Joy America Cafe at AVAM closes

TABLE TALK

Towson restaurant adds lounge

March 01, 2006|By SLOANE BROWN

For 15 years, brothers Spike and Charlie Gjerde were local restaurant stalwarts, on the cutting edge of Baltimore cuisine. Now they are restaurateurs without a restaurant. After the closings of Atlantic in 2003 and Spike and Charlie's in 2004, the brothers shut the doors at their last remaining restaurant, Joy America Cafe, on Sunday.

Both Spike Gjerde and Rebecca Hoffberger, founder/director of the American Visionary Art Museum that housed Joy America, were reluctant to discuss the reasons behind the closing. "I'd rather talk about the future," Gjerde said. "I'm really looking forward to doing something else in the city. There are some other great opportunities. ... We're going to take a little time off. ... What I'm looking forward to right now is cooking for an exclusive clientele of three: my two kids and my wife."

Hoffberger said she is looking for someone to revamp and reopen the restaurant at the top of the museum, perhaps with a juice bar. "What I'm looking for in a chef is what we've found in our gift shop operator, Ted Frankel: a wildly successful history of past business operation; a treating of the facility as his or her own home; a champion of our mission and values; and a commitment to pay bills and rent on time to alleviate all stress," she said. "We're looking for an operation that truly crowns our museum."

Hoffberger said the museum owns the Joy America name, but she doesn't know if the new operator will keep it. As for the Gjerdes, she says: "I think that Spike is a talented chef, and I wish them well."

A place to dance, mingle

You know a trend is catching on when it spreads from the city to the 'burbs. The trend we're talking about: restaurants that transform into late-night lounges. They're plentiful in Baltimore. Now, add Towson to the "cool" list.

Buddha Lounge is the latest addition to the ever-growing eatery that is San Sushi Too and Thai One On. Manager Bruce Sesum says the small bar in the restaurant was getting too crowded, so the restaurant expanded into the space next door that used to be Ritz Camera.

He says there's a bigger bar there that seats about 26, and 14 more tables. Sesum says there are also several couches in one corner and a banquette against another wall. For that hip feel, the ceiling is black, with the exposed ventilation system painted a cinnabar red. Sesum says you'll also see a large Buddha painted on one wall. Halogen rail and drop lighting further that lounge-y vibe.

The space is used as an expanded part of the dining room most of the time, with a nice bar area now. The Buddha Lounge gets into high gear only on Friday and Saturday nights. Sesum says that's when some of the tables are moved to create more space to dance or mingle. To keep Buddha Lounge sleek but not "super high-end," there is a lounge dress code: no hats, no athletic wear. "Casual but nice," Sesum says.

As far as the food goes, it's the same menu as the rest of the restaurant. Right now, food isn't served during the lounge hours. But Sesum says an expanded sushi bar and night menu are in the works and should be in place by summer.

San Sushi Too/Thai One On/Buddha Lounge, 410-825-0908, is at 10 W. Pennsylvania Ave. in Towson. The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. The bar area opens every day at 5 p.m. And the Buddha Lounge becomes, well, the Buddha Lounge from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

If you have information regarding a local restaurant's opening, closing or major changes, please e-mail that information to sloane@sloanebrown.com or fax it to 410-675-3451.

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