Food & Drink

Open & Shut: The Local Fry; B&O Café; Café Poupon

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


The Local Fry: Big plans are in store for Baltimore’s specialty French-fry bar, best known for its wings, Banh Mis, and, of course, its hefty orders of crispy fries covered in worldly toppings. The spud-centric concept at the Rotunda in Hampden, from owners Kevin and Liz Irish, is slated to open its first franchise in the Northwood Commons development near Morgan State University this year. Kevin tells us that the New Jersey-based franchisee—who is also looking to expand beyond Baltimore with possible locations in Atlanta, Northern Virginia, and New Jersey—aims to open it by the time the new school year begins in August.

So, was franchising always the game plan? Kevin says no, but at the time that the couple debuted The Local Fry at The Rotunda in 2018, they were also operating their now-closed flagship in Federal Hill, along with running their sister-concept, Toki Tako, next door in Hampden. Kevin admits that it was difficult being in multiple places at once.

“It’s very challenging to go between all the different stores, but we know The Local Fry is such a good concept and brand, that we wanted to have it everywhere,” he says. Sometime last year, they seriously considered the franchise route. “Essentially, those partners are also small businesses that believe in our concept, product, menu, and recipes. We just want to have this part of Baltimore everywhere.” 

Speaking of expanding their reach—after successful pop-ups at Camden Yards last year, The Local Fry will also open two permanent locations inside the ballpark for the 2024 season. “We couldn’t say no,” Irish says with a laugh.

He points out that all this news isn’t just a result of one busy year: “It’s been happening since 2014, when we started the original location, so seeing it go into different spots in Maryland or even other states, it just shows us that the hard work is paying off.”

Fuzzies Burgers: As if you need any more Opening Day excitement (we’re officially two weeks out, people!) there’s going to be more “burgers in Birdland” this year. Popular food truck and pop-up Fuzzies Burgers recently announced that it’s signed a multi-year deal with Levy, the hospitality arm at Camden Yards. Starting this season, Fuzzies will operate a stall in Section 67 on the ground floor, in the newly branded City Connect Corner, where fans can chow down on those famous smashburgers and salty fries. 

But that’s not the only Fuzzies news. After chef and owner Josh Vecchiolla announced last year that Fuzzies would have a permanent residency at Mobtown Brewing, he recently switched gears, saying that the business “had to make some changes.” Now, the permanent location will reside at Peabody Heights Brewery, where Fuzzies’ newer truck (named Elektra) has been parked for a while. “This is a great fit for us,” Vecchiolla says, “especially with the recent grand opening of their new additional bar and arcade, The Dugout, being cohesively on-brand with our retro vibes.”


B&O Café: In this neat new partnership, The Franciscan Center in Old Goucher—the largest soup kitchen in Central Maryland, which has provided Baltimoreans in need with hot meals, clothing, health screenings, and counseling services for decades—has teamed up with the B&O Railroad Museum to open a cafe on the museum’s campus. With a ribbon-cutting slated for next week, the B&O Café will offer a weekend lunch menu of burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken wings, deli sandwiches, salads, and soups, plus desserts and drinks. But perhaps the best part is that the new eatery will act as a way to further the center’s mission. Chefs who will be operating, managing, and working at the cafe are graduates and/or students of the Franciscan Center Dignity Plates Culinary Training Academy, and all proceeds from sales will directly benefit the program. Featuring indoor and outdoor seating, the cafe will operate Sunday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


3/1-3/31: Maryland Vegan Restaurant Month
The month-long celebration of plant-based food, hosted by Maryland Vegan Eats, has returned for its 13th edition. For the entire month of March, participating restaurants around Baltimore (and now Washington, D.C.) are whipping up specialty vegan dishes to celebrate. As always, the semi-annual event is organized by Samantha Claassen of Golden West Café and Naijha Wright-Brown of The Land of Kush. “We started it because we wanted a way to highlight all of the veg-friendly restaurants in our area, and it’s since grown to incorporate omni restaurants, who are now seeing that there’s a huge demand for plant-based dishes on their menu,” the duo said in a press release. See a full list of participating restaurants here.

3/17: Field Notes: The Chocolate Edition
The Farm Alliance of Baltimore will host its first Field Notes dinner of 2024, dubbed “The Chocolate Edition,” at Hampden cafe Good Neighbor this weekend. Expect a chocolate-themed cocktail hour featuring drinks from a Clavel mixologist and music from DJ Sterling Warren; a dinner by Cocina Luchadoras; and a dialogue during dinner between Jinji Fraser of Jinji Chocolate, historian Deb Freeman, and local artist and alchemist Kenya Miles. The evening will also include a silent auction. These Field Note fundraising dinners aim to celebrate food, art, music, and history while supporting the alliance’s agricultural community work in Baltimore. Tickets are $50-$175.

3/17: Ekiben x Tabachoy Pop-Up
Like clockwork, Ekiben has added another impressive pop-up to its chef collab calendar. This time, the eatery is partnering with lauded Philadelphia Filipino restaurant Tabachoy, whose chef, Chance Anies, will be on site at the South Baltimore location on March 17 for what they’re calling “St. Fatty’s Day.” (Tabachoy is a Tagalog nickname lovingly bestowed to friends or family members that means “chubby” or “fat.”) Expect “banger after banger” on the menu, as Ekiben cheekily puts it, including a spin on Anies’ famous Filipino hot dog. The pop-up will run from 2-6 p.m.

3/20: Masarap Pop-Up at Clavel
Speaking of pop-ups, local chef Rey Eugenio’s top-notch Filipino fare is headed to Clavel next week. His famed Masarap concept will make an appearance at the Remington taqueria to serve up lumpia, Inihaw na Manok (barbecue chicken) tacos, Lechon Liempo (roasted pork belly), and a Halo-Halo ice cream bar. To pair with the eats, the bar will be pouring a special Filipino rum punch, a house version of Tuba (fermented coconut wine), and Kalamansi-Banana vinegar Micheladas. Just like any dinner service at Clavel, be sure to arrive early. You’ll want first dibs on all of the a la carte eats, plus desserts by Mama Lola.


Café Poupon: ICYMI—beloved downtown eatery Café Poupon abruptly shut its doors at the end of February, just before reaching its tenth anniversary. “Everything happened so fast, and sadly we were not even given a chance to properly say goodbye to all of you,” the cafe wrote on Instagram. “Just like other small businesses, we were given the short end of the stick and not enough time to negotiate our lease, so we had no choice.” The original Patisserie Poupon on Baltimore Street remains open.