Suzanne Loudermilk and Kit Waskom Pollard, two well-established Baltimore writers, have penned a new book that finds a table for readers in some of Balitmore’s long-gone eateries, “Lost Restaurants of Baltimore.” It’s a history of the city through its restaurants — a book of food and social trends for which readers will find themselves hungry.
Q. How did this book come to be?
Loudermilk: I had written a story for a local publication about how Baltimore’s restaurant habits had changed with the introduction of New American cuisine in the ’90s. An editor at Arcadia Publishing saw the article and asked me if I’d be interested in expanding the topic for a book on beloved area restaurants that have closed. Before I knew it, “Lost Restaurants of Baltimore” was born.
Pollard: [Suzanne] reached out to me to see if I might be interested in partnering with her on it. Restaurant history is one of my favorite subjects, so I said yes immediately.
Q. What was the writing process like?
Pollard: The hardest part might have been coming up with the list of restaurants to feature. We each put together a proposed list, combined them and whittled it down to 35 places that, we thought, were a good representation of Baltimore restaurants over the years. We made sure to include a mix in terms of cuisine, neighborhood and when the restaurants were open.
When I was researching my chapters, I spent a lot of time tracking down people who were involved in the restaurants or who had memories of eating there regularly – I had some wonderful conversations with people. I also read tons of old news articles, letters to editors and restaurant reviews, and came across many old ads. It’s fascinating to read articles from years ago – to see what was important to people then and understand how tastes have changed (and how they haven’t).
Loudermilk: One way I motivated myself was to make the decision to donate a portion of the book’s proceeds to Maryland ProStart, which helps local high school students prepare for restaurant and hospitality careers.
Q. What is a favorite lost restaurant where you once dined?
Loudermilk: It’s a toss-up between Martick’s and Haussner’s. The doorbell entrance, French-inspired cuisine and Bohemian atmosphere at Martick’s were so fun and avant-garde. Haussner’s offered an old-school Baltimore appeal with its German food, uniformed waitresses and, of course, the impressive art collection.
Pollard: Louie’s Bookstore Café was a personal favorite that is also featured in the book. During the mid- and late-’90s, I was working in advertising and going to business school, part-time, at Loyola. I used to go to Louie’s on weekend afternoons to sit by myself and do homework with a glass of wine or cup of coffee. I loved the energy of the place. I always got a lot done there and you can’t beat being surrounded by books.
Q. What is a favorite that emerged in your research?
Loudermilk: I never dined at the popular Chesapeake restaurant, but I was thrilled to track down Philip “Pinny” Friedman, one of the family owners, in Pompano Beach, Florida. At 94, he had some wonderful memories to share. I also talked to his son, Don, who later opened Gampy’s with his dad. The two of them told me great stories about Baltimore’s past restaurant days.
Pollard: One thing that was especially interesting was the opportunity to step back and see the threads that connect the restaurants we profiled – what made them so successful and popular among Baltimoreans and, especially given that they were beloved, why did they eventually close?
Q. What drew you to food writing?
Loudermilk: I started out writing and editing news and features stories at The Baltimore Sun before focusing on food and restaurants. My late mother, who would agree with me, was a terrible cook, so, as a kid, I became fascinated with the idea that you could actually make food that tasted good. I’ve been curious about the process ever since.
Pollard: Is there any better job? I started out as a blogger, way back in 2005. I was learning how to cook and always enjoyed writing, so it felt natural to start writing about food. One thing led to another and my blogging hobby turned into a “real job” writing about restaurants, recipes and trends.
I love writing about food, in particular, because I think restaurants and food are an interesting lens – when you learn about what and where people eat, you learn a lot about them as a whole. Researching this book was fascinating for that reason. Technically, it’s a book about restaurants that have closed. But really, it’s a history of Baltimore, viewed through the lens of the restaurant world.
Q. If you owned a restaurant, what kind of food would it serve?
Pollard: I’d be a terrible restaurant owner! I’m sure I’d spend way too much on ingredients and would give away too many meals to ever make a profit. It’s a tough business and I have so much respect for the people who make a go of it. If I did own a restaurant, it would probably be a traditional seafood spot, someplace on the water – preferably on the Chesapeake. I love all different types of food, but I grew up eating crabs and oysters. My memories of childhood are all tied up in local seafood and it will always be my favorite thing to eat.
Loudermilk: Having written about so many restaurants over the years, I’ve seen what hard work it is for owners, chefs and the staff. I’d rather be the beneficiary of their talents than have my own place.