Polenta Cafe:: This brand new BYOB celebrated its grand opening in Hampden late last month with an emphasis on gluten-free Italian cuisine. The cozy restaurant—which highlights wooden accents and window seating perfect for people watching on the Avenue—offers a rotating menu of small plates and charcuterie boards alongside a lengthy list of polenta-based entrees. The restaurant’s house-made polenta is topped with everything from roasted vegetables and mini meatballs to homemade sausage and jumbo shrimp. 900 W. 36th St.,443-682-9388.
Baby’s on Fire: Local musicians David and Shirle Koslowski are launching this new record store cafe in Mt. Vernon June 10. Partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $10,000, the space will offer Portland-based Stumptown Coffee and other light fare alongside a collection of new and used vinyl records. 1010 Morton St., 443-885-9892.
BonChon Chicken: Canton locals rejoiced on social media last week after this chain restaurant announced that it would be opening its sixth Maryland franchise in the neighborhood later this summer. Known for its claim-to-fame Korean fried chicken, the brand will soon take over a vacant unit in the Broom Factory Building on Boston Street. In addition to its glazed wings and drumsticks, the 80-seat spot will offer beef sliders, rice bowls, kimchi-filled pancakes, and udon noodle soup. 3500 Boston St., 212-273-1111.
UFood Grill: Joining the likes of Eggspectation, Fractured Prune, and Times Square Kitchen in the Metro Centre at Owings Mills, this fast-casual eatery will offer hearty fare with a healthy twist when it opens its doors this summer. The Massachusetts-based chain features grass-fed sirloin burgers, DIY power bowls, panini and flatbread “handhelds”, and made-to-order smoothies. Vegan options, like a black bean burger with steamed brown rice and quinoa, are also plentiful. The new location will mark the brand’s first in Maryland. 10209 Grand Central Avenue, Owings Mills.
Pappas Seafood Company: This local seafood stalwart is the latest restaurant to snag space at the MGM National Harbor Casino slated to open in Prince George’s County this fall. Pappas will open a stall in the casino’s communal food hall (similar to Horseshoe Casino’s Baltimore Marketplace) alongside the likes of Shake Shack, Tap Sports Bar, and European cafe Bellagio Patisserie. Known for its endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, the local favorite specializes in fare like fried oysters, stuffed shrimp, and its award-winning lump crabcakes. 7100 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill
Defie Moi: Chef Cyrus Keefer—formerly of Birroteca and Fork & Wrench—is reviving this Asian-French pop-up that he briefly operated in the basement of 13.5% Wine Bar last summer. Now running his own consulting and catering business, Keefer will take over The Food Market’s private kitchen later this month, serving dishes such as oil-poached shrimp, stir-fried calamari, and a French Dip roll with steak tartare and Japanese rice seasoning. Other Defie Moi pop-up dinners scheduled for later this summer will take place at Union Craft Brewing and Ekiben’s new brick-and-mortar shop in Fells Point.
La Cuchara: Due to popular demand, this Basque-inspired hotspot is launching Sunday brunch service. Starting on June 19, diners can look forward to chef Ben Lefenfeld’s unique takes on classic brunch staples. The menu will rotate, including dishes such as butter buns with espresso cream, crispy chicken torta with local wildflower honey, sweet breakfast sausage topped with fried eggs and Tetilla cheese, and smoked salmon with arugula and eggs on house-baked brioche. Mimosas and Bloody Marys garnished with the restaurant’s signature pinxtos will also be featured. 3600 Clipper Mill Road, 443-708-3838
Bahama Breeze: On the heels of a massive redevelopment project expected to break ground in the area next year, this Caribbean-themed Towson Circle mainstay recently closed after the property was sold to new owners. The restaurant was known for its wide array of affordable tiki drinks and Island-themed cuisine. Its last day in business was Wednesday, June 1. 100 E. Joppa Road, Towson
Red Maple: In a message posted to Facebook, owner Leonard Clarke announced that Red Maple’s days are numbered. Under contract to be sold to new owners, the trendy Mt. Vernon lounge known for its guest DJs, colorful martinis, and flickering fireplaces will be shutting its doors later this month. Farewell parties are currently in the works. 930 N. Charles St., 410-547-0149