As much as Alan Morstein loves his brick-and-mortar baby on Light Street, he’s eager to get back to his roots and pivot in a new direction.
“It seems like I do something for 15 years, and then I have to move on and do something else,” he says. “I have to stay motivated.”
Earlier this year, Morstein announced that he would be putting his Federal Hill restaurant Regi’s American Bistro up for sale. The neighborhood staple opened in 1978, and Morstein took over ownership in 2002. Though he is still in the process of finding a buyer (Morstein says he has two meetings set for next week), an official closing date has been set for Saturday, April 7.
The restaurant is offering a number of specials during its final days, including its last brunch on Easter Sunday and longtime chef Ben Troast returning to the kitchen for closing night.
“It’s a tremendous loss, but it’s just time,” Morstein says. “I feel like I’ve done everything I can do here, from having bees on the roof and growing my own vegetables, to grilling pit beef and lighting fireplaces. It’s time for me to move on and try something new.”
Though the location of his next venture will be new for Morstein, the concept is one that he happens to be very familiar with. He has signed a letter of intent to open a classic deli inside Mount Vernon Marketplace, and is in the process of negotiating a lease for a stall in the communal space. If all goes well, the eatery—conveniently dubbed Alan’s Deli—could be up and running as soon as this summer.
The spot will harken back to the first Alan’s Deli location that Morstein ran in Ocean City more than 35 years ago. He later moved to Baltimore and opened a similar concept inside the now-demolished Owings Mills Mall.
“Those are my roots,” he says. “I cut my teeth in deli food.”
In anticipation of the new spot, Morstein has already begun pickling his own vegetables. He also plans to do his own meat roasting and smoking on site, and hand-slice all of the breads.
“I’m always into the theatrical aspect of things,” he says, mentioning that part of the charm of operating a stall in the marketplace is that patrons can see their dishes being prepared.
Aside from regular lunch service, Morstein also hopes to offer a brunch menu with fresh bagels and omelets on the weekends. With options like half-sized corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, the menu’s goal is to further the tasting philosophy of the market.
“The whole point of going to the market is to graze,” he says. “I love the communal vibe. Each person goes on their own little mission and brings back food for everybody to pass around and share. That’s part of the allure of going there.”
Though Morstein says that moving on from Regi’s is bittersweet, he is looking forward to his next chapter.
“People always say that there is crime in the city and that’s why restaurants aren’t doing well,” he says. “But there’s crime everywhere. If the crime is so bad than how do you justify a place like Mount Vernon Marketplace kicking ass? It’s a great spot with such a cool vibe. I’m excited to be a part of it.”