In Good Taste

Open & Shut: Little Bird Coffee Bar; Guinness Brewery; Charm Kitty Cafe

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


Little Bird Coffee Bar: Since opening last year, The Bluebird Cocktail Room has become a go-to for sipping craft cocktails in Hampden. Now, husband-and-wife owners Paul and Caroline Benkert are expanding their presence by converting the vacant space downstairs into Little Bird—an Italian-inspired cafe serving coffee and espresso drinks, a selection of house made pastries, and classic Boot Country delicacies. Specifically, diners can expect house-stretched mozzarella, homemade pastas, and a marinara sauce recipe passed down from Caroline’s great aunt Holly from Sicily. “It’s a place to come for a quick coffee, a leisurely afternoon drink, a bowl of pasta, or a soft serve ice cream with your family,” Paul said in a statement. “We found this atmosphere and authenticity in Italian cafes during our travels. And we’re very excited to bring it to Hampden.” The 60-seat cafe, which will be open for breakfast, lunch, cocktail snacks, and light dinner service, is expected to officially debut on August 1. 3600 Hickory Ave. 667-303-3263

Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House: You might remember when the new Guinness brewing facility in Halethorpe opened a test taproom last fall. But now, the real-deal debut is finally in sight. Expected to officially open to the public on August 3, the Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House will mark the first Guinness facility to open on American soil in 64 years. The multi-million-dollar construction project will yield a 100-hectoliter system, high-speed packaging line, and plenty of outdoor space for community events and concerts. While traditional stouts will continue to be brewed in Dublin, the Halethorpe headquarters will focus on pumping out Guinness Blonde American lager and a few creative brews for on-site sales. 5001 Washington Blvd, Halethorpe. 410-247-0675

Jose Tequilas Mexican Grill and Bar: New options are plentiful in the Owings Mills dining scene, which recently welcomed Italian eatery Palio to the Foundry Row development and Stanford Kitchen near the Stevenson University campus. Now, there’s even more to look forward to with the upcoming unveiling of this new Mexican cantina. Expected to open in the former home of Famous Dave’s off of Owings Mills Boulevard this fall, Jose Tequilas will serve classics like guacamole, enchiladas, quesadillas, and a range of street tacos filled with everything from mahi mahi to roasted pork tips. The family-owned chain spot also operates three other locations in Southern Virginia. 10490 Owings Mills Boulevard, Owings Mills


Ellen’s Cafe: This new java joint opened its doors in Hollins Market late last month. Owner Ellen Vaughn presents a coffee program featuring hot and iced coffee, chai latte, espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, and Americano varieties. To accompany the drinks, the cozy corner spot offers a menu of bagels, breakfast sandwiches, wraps, muffins, and pastries. 31 S. Arlington Ave. 443-869-5835

Live! Casino & Hotel: This entertainment destination, located just a short drive down I-95 in Hanover, officially cut the ribbon at its swanky hotel earlier this week. And it has plenty of dining options if you’re hoping to book a staycation this summer. In between pressing your luck on the casino floor, fuel up with a bite at The Prime Rib, noodles and dim sum-spot Luk Fu, En Vivo Cocina Latina, sweet shop Luckie’s, and David’s—a 24-hour spot highlighting breakfast staples and globally inspired dinner dishes like hot and sour sea bass, Korean barbecue short ribs, and rockfish imperial. 7002 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover


Local Spots Continue to Eliminate Plastic Straws: Throughout the summer, there has been a bigger push to reduce the use of plastic straws at area bars and restaurants in an effort to clean up our waterways. Starbucks made a huge statement when it decided to ban plastic straws for good earlier this week, and local establishments are following suit. The growing list of spots offering sipping alternatives now includes The Greene Turtle, Order & Chaos, DiPasquale’s, Birroteca, The Nickel Taphouse, Hotel Revival, The Laughing Pint, and all six Atwater’s locations. The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts is also eliminating Styrofoam and encouraging all of its vendors to use paper straws at this year’s Artscape festival. Read more about the issue here.

Wit & Wisdom Recognized by Wine Spectator: For the sixth consecutive year, Wit & Wisdom inside the Four Seasons Baltimore has received a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. “It is our great pleasure to be acknowledged by Wine Spectator, the leading wine authority, again,” lead sommelier Dawn Trabing said in a statement. “The award embodies the passion and continuous effort from my team.” The awards, which began in 1981, recognize wine lists across the globe based on their breadth, producer choice, and superior presentation. 200 International Drive. 410-576-5800


7/14: Peasant Dinner and Celebration at Chez Hugo

Celebrate Bastille Day with French-born chef Steve Monnier at this bistro downtown. In honor of the peasant uprising that ultimately lead to the French Revolution, the chef is whipping up a communal feast featuring grilled zucchini salad, arugula-stuffed tomatoes, whole monkfish tail, roasted chicken, potatoes with parsley sauce, and classic Baked Alaska. The all-out bash will also highlight mimes, costumes, and festive champagne toasts. 206 E. Redwood St. 443-438-3002, $65

7/14: Outdoor Festival at Petit Louis Bistro
Head to this Roland Park favorite for a French Independence Day soiree complete with food, wine, and live music by the Hot Club of Baltimore Trio. The all-inclusive menu includes eats such as couscous salad, charcuterie, grilled flank steak, shrimp and cherry tomato skewers, saffron rice, classic frites, and assorted macarons. 4800 Roland Ave., 410-366-9393. 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. $49

7/14-15: Storm The Bastille Sale at Ma Petite Shoe

Nothing says France like shoes and chocolate. At this Parisian-inspired boutique on the Avenue in Hampden, snack on single-origin chocolates and locally made caramels while perusing discounted designer shoes from as far as Israel and Portugal. The “Storm The Bastille” sale—which alludes to the storming of the Bastille fortress prison in 1789—will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a celebration with French music and champagne at 5 p.m. 832 W. 36th St. 410-235-3442


Charm Kitty Cafe: It was a short-but-sweet run for Baltimore’s cleverly named cat cafe. The Clipper Mill coffee spot that allowed locals to hang out with adoptable cats will close its doors later this month. In an announcement posted to Facebook last week, owner Cam Tucker focused on the positive: “Since the opening, there have been many triumphs, the biggest being that we have found homes for more than 100 adult cats,” he wrote. “This is not the end of cat cafes in Baltimore, and we are excited to be a resource for anyone who is looking to start the next cat cafe.” Until then, residents looking to adopt a cat in need can contact the Baltimore Humane Society, which partnered with Charm Kitty on its efforts. 3300 Clipper Mill Road. 410-343-9821