After 70 years, Alonso's is sold Huge hamburgers, name will stay, new owner says

June 06, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm and Eric Siegel | Jamie Stiehm and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The name will stay the same and so will the huge hamburgers. But the ownership of Alonso's is changing -- and so will some of the atmosphere that helped make the bar and restaurant a North Baltimore institution for generations of college students, sports fans and neighbors.

bTC The bar and restaurant on West Coldspring Lane on the edge of Roland Park that has been owned by the same family for nearly 70 years is being bought for an undisclosed sum by Loco Hombre, the popular 4-year-old Tex-Mex restaurant next door.

Edward Dopkin, Loco Hombre's owner, said yesterday that he plans to create an interior walkway between the two restaurants and move the oval bar that is at the center not only of Alonso's, but of the wide circle of regulars.

Gone, too, will be the eclectic decor that included Civil War photographs and documents, vintage wooden lacrosse sticks and other sports memorabilia -- and even a dinosaur egg.

Dopkin said he might give the menu a "casual Italian flavor" but will keep the outsized burgers that have become synonymous with the gathering place.

He also considered another major change -- but quickly thought better of it.

"We didn't intend on keeping the name," Dopkin said. "Then I said to myself, 'You have to be out of your mind.' When people call Loco Hombre and ask where are you located, we say, 'Next to Alonso's.' "

Dopkin, also a part-owner of Classic Catering, said he hopes to complete the renovations by Labor Day and do the work without having to close either eatery.

Leroy Alonso, whose parents started Alonso's as a neighborhood deli in 1929 and who took over its operations three decades later, expressed mixed emotions about the sale, which is contingent on liquor board approval of the license transfer.

"I'd like to be free," said Alonso, 75, who began delivering orders on a bicycle when he was a child and has worked there since, except during a four-year tour of duty in the Navy in World War II.

But he added, "You know what's going to hurt? The feeling of leaving."

Alonso said none of his three grown children wanted to take over the business.

Yesterday at lunchtime, the bar was packed with customers.

One patron, retired doctor John Eyring, said he met his wife in Alonso's 40 years ago.

"I hope it stays the same," he said when told of the sale. "It's a fascinating place."

Although some neighbors said Alonso's was showing signs of age, they hoped it would continue to be an important part of the area's fabric.

"Our nickname is Alonsoville," said Beth Greskovich, who lives a block from the bar.

Word of the sale triggered fond memories of Alonso's.

"Alonso's cut across generations and cultures," said Tommy Peace, a Lutherville fund-raising consultant who went there during his college days in the 1960s and for years afterward.

"It was very much like 'Cheers,' " added Dyson Ehrhardt, development director at Boys' Latin and a habitue in the 1960s.

"Everybody was there. You went in there and you knew someone."

Pub Date: 6/06/98

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