Food & Drink

Open & Shut: Hopscotch; Bunny’s; Allora; Joe Benny’s

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


Hopscotch Zero Proof Bottle Shop: In keeping with the focus on inclusivity that has spread throughout the local cocktail scene, this specialty bottle shop —dubbed as Maryland’s first to exclusively carry spirit-free sips—will open soon in Fells Point near the corner of Caroline and Fleet streets. Owner Darryl Collins will curate the shop with non-alcoholic (less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume) beer, wine, and spirits, as well as zero-proof (no alcohol at all) drinks. Collins knows liquor stores throughout Baltimore offer these types of products, but with Hopscotch, “we will be that specialized shop that carries the best selection of non-alcoholic beverages in the city,” he says.

At just under 1,000 square feet, the retail space will also feature a tasting area—which Collins hopes will be a draw. “Any day you come into the shop, you can expect a non-alcoholic drink [to taste],” he says. “Some days we may have a non-alcoholic beer, other days we may have a non-alcoholic wine. And then at times, we may have a non-alcoholic cocktail. But at any rate, you can always expect to come into Hopscotch and have first drinks on us.”

Collins says he’s aiming for a June opening, but if you want to get a taste of Hopscotch’s inventory sooner, catch the team at a few select summer events around town. “We’re definitely looking to get out there and introduce people to non-alcoholic beverages,” Collins says. “With many people, their first reaction is ‘Wow, this actually tastes good.’ It’s not your Shirley Temple or your O’Douls that your grandparents may have drank growing up.”

Bunny’s: Chef Jesse Sandlin is at it again. After launching Sally O’s in Highlandtown and more recently debuting The Dive in Canton, Sandlin and her local restaurant partners are opening Bunny’s in the old Wharf Rat space in Fells Point. According to reporting by the Baltimore Business Journal, the new concept will highlight Sandlin’s Southern-focused recipes and feature a signature pairing: fried chicken and Champagne. (Might sound odd, but it’s been noted by critics that the acidity and the grease work well together.) Diners can check out the menu and interior upgrades—which include retro furniture and colorful custom bunny murals by local artist Kait K Designs—when the space opens in early June.


Clyde’s Restaurant Group Taking Over Rye Street Tavern: Baltimore Peninsula—South Baltimore’s 235-acre mixed-use waterfront community formerly known as Port Covington—will welcome Clyde’s Restaurant Group in early 2024. The Washington, D.C.-based restaurateurs, who run 12 properties throughout the DMV, recently announced plans to take over Rye Street Tavern on the Sagamore Spirit distillery campus—which has been used solely as a private events venue since closing to the public in May 2021. Though the tavern concept—which pairs its dishes with the namesake rye—will remain, the group is planning to make significant upgrades to the two-story building, including creating a large outdoor dining area with a 75-seat island bar that takes advantage of the waterfront views. Other planned renovations for the space include a fully redesigned kitchen and oyster bar.

“Sagamore is the top selling rye in our restaurants,” explained Jeff Owens, Clyde’s CFO & Corporate Development, in a press release. “We will offer a vast selection of seasonal and classic cocktails, locally sourced beers, and a broad international wine program—but we will only stock one brand of rye whiskey.”

Allora Relocating to Larger Space in Former Grand Central: This fall, baby-sized Mt. Vernon favorite Allora will relocate just two doors down to a larger home inside the new City House Charles building. The Roman bistro will take over the property’s first-floor space that was once home to the neighborhood’s LGBTQ-friendly fixture Grand Central, which closed in 2019. “As a queer-owned restaurant, we hope that once again we can bring back an inclusive meeting spot where everyone is welcome,” chef-owner Brendon Hudson wrote on Instagram.

This larger space—which will be neighbored by a fifth location of European cafe chain, Roggenart—will allow Allora to create a 14-seat bar offering wine and cocktails, as well as a four-seat chef’s counter, which will look directly into the kitchen and offer exclusive menu items. The new Allora will also have 10 outdoor tables along Eager Street. “We can’t wait to introduce you into this new space and start a whole new chapter together,” the post concluded.


5/19: Mount Royal Soaps Night Market
Looking to do a little shopping, snacking, and sipping at the same time? Head to Mount Royal Soaps’ shop in Remington for another one of its free Night Markets, where patrons can peruse goods from craft vendors like Milkweed Ceramics and Happy Little Paper Co. while enjoying bites from the Ekiben food truck. Expect other on-site food vendors like Emmanuella’s Cuisine, Raspberry Moments (who will serve up dessert parfaits, funnel cakes, and gumbo), and Lindersweets. Union Craft Brewing will pour free beer. Can’t make it? No worries—Mount Royal Soaps hosts this event, with rotating craft and food vendors, every month.


Joe Benny’s: This focacceria specializing in Sicilian-style pizza and meatballs in Little Italy is set to close early next month after more than nine years in business. Owner Joseph Gardella shared an emotional video on his restaurant’s Instagram page announcing the news. “The model that we put into place, it counted on me being here all the time, from open to close,” he said. “And it’s something I did graciously. I loved it. My name’s on the door…I’ve been here a long time, but it’s taken its course on my body and my brain. I forced myself to keep going because I love this, so I pushed myself. Ladies and gentlemen, I can’t push anymore. It’s not fair to you guys, and it’s not fair to my staff.”

Before sharing the news in the video, Gardella reminisced about the initial vision for his small but mighty storefront.

“When I started Joe Benny’s, I had a goal in mind,” he said. “I remember going out used to be a special thing. We didn’t go out a lot growing up…It was a special occasion. I always kept that near and dear to my heart, and I always said if I ever one day opened a place, I wanted it to be more than a place where you ate and drank.”

He went on to say that he and his team have accomplished that goal, and concludes the video by copiously thanking his customers and staff—some of whom had been with Joe Benny’s since day one. He also implied that this maybe (hopefully) isn’t permanent: “This is not goodbye for good I hope, but it is goodbye for now.”