Food & Drink

Open & Shut: Smashing Grapes; Jerk at Nite; Ashish Alfred Closes Fells Point Spots

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


Smashing Grapes Kitchen + Wine Bar: After closing its location in Gambrills earlier this year, Smashing Grapes has reopened in a new county. The kitchen and wine bar now resides in Columbia’s Merriweather District, highlighting globally inspired dishes paired with an expansive vino list representing places like Spain, Argentina, Germany, and California. At this location, expect new offerings like wine flights and two charcuterie boards, as well as pastas and pizzas. The 7,000-square-foot space—which has been “updated with a brighter, more modern look,” according to a press release—offers both indoor and outdoor dining, plus event spaces, monthly all-inclusive wine dinners, Sunday brunch, and live music on select nights

Cece’s Roland Park: This new dining destination in The Village of Cross Keys opened its doors last week. Michelin-starred chef Nick Sharp—who has worked in restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas—helms the kitchen, serving a European menu with coastal influences, plus a wide selection of tequila and French and Italian wines. The menu lists dishes like ricotta gnocchi, artichoke cassoulet, and prime cuts of beef. (Think along the lines of an 8-oz. filet and 32-oz. tomahawk.) Its adjacent, more casual pizza-and-pasta spot, Cece’s Kitchen, opened on Sunday, slinging pies like a pepperoni-Bolognese with hot honey and a mezze rigatoni with vodka sauce. Reservations are available but aren’t required. 


Jerk at Nite: After a few false starts, it seems this D.C.-based jerk chicken concept is ready to try again in Baltimore. Owner Denville Myrie first debuted the concept here in 2021 in West Baltimore’s Rosemont neighborhood, but it shuttered a year later. There were then plans to open the concept in Pigtown (a fire put them on hold indefinitely) and murmurs that it might reopen where No Way Rose once resided in Fed Hill.

Now, the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Jerk at Nite is taking over the former home of Alewife, which has sat vacant downtown for years now. The plan is for Myrie to operate the Jamaican concept on the ground-floor, and offer a fine dining option called The Nest upstairs. Located between the Hippodrome and Everyman theaters, it’s a building that could surely use some local restaurant love for pre- and post-show dining, especially after Forno closed last year. Stay tuned for more details.

Maryland Zoo and Peabody Heights Launch New Beer: Cute collaboration alert. The Maryland Zoo is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Penguin Coast habitat with a new limited-edition pale ale, “Sweet Pea’s Promise,” by Peabody Heights Brewery. The name was inspired by one of the zoo’s African penguin chicks, officially named Peabody, but known affectionately by her keepers as “Sweet Pea.” Proceeds from the sale of each beer will support the conservation of African penguins, which are an endangered species.

Another fun detail: Sweet Pea’s Promise is made from a new hop blend called Anchovy Hops—a nod to a penguin’s favorite food, fish—which infuses the brew with subtle hints of melon, hard candy, and pine. You can sample it on draft and in six-packs to-go in the Peabody Heights taproom.

“African Penguins are a crowd favorite, but their numbers are plummeting in their native range,” Maryland Zoo president and CEO Kirby Fowler said in a statement. “The partnership with Peabody Heights Brewery helps us breed new chicks in Maryland and support their cousins’ survival in the wild.” 


7/18: Voyages at the National Aquarium
The National Aquarium’s adults-only, after-hours event series returns next month with a stellar local food lineup that will highlight eats from The Empanada Lady, Neopol Smokery, Taharka Brothers Ice Cream, and Crust by Mack, as well as drinks curated by Charm City Meadworks. Voyages offers visitors multi-sensory experiences that are meant to bond them with nature, and with Baltimore, through themes of art and science. This upcoming edition’s featured artist is Schaun Champion, who will incorporate photography, projection, floral installation, and a curated soundscape throughout the Aquarium’s galleries. 


Duck Duck Goose, Osteria Pirata, and Anchor Bar: In what is surely the buzziest restaurant news this week (so far), Baltimore restaurateur Ashish Alfred announced that he has indefinitely closed his Fells Point businesses, which include French-forward brasserie Duck Duck Goose, neighboring Italian eatery Osteria Pirata (which debuted just last year), and subterranean cocktail hangout Anchor Bar.

In a statement posted to social media Monday, Alfred cited “safety concerns” in the neighborhood as the reason for the closures. “Given the recent events in Fells Point, I feel it’s in the best interest of my business, my clients, and the incredibly hardworking people on my team for us to simply press pause briefly while the city works to remedy the safety concerns of Baltimore,” the post reads. According to the Baltimore Banner, Alfred’s businesses, Alfred Restaurant Group and Alfred Hospitality, are currently facing multiple lawsuits.