Epicure Try It

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TRY IT: mystery meal

Like an apparition, Dinner Lab mysteriously alights in a place unknown until it’s nearly too late. Those in the know gather for a coveted meal; they eat, drink and post seductive photos of composed plates before departing, to await word of the next secret meet-up. Unlike the parties all your friends on Instagram seem to attend, you can ensure an invitation to these culinary conclaves by joining the club. Dinner Lab Baltimore offers pop-up dinners to its members—who pay a $125 annual fee for advance intel. The subscription buys you access. Dinner details are posted early in the week for member sign-up, with an average event cost (including a multi-course meal and drink pairings) of $60. The concept started in New Orleans in 2012 with a series of wildly popular dinners created by up-and-coming chefs—and now has expanded to 20 U.S. cities. In September, chef Kwame Onwuachi, a Dinner Lab regular from New York, took over Hampden’s old Ideal Theatre to serve up whimsical variations on such familiar dishes as steak and eggs (with jerk beef cheeks and quail eggs) and cornbread pudding. The cherry on top: members have access to events in other cities, so you don’t have to worry about where to eat on your next trip to Austin. dinnerlab.com —Martha Thomas


Nalley Fresh co-owner Chef Carlo

Whoa, Nalley!

“Release Your Inner Chef” is the motto for create-your-own salad, wrap and bowl joint Nalley Fresh, a fun option for folks who want to go all out with their own, healthy (or not-so-healthy) creations. Similar to the point-and-pick style of Chipotle—but with a wider variety of fresh, made-in-house ingredients—the local chain, which launched in 2011, has become a fan favorite in Hunt Valley, Towson and downtown Baltimore, with new locations in Canton and Timonium set to open in late fall. Founder Greg Nalley prides himself on the restaurant’s international food profile—and the way his fans interact with the brand. “This concept is really hot. Customers take ownership of their concoction and are really proud of what they make,” he says. While the menu changes daily, mainstays include proteins like buffalo chicken, falafel and grilled salmon, which can be mixed with various leafy greens, fruits, cheeses, veggies and dressings, for one-of-a-kind salads, wraps and unique bowls such as brown rice and sweet potato. nalleyfresh.com —Ian Zelaya

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