Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Culinary 4300 Block of Northeast Baltimore's Harford Road

The trend used to be that artists of limited financial wherewithal would "discover" an urban neighborhood. Their presence tended to make the area more "hip." Revitalization often followed.

In much the same manner, young entrepreneurs adapted the commercial strip lining the east side of the 4300 block of Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore. Their businesses were about food and drink. They made the neighborhood more "hip," and revitalization followed.

A good case could be made for crediting the beginnings of it all to Koco's Pub at 4301 Harford Road. That was approximately a decade ago, somewhere between when Koco's began serving its humoungous lump crab cakes, and the local media took notice.

In 2002, Chameleon Cafe at 4341 Harford Road, was next. Co-owner and chef Jeff Smith brought classic French technique to the preparation of regional dishes that changed with the seasons. His wife Brenda assumed the role of hostess, maintained the books, and curated displays of art on the walls. The art changed as frequently as the menu. Thus the name Chameleon. Soon after it opened, Chameleon became a destination spot for gourmands from throughout the Baltimore area. In the process, a new and continuing citywide positive awareness of the neighborhood was created, and they just keep coming
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With a good corner bar famous for its crab cakes at one end of the block and a fine dining hotspot at the other, the Red Canoe Coffeehouse and Childrens Bookstore opened in between in 2004 at 4337 Harford Road to the benefit of all concerned. The Red Canoe quickly established itself as a magnet for residents from a cluster of surrounding communities, none of which had previously enjoyed either the benefits of a coffee house or a place to go out for lunch (which Red Canoe soon began serving) where the presence of their kids was encouraged. In little time, the Red Canoe had become a friendly local meeting place, hangout for residents of all the neighboring communities, and a child literacy lightning rod.

Things got even better when Zeke's Coffee set up shop shortly thereafter around the corner at 3003 Montebello Terrace. It conributed an enormous selection of world class coffee beans as well as a roaster. Zeke's soon expanded its presence and became yet another citywide phenomenon. Proof is in the omnipresent lines at Baltimore's Downtown Farmers Market, 32nd Street Farmers Market, and the Mill Valley Garden Center.

More was yet to come with the arrival in 2006 ofAlabama Barbecue Company at 4311 Harford Road. With just a couple tables and a small counter inside, everything served (including potato chips) was and continues to be prepared on premises. The meat is slow-cooked over hardwood charcoal and logs. Alabama Barbecue goes to great lengths to distinguish itself from other barbecue joints. It uses an Alabama white sauce on its pulled chicken and a raspberry glaze for its ribs. The rich deserts have been described in reviews as "irresistible.

Who knows what's next? Most recently, its' been small retail businesses, namely a knitting store, a candy store, and a jewelry store. The influence has now spread to several Harford Road commercial corridors a few blocks north. The creative fare at Clementine, 5402 Harford Road has been packing them in now three meals a day for several months. You can also read about the soon to open Hamilton Tavern and The Parkside Fine Food and Spirits in earlier posts here at Unique Culinary Adventures.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Nikki said...

As a resident of the Hamilton area, I'm so excited by all the new options that have opened since I moved here over 5 years ago. Alabama BBQ, however, left me cold. I ate there once. We ordered their onion rings, and they were certainly not "created on the premises." Unless of course by created you mean someone opens up the bag of frozen onion rings (the kind you get from Sam's Club or Costco) and dumps them into the deep fryer. With Big Bad Wolf right up the street (and they serve absolutely delicious BBQ), why would I bother going to Alabama BBQ at all?

1:58 PM  

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