High prices, fancy dress and dishes of rattlesnake meat weren't the way to win Baltimoreans' hearts and stomachs, the owners of Dominique's Restaurant have realized.
So the owners, who also own a Washington restaurant of the same name, announced yesterday that they will reopen their restaurant in Baltimore by early October -- but this time around the prices will be lower and the atmosphere will be casual.
And alligator steaks might be replaced by some new crab dishes.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court granted permission Tuesday for the Baltimore restaurant, which closed July 27, to reopen, said Herbert S. Ezrin, a part-owner of both restaurants.
Mr. Ezrin said that the restaurant in The Brokerage will be renamed Dominique's Cafe and Bar but that many of the chefs, waiters and managers will return.
The restaurant, which filed for reorganization and protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code last month, was able to reopen because the owners obtained loans from individuals to finance the move, Mr. Ezrin said.
He said the troubles of The Brokerage and the nearby Fishmarket, which are both in bankruptcy proceedings, hurt his business.
But he said his landlords at The Brokerage have made accommodations to help him reopen the restaurant.
In addition, he said, a marked downturn in summer tourism hurt both his restaurants, though he said Baltimore suffered the biggest downturn.
But Mr. Ezrin conceded that he may have misread Baltimoreans' tastes when he opened a copyof his fancy Washington restaurant here in his mother's hometown.
"I was a firm believer that the exact same concept would work here," he said. "We advertised at the theater and the opera . . . but we learned through experience that we were going after the wrong market.
"One of the problems was that we were perceived as too high-scale for Baltimore," Mr. Ezrin said.
He said he and his main partner, Henry Prati,have realized that Washington and Baltimore are "different markets."
Although he hasn't set the menu for the new restaurant, Mr. Ezrin said he was thinking of eliminating some of the more unusual and high-priced dishes and replacing them with crab and seafood dishes.
Dinner entree prices on the new menu probably will range from $10 to $18. The old restaurant's prices ranged from $13 to $25, Mr. Ezrin said.