Food & Drink

Open & Shut: Royal Sauce; Atlas to Take Over James Joyce; Bond Street Social

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.


Royal Sauce: A new food truck is gaining traction in Baltimore. Royal Sauce, from local chef Malik Robertson and his business partner April Bebel, serves American comfort food we all likely know and love—smashburgers, patty melts, grilled cheese, plus a chicken and pineapple quesadilla—but with a bevy of dynamic sauces to choose from to keep patrons on their toes. “It’s all nostalgic stuff that you can reach for with your eyes closed,” says Robertson, who has classic French culinary training and whose C.V. includes stops at The Chasseur, The Smoking Swine, and Dizzy Cow Pizzeria.

The focus on sauces, he says, provides a twist. “It can really change the entire dynamic of the dish,” he explains. “The food itself is good on its own, but I don’t want to be the burger guy, the pizza guy, the quesadilla guy, I want to be the sauce guy.”

The sauces run the gamut of flavor profiles. Expect varieties like a roasted garlic aioli, a blackberry chipotle (“sweet with a little bit of heat”), and the savory, umami-forward, namesake, mayonnaise-based Royal Sauce that includes inventive ingredients like mushroom powder and soy sauce.

The cache of different sauces also allows customers to put their own little DIY spin on the menu, as Robertson puts it. “People love to hack menus you know, like ‘I got the burger, and I did it this way and put Mango Tango on it,’” he explains. “It makes them feel empowered. They want to take a picture of it. That was the whole thought process behind the menu.”

Royal Sauce recently held a soft opening inside The Hanover in southern Baltimore. The truck’s upcoming schedule in the area is still being finalized. Curious sauce lovers can stay updated by following the truck’s Instagram page, @royalsaucemd.


Friends and Family Suspends Service: Fells Point bar and restaurant Friends and Family, which specializes in plant-based comfort food, announced this week that it has suspended service. “We, like 177,000 other restaurants and bars across the country, did not receive the assistance promised by the Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” the establishment wrote on Instagram. “We will remain in hibernation until the fund is replenished and we are able to attain the assistance to continue operations.”

Owner Ginny Lawhorn—who opened Friends and Family, at the corner of Aliceanna and Broadway in late 2020 after rebranding the space from Sticky Rice—tells us that, like many independent restaurants across the country during the pandemic, Friends and Family has had to deal with rising costs, a smaller workforce, and a recent hit in business due to the Omicron variant.

During the Omicron surge, Lawhorn evaluated her payroll to determine how much longer the restaurant could operate, then helped find other positions for all her employees. “Then I just started suspending accounts, so that we didn’t owe anyone any money,” she explains, “which was my most important decision. There are restaurants all over the country that are still operating because they cannot afford to close. And that is going to look like waves of personal bankruptcies across the country in the months to come. I wasn’t going to gamble on the hope of a return to possibly pre-COVID sales levels this summer, which is what the industry is hoping for. I wasn’t going to gamble on that and the potential of needing to leave vendors in arrears or personally guaranteed money that wasn’t there. It’s just not the right thing to do if you’re able to make a different decision.”

Closures of Main Street businesses like Friends and Family can diminish a neighborhood’s culture and character, Lawhorn says. She expresses gratitude to Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen for being “the loudest cheerleaders” when it comes to advocating for replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund but continues to be frustrated by the mixed messaging from federal agencies.

For Baltimoreans who want to help, Lawhorn has simple advice: “Go a little bit out of your way to support an independent operator.”

Atlas to Take Over James Joyce: Atlas Restaurant Group announced on Instagram last week that it will reopen the James Joyce Irish Pub & Restaurant, located at 616 President St. in the Harbor East neighborhood, “as the same name and concept,” the restaurant group posted. The pub, which closed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, debuted in 2002 and was known for its tradition Irish fare and live music every night.

“Irish pubs are known for being places that the community can gather to enjoy food, drinks, and friendly conversation,” said Alex Smith, Atlas president and CEO, in a statement. “While James Joyce remained shuttered, the neighborhood and city were missing an important and unique concept that was successful as a result of their neighborly hospitality, which we look forward to continuing.”

Atlas says it expects James Joyce to open in late summer with an improved food menu and updated décor.

Magdalena Offering Cherry Blossom Cocktail: The Ivy Hotel’s signature restaurant, Magdalena, is celebrating the annual bloom of the cherry blossoms with an inspired new cocktail. Now through the end of spring, guests to the bistro can enjoy the 1912 Clarified Cherry Blossom Punch for $17. The cocktail is a blend of Japanese whiskey, yuzu, cherry blossom tea, wildflower simple syrup, and orange blossom liqueur. The name 1912 is a nod to the year when D.C.’s 3,000 iconic blossoms were donated to the nation’s capital from Japan.


4/7: New Beers Day at True Chesapeake Oyster Co.
Celebrate National Beer Day on April 7 at True Chesapeake Oyster Co. The Prohibition-themed event encourages attendees to don their best 1930s attire while enjoying live music and keg takeovers from Union Craft Brewing, Waverly Brewing Company, and Checkerspot Brewing Company. Everyone’s first beer is only $1. 7-10 p.m.

4/10: Café Los Sueños Anniversary Celebration
Remington java joint Café Los Sueños will celebrate its one-year anniversary on April 10 “with a day of food, art, and fun.” The event will feature a special menu and pop-up shops from some of the cafe’s favorite Baltimore businesses, including Cocina Luchadoras, Charm City Threads, Café Tío Conejo, Mexi Art by Ale, artist Magan Ruthke, and Face Paint by Marina. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.


Bond Street Social: A few weeks ago, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that the interior of popular Fells Point restaurant and bar Bond Street Social had been “stripped of its furniture,” with sources confirming to the paper that it was closed for good. To our knowledge there has not been an official statement on the closure or its cause, but when we walked by the space this past weekend, a sign from Harbor East Management Group was posted on the door saying, “this location is closed for business.”

Sarah Kloepple is a professional magazine writer and editor working in Baltimore. She loves to cover food and drink and the hospitality industry overall. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism. You can find her bylines in Meetings Today, St. Louis Magazine, Feast Magazine, and Popular Mechanics.

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