Food & Drink

Open & Shut: Restaurants Aid Key Bridge Responders; Candela; Maryland Yards

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


Dinner in the Mourning Culinary Disaster Relief Fund: In the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge tragedy—which has presumably taken the lives of six workers who were conducting maintenance on the bridge when it fell—Crust by Mack owner and chef Amanda Mack has once again activated her culinary disaster relief fund, which she launched in 2023 after the mass shooting in Brooklyn Park. Long known for her community-driven spirit, Mack is using the group, Dinner in the Mourning, to provide meals to victims’ families, as well as first responders. “We know that food serves people, and that we use it during a time of communion to come together to heal, to nurture,” Mack said in an Instagram video. “That is the point of this group.” Donations can be made via GoFundMe.

In true Baltimore hospitality fashion, other restaurants are following Mack’s lead to lend a hand in the aftermath of the collapse. The Ekiben team went out to the bridge site with Baltimore City councilman Zeke Cohen to deliver meals to rescue workers yesterday. In Fells Point, Max’s Taphouse has pledged to donate 100 percent of all Key Brewing sales to impacted families for the next month, and The Point is offering half-off dinners to first responders daily.

All of the efforts are shining examples of Charm City’s resilient spirit, a sentiment which Cohen amplified to CNN earlier this week: “Here’s the thing people don’t always know about Baltimore—we are built tough,” he said. “For as many times as my city gets knocked down, we always find a way back up. Resilience is built into our DNA. And while the national media sees our pain, the thing I wish you could see is also the love people have for each other here.”

Alma Cocina Latina Launches Crowdfunding for New Arepa Bar: Fans of Alma Cocina Latina likely know that the team behind the Station North eatery has long wanted to open up a sister arepa bar, spurred by the Venezuelan staple’s popularity on the Alma menu. Plans for that bar, Candela, to open just around the corner at 10 E. Lanvale St. are just about set—the focus now is on funding. Alma owner and founder Irena Stein (who released her own arepa cookbook last year) and manager and co-owner Mark Demshak have launched a Crowd Fund Baltimore program for Candela, which invites diners from near and far to not only support the new concept, but invest in it. 

Stein says discovering Crowd Fund Baltimore “led to a whole new way of building a business, and the community around us.” She adds, “I thought that was an absolutely brilliant, contemporary way to relate to the community—that they don’t just come and eat, then pay and go, but that they can have a sense of belonging within a space and a small business. That is so important to every city, but particularly in the city of Baltimore.”

Demshak says it also lowers the barrier to entry for people to invest, as the minimum investment is $100. “Crowdfunding started as a way to donate money to causes, so people sometimes confuse this with they’re just giving us money,” he adds. “It’s actually an investment—we give the money back, plus interest.”

For those curious about what an investment would go toward: Candela plans to offer 12 arepas filled with seafood, meat, chicken, vegetarian, and vegan varieties. The menu from executive chef Fernando Bertelsen will also feature empanadas, cachapas, a few desserts, natural house-made beverages like lemonade and agua fresca, and canned beer and wine. Expect a design sporting a tropical, non-commercial look with plenty of plants and greenery, similar to Alma. Candela also aims to be zero-waste.

“The goal is to be the most beautiful arepa bar in the world—I’m not exaggerating,” Stein says with a laugh. “That’s the dream.” She adds, “We’re done, we’re prepared, we’re ready to go—we just have to finish the funding.”

Once funding is complete, Demshak says it will be a three-month buildout. The aim is to open this summer.


Maryland Yards: The birds are officially back in town, and there’s a new pre-game spot to check out before heading into the ballpark this year. Maryland Yards will soft launch with a tailgate full of Crushes, beer, and pit beef today at 511 W. Pratt St., the former home of Frank and Nic’s West End Grille. A grand opening is scheduled for next month, when you can expect a full menu of Maryland delicacies like crab soup, raw oysters, crab pretzels, crab cakes, and wild rockfish. Beverages will include craft cocktails and local craft beer on tap. 

Monument City Releases Simply AJ IPA: Looking for a new brew to celebrate the upcoming season? Monument City’s got you covered. In honor of Opening Day, the Highlandtown brewery has released Simply AJ IPA, made in collaboration with former Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. The beer is described as an easy-drinking, 6 percent IPA crafted with Mosaic, Cashmere, and El Dorado hops—giving it notes of melon, pineapple, and citrus. “Over Adam’s 11 seasons with the Orioles, he gave us so many fantastic memories,” Monument City founder Kennith Praay said in a statement. “We wanted to celebrate his contribution to Baltimore sports, and we’re thrilled that he has partnered with us on this project.” Simply AJ IPA is available through September, with distribution throughout Maryland.


Matriarch Coffee: A new Black-owned coffee shop debuted at Harborplace yesterday. Matriarch Coffee has roasted and sold beans online for years, so this brick-and-mortar space—located at 201 E Pratt St. directly across from the USS Constellation—has been a long time coming. “We’re thrilled that this moment is here, and that we’ll be open to share the joy of Matriarch with everyone in Baltimore,” said co-founder and director of marketing Michael Saunders, in a press release. Expect a menu of classic coffee drinks made with Rwandan beans, plus local fare like pastries from Crust By Mack and sandwiches and wraps from H3irloom Food Group

Mr. Trash Wheel Gets a Coffee Blend: One of Baltimore’s favorite mascots now has its own coffee. In honor of Mr. Trash Wheel’s 10th anniversary, the Charm City icon has partnered with Zeke’s Coffee to release the Mr. Trash Wheel Coffee Blend, a combination of dark-roasted Mexican and lightly roasted Ugandan beans that produce a full-bodied cup with notes of almond, cocoa, and nutmeg. Mr. Trash Wheel’s foray into double digits is officially April 20, which is when the blend will be released online. It will also be available at an anniversary party taking place at the Public Works Experience, where attendees will be among the first to enjoy a taste—in a Mr. Trash Wheel “Wheely Wired” coffee mug, to boot. The blend will also be available at Zeke’s retail and farmers market locations.


4/5: The Club Car’s Grand Opening
Though this new queer cocktail bar and performance venue in Station North has been open for more than two months now as a pop-up, it’s planning an official debut next Friday, April 5. Doors open at 8 p.m. for live music and performances throughout the evening, and a drag show will begin at 10 p.m. The Club Car’s bar menu includes classics like martinis, gimlets, and Manhattans, plus a mezcal Old Fashioned and beer and wine.