The Showmen

By Jane Marion

Photography by Scott Suchman

Illustrations by JORDAN AMY LEE

The Tastemakers

The Tastemakers: Alex & Eric Smith

The most influential movers and shakers on Charm City's Hospitality scene.

By Jane Marion

n the beginning—that was 2007—Alex Smith opened a Häagen- Dazs at the foot of South President Street. At the time, his billionaire grandfather, the late Harbor East developer John Paterakis Sr., wanted to open a scoop shop next to what is now Harbor East Cinemas. “My grandfather said, ‘I’m building a movie theater in Harbor East, and we need an ice cream store to go next to it,’” says Smith, who was then a business administration major at the University of Delaware. “I said, ‘I don’t know anything about the ice cream business, but how hard can it be?’”

That was then. This is now.

Alex, the president and CEO of Atlas Restaurant Group, and his younger brother Eric, managing partner (and former star scooper), are going for dining industry domination with a projected revenue of $175 million in 2023 alone. Over the last 16 years, “the boys,” now 39 and 33, who grew up in Baltimore County, have opened a whopping 30 restaurants across four states—including Maryland, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, plus D.C. With some 24 restaurants in the Baltimore area, they’re now the largest restaurant group employer in Maryland, not to mention the 12th largest restaurant group in the U.S. And with eateries that span the globe, from Italy (Tagliata) to Japan (Azumi) to Greece (Ouzo Bay) to Latin America (Maximón) to Ireland (James Joyce) to France (Monarque), it seems that all the world’s their stage. Basically, you could eat or drink or listen to live music every night of the week at one of their tony, see-and-be-scene establishments and rarely have the same experience twice. All of which to say is that their impact on Baltimore’s culinary scene, which spans from Federal Hill to Fells Point then stretches south to Annapolis and north to Hunt Valley, has been indelible.

The brothers are earning it the old-fashioned way, making nightly rounds at their properties to make sure everything is humming, and putting in some 70-plus hours a week, even though they could likely stay home for the rest of their lives and count their family’s coffers. (Their father, Frederick, is vice president of Sinclair, one of the largest owners of local television stations in the country, and their maternal grandfather, the late John Paterakis, was the founder of H&S Bakery, which made its fortune selling rolls to McDonald’s worldwide.)

But beyond their birthright, the siblings seem to have a Midas touch that’s all their own. (In fact, as a professional lacrosse player, Alex got the gold with Team USA at the 2010 World Championships.) You might also say they share an almost soothsayer’s intuition for opening hit spaces. Without fail, and whatever the concept, you can count on a line out the door. We dare you to land a last-minute reservation at one of their dressy dining rooms that draws a couture crowd looking for luxury ingredients, potent cocktails, and big-city swagger, the likes of which feels more Manhattan or South Beach than little old Baltimore.

Will the siblings ever slow down? Not a chance. “I will never retire until the day I die,” asserts Alex. Adds Eric: “We come from a long line of hard workers.”

So to echo Alex’s sentiments from days of yore, how hard can it be? Hard work has never looked so easy.

The Torchbearers

David & Tonya

The Showmen

Alex & Eric Smith

The Sober Ambassador

Ashish Alfred

The Community Activists

Mera Kitchen

The Crab Queen

Nancy Devine

The Team Players

Steve Chu &
Ephrem Abebe

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