Chef Robert Wiedmaier grew up in Germany and speaks the language fluently. “But I don’t have a drop of German blood,” he says. “Go figure.” Instead, the owner of the new Mussel Bar and Grille in Harbor East looks to his father’s background for inspiration. “My father was born and raised in Antwerp,” says Wiedmaier, who says Baltimore reminds him of that place. “It’s a port city—you’ve got boats all around. Baltimore’s got some soul.” That’s one reason Wiedmaier, who owns two restaurants in D.C. (Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck) as well as Mussel Bars in Arlington, Bethesda and Atlantic City, decided to open his fourth outpost here.
Mussel Bar is, as you might guess, devoted to the mollusk, mostly prepared Belgian-style in broth with fries. But there’s also classic bistro food, like steak frites, charcuterie and a burger made with meat from a local farm. “You can trace your burger back to the exact cow,” he says. There’s a selection of Belgian and Maryland craft beer on 43 taps. The restaurant took over the space formerly occupied by the short-lived Townhouse, and Wiedmaier says he didn’t have to do a lot to move in. “It already had the feel of a mussel bar,” he says. 1350 Lancaster St., 410-946-6726, musselbar.com —Martha thomas
Teddy Folkman opened Granville Moore’s on Washington, D.C.’s H Street in 2007 before the neighborhood had settled into gentrification. “The place has a worn-down rowhouse look,” says Folkman. “It looks like it’s going to be condemned.” Though he hopes that his new restaurant, Baroak, shares some of the atmosphere that defines his D.C. place, he admits, “There can never be another Granville Moore’s.” Located in the posh Loews Annapolis Hotel, the new space features rustic decor. “We want to bring a neighborhoody feel to Annapolis, maintaining a down-home vibe,” Folkman says. The menu is easygoing, too—the most expensive item is the $23 catch of the day.
Taco appetizers are filled with braised brisket, coriander and radishes, and the Belgian onion soup is one part beer to two parts beef stock. There’s also a Sunday brunch, featuring a griddled chicken and ham breakfast sandwich and lobster hash with Old Bay hollandaise. But Folkman is perhaps most proud of the moules frites—it was, after all, his mussels that beat out Bobby Flay in a 2008 Food Network “Throwdown.” Belgian food is the theme here, dominating the menu as well as the beer. 126 West St., Annapolis, 410-295-3225, baroakannapolis.com —M.T.
Several years ago, Johns Hopkins’ Evergreen Museum invited John Shields to plant a garden. “The place was a mess,” says Shields, who was nevertheless grateful for a space substantially larger than the plot outside his kitchen door at the nearby Gertrude’s Restaurant. Since then, the garden has been put to good use, producing kale, radishes, heirloom tomatoes and herbs. While the output is not prolific enough for permanent menu items, says Shields, “we’ll do a special with some wonderful tomato, or fish peppers.”
Each year, he and Jon Carroll, Gertrude’s bar manager and an avid gardener, put on a five-part class called Edible Evergreen from March to October to educate would-be growers. Sessions include planting, tending and eventually harvesting—with a field trip to the 32nd Street Farmers Market and a “graduation” lunch at Gertrude’s featuring all the class has grown. “My dream would be to run the Chesapeake School of Cookery and Home Tending, where you can learn all the lost arts,” says Shields, who is hard at work on his new book, “The New Chesapeake Kitchen,” Shields describes growing food as “a radical act.” He says: “I tell people, even if they get one pot and grow parsley or basil, they’re making a difference.” 410-516-0341, museums.jhu.edu —M.T.
When Doug Atwell stepped up—No. 7 in a lineup of 14 esteemed bartenders competing in the inaugural Baltimore Cocktail Week face-off—he didn’t put on a show (read: no fire, no ice shaving, no song or dance). He just smiled at the judges and confidently got to work mixing and serving—ladies first, by the way—our fave drink of the evening: the Viking Daisy, a Preakness-inspired concoction named after the surrogate species used to create the floral blanket draped over the winning horse each year. (Fun fact: Black-Eyed Susans don’t bloom until June, so they fake it by daubing the daisies with black lacquer.) Atwell, a former video game developer turned craft cocktail pro, has added the refreshing pink concoction to his spring menu at Rye Fells Point, named one of “America’s Best Bars” by Esquire last year. Also look for him at Cocktails at the Conservatory on May 14, where he’ll serve up botanical-infused beverages in support of the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill. —Jessica Bizik