La Cuchara brothers Ben and Jake Lefenfeld will be opening a casual seafood spot in the Riverside Park area of Federal Hill at 2 E. Wells Street. The no-reservations, 140-seat spot will be called Minnow to reflect its small, friendly feel and is expected to open in April.
“There are a lot of big steakhouses and huge restaurants in the city,” explains Ben, La Cuchara's executive chef/co-owner. “We just wanted to open a little neighborhood spot where people could come several times a week for dinner at an affordable price point.”
While menu details are still being worked out (as well as the hiring of a chef), the emphasis will be on fresh crudos, quick sautés, and grill options and will reflect the seasons.
“The focus will be on seafood that’s not coming out of the deep fryer,” says Lefenfeld. “Too many places rely on food that’s coming out of the fryer.”
As Lefenfeld and his staff continue to develop Minnow’s recipes, guests at La Cuchara will see a spike in seafood dishes in the coming weeks. “We will be testing recipes and product to see what kind of reaction we get from our guests,” he says.
The kitchen will concentrate on some local sourcing, but Lefenfeld’s overall goal is provide the best product possible.
“As far as sourcing local, we see that as a responsibility rather than an advertising technique,” he says. “But we also want to provide quality, sustainable seafood for our guests—that means if we can get better rockfish from New York than Maryland, it will come from New York.”
The décor will add to the upbeat energy and will include maritime elements—think vintage fishing lures—and a possible Gilligan’s Island theme to the bar area, as a nautical nod to Gilligan’s stranded charter, the S.S. Minnow. There will also be overhead TVs for Ravens and O’s fans and a communal table in the open kitchen.
Jake Lefenfeld, who oversees the bar program at La Cuchara and is a Federal Hill resident, will become the new general manager, as well as oversee the bar program highlighting wines from the Mediterranean.
In the meantime, Ben will continue to work on Minnow’s menu development, but will continue to focus on the brother’s Basque-inspired spot in Woodberry.
“La Cuchara is the first place I go in the morning and the last place I leave at night,” he says. “That’s not going to change.”