Modern World: Locals participating in Dry January, as well as those who practice a spirit-free lifestyle year-round, will be happy to hear that this new nonalcoholic and specialty goods shop is up and running on the Avenue in Hampden. From owner Laurie Hefner, Modern World offers a range of nonalcoholic (containing no more than 0.5 percent ABV) beverages and products, plus other goodies perfect for rounding out a dinner party, including tinned fish, specialty potato chips, and glassware.
A Minneapolis native, Hefner moved to Baltimore with her partner two years ago and has a background in hospitality and beverage, specifically natural wines. So what inspired her to open a nonalcoholic bottle shop? When her partner quit drinking years ago, he was enjoying the NA beers out there, but realized he wasn’t comfortable going into a liquor store to purchase them. Hefner also has a friend in Minneapolis who runs a similar shop, which she credits as a big inspiration.
“The catalyst was acknowledging that there was a need for a space where people could go and feel comfortable,” she says. “People are also really excited to have these nonalcoholic options in a space where there’s somebody to talk to about them, versus just going to the grocery store.”
Popular products so far include canned NA cocktails from bitter aperitivo maker St. Agrestis—including its Phony Negroni and Phony Mezcal Negroni—as well as Unified Ferments’ kombucha-style sips. One of Hefner’s personal favorite items is a lacto-fermented birch sap beverage. “I’ve been really intentional about having products that are replacing or meant to mimic alcoholic beverages, but also having plenty of options that are naturally free of alcohol or nonalcoholic,” she says.
Hefner also wants Baltimoreans to know that the shop isn’t just for non-drinkers: “It’s hopefully a place for everybody to explore fun things to enjoy themselves and share with other people.”
The Buttonwood: Minh Quang Vo, owner of Mt. Vernon coffee-and-pastry fixture The Bun Shop, has opened a new concept in the neighborhood. The Buttonwood debuted late last month at 527 N. Charles St. (the former home of Sascha’s 527) and bills itself as a place for food, drink, and retail. According to the Baltimore Business Journal, The Buttonwood’s menu features sandwiches during lunch hours and “classic international dishes” during dinner. When the retail space opens, expect items like plants and unique housewares. “For me, it is kind of a concept more than it is cuisine,” Vo told the BBJ. “It is a love letter to my stomach.”
Bennie’s Pizza: There’s no shortage of top-notch pizzerias in the Baltimore area, but it’s not every day you come across one that is run by a Michelin-starred chef. The menu at Bennie’s Pizza, which debuted in late December at The Mall in Columbia but took a break to fine-tune its service soon after, comes from Gerald Addison—the Washington, D.C. native behind lauded restaurants Bammy’s and Maydan, the latter of which was named a James Beard semifinalist in 2018 for Best New Restaurant. According to The Baltimore Banner, the owners with Star Restaurant Group debuted Bennie’s in Columbia, not only as a companion to their next-door sister concept Chicken + Whiskey, but also to provide a spot to grab a quality slice in the area.
The menu at Bennie’s includes six signature New York-style pies such as a margherita, veggie, and a barbecue pizza named after its aforementioned neighbor. Diners can also build their own pies, order “standards” like pepperoni or mushroom by the slice, and expect other offerings like wings and meatball parm subs.
As of this writing, Bennie’s was still temporarily closed for the holiday season, but follow its social media channels for news on a reopening date.
The Urban Oyster: It seems that this seafood spot from chef Jasmine Norton—which she started as a mobile pop-up and later operated as a brick-and-mortar at McHenry Row in Locust Point—is close to its grand debut at its new home in Hampden. Reservations for The Urban Oyster, located at 914 W. 36th St., are now open for February. Billed as the first oyster bar in the U.S. owned by a Black woman, the spot will take over more than 2,200 square feet that is being transformed into a “coastal tavern.” Former regulars will be happy to see Norton’s popular chargrilled oysters and tacos on the menu, plus new items like lobster cavatelli and oxtail lasagna.
Dutch Courage Owners in Talks to Take Over The Dizz: It’s about time we saw some uplifting news out of Remington. After the closures of Charmington’s and JBGB’s (more on that later), a story first reported by The Baltimore Sun earlier this week revealed that Dutch Courage co-owners Brendan Dorr and Eric Fooy are planning to take over the former home of The Dizz, a building that has yet to see a long-term tenant since the fan-favorite neighborhood dive closed in 2019. Though nothing has been finalized as of yet, the duo is hoping to offer approachable tavern fare at a lower price point than Dutch Courage. Stay tuned for more info.
1/6-1/8: Nacho Mama’s Celebrates 30 Years
This Tex-Mex hangout just hit a big milestone, and it’s celebrating accordingly with a long weekend of specials. From Jan. 6-8, Nacho Mama’s will ring in 30 years at both its Canton and Towson locations. Fittingly, its famous hubcap margaritas will be available for $30; Natty Bohs and wings will be just 30 cents; and Graceland margaritas, personal cheese pizzas, and egg rolls will be $3. If you plan to join in on the fun this weekend, you can also expect festive decorations, plus free stickers and koozies.
JBGB’s: Remington pizza palace and butcher shop JBGB’s shuttered its doors earlier this week after more than two years in the neighborhood—a closure many didn’t see coming. A sign posted to the door Tuesday morning first announced the news to passersby, and a more formal statement was issued by owners on social media later that day. “We are proud of the experience and product we provided these last two years and we gave it our all to be a proper neighborhood restaurant to the community,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, we are unable to maintain service under current financial circumstances and have had to make the very hard decision to close.” Though we’ll miss those perfectly charred pies dearly, one silver lining is that the restaurant’s famous cheeseburger is also on the menu at its Cockeysville sister shop, John Brown General & Butchery, which remains open.
Thai Restaurant: This Waverly Main Street staple that’s been around for more than 40 years has also shuttered its doors. What brought about such a sudden closure? “The landlord ended their lease, Thai Restaurant had no choice but to leave. They did not want to go,” Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who represents the 14th District, wrote on X. Fortunately, the owners shared on social media that this isn’t goodbye. “We will be back, but don’t know where yet,” the post reads. “Keep an eye out because we hope to be back at a new location sooner than later.” With the neighborhood on its side, we have no doubt we’ll be seeing Thai Restaurant’s name appear above a storefront again soon.