. Nice guy. I told him that my only reservation was about the lack of music --- the prison-cafeteria description was dead on.

He said something like, "we want our customers to enjoy talking to each other!!" or something similar...which is a nice sentiment, but a ludicrous one (as though customers arrived without sufficient cognition to converse while music is playing.)

According to liquor board records, they're pouring more than $500,000 into the business plan -- a sizable chunk of change. I like Alex Smith's LLC name -- Madcow. Hee hee.

I doubt they will really spend another half million to deli-fy the place. That's the minimum that you have to say you're putting into capital improvements to get a NEW liquor license.

I know this because I have solid gold ovens on Cafe World and am still under budget.

according to steve foglemans twitter blog (
it was a class B new liquor license granted to harbor east delicatessen and pizzeria.

I know this because I have solid gold ovens on Cafe World and am still under budget.

Now here's a tangent I never thought I'd go on.

Can one link one's Farmville to one's Cafe World for a Woodberry-style farm-to-table concept?

Or maybe there's room for a 'distribution network' middle-game in there somewhere - like Sim-Aramark, or something.

I believe these guys are advertising "Brick Oven Pizza" and my friend's husband may have this that pic it does indeed look a lot like a gas oven that only has a brick facade.

Either way, I hope the pizza and sandwiches are yummy!

Why would one enter into a franchise agreement without knowing the terms thereof?
You can't just do what you want with a franchise... they have plans and structure to ensure consistency across the brand.


Why would one enter into a franchise agreement without knowing the terms thereof?

Because you haven't earned a penny of the money you spent on it. Maybe he should play Cafe World to get some experience first.

Maybe it's a brick oven microwave.

I know that when I take a break from staring at spreadsheets all morning, I love to stare at a bank of six TVs while I eat my $11 sandwich.

I hope they play classic easy rock because that is the best. I particularly like Muskrat Love. And Journey.

Why can't you get chips on your sandwich? And pickles. Pickles and chips, now that's a party in your mouth. And salsa. Salsa should definitely be a sandwich condiment. Fiesta en mi boca! ¡Olé!

Went in there last weekend after a movie. Food was decent enough, but customer service was mediocre at best.

Refusing to give out tap water is no way to treat your customers.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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