New restaurant in Pikesville


At a time when most stories seem to be about how badly restaurants are doing in this economy or, worst-case scenario, about their closing, there is good news.

Jaime Luna, the chef/owner of one of the area's most popular Mexican restaurants, Mari Luna Mexican Grill, has opened a second restaurant, Mari Luna Latin Grille (1010 Reisterstown Road, 410-653-5151) in Pikesville. Yes, the new place's name has an "e" on the end of "grill," maybe to reflect the fact that this restaurant is not fancier exactly, but less casual and more ambitious. In the first couple of weeks of its existence, it seems to be doing very, very well.

The new menu encompasses many more cuisines than the first Mari Luna. Dishes from Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, South America and a few from Central America can be found. Entrees run from $13 to $26.

Mari Luna has a full bar where you can get a caipirinha, a popular drink in Brazil, and, of course, mojitos. The wine list emphasizes bottles from Argentina, Chile, Spain and a few wines from California. Latin American beers are also featured prominently. The not-good news is that the new restaurant has taken the first Mari Luna's liquor license, so the first one is now BYOB until it can get its own.

Mari Luna Latin Grille is open nightly from 5 to 10, and the bar is open until 11. Lunch should start sometime in the middle of this month. Manager Jorge Perez told me the restaurant may have a "Mexican night" on Mondays, when the other restaurant is closed.

Sci-fi theme Joy Martin, who owns Club Charl es and the now-closed Zodiac in Station North, has been working on the Lost City Diner at 1730 N. Charles St. for seven years. Now it looks as if it's finally going to open by the end of November.

Everybody does a '50s diner, Martin says. Her diner is going to have a 1930s science-fiction theme. "People are going to be shocked and awed" at how it looks, she says.

Christina DiAngelo, who was the chef at Zodiac, will be heading the kitchen. She says the food "will be even better than the Zodiac's," with a lot of the same vegan options.

Classic dishes and classics with a modern twist will be offered: a T-bone steak, for instance, but also steak roulade. Breakfast all day almost goes without saying. This will be a diner, after all.

And, by the way, Martin is still hoping to reopen Zodiac, which closed when workmen severed a gas line.

He's back As I mentioned in this column last spring, Christian deLutis left the kitchen of the Wine Market in Locust Point to head to Ireland in April. Unfortunately for him, but not for us, he wasn't able to get a visa there.

"But I'm happy to be home," he says, now that he's back in Baltimore working with the folks at Brasserie Tatin in Homewood. He and Tatin maitre d' Mark Detori worked at the now-closed Harbor Court together, and Detori persuaded him to come on board.

DeLutis says he's been upfront with Tatin partners Gayle Brier and Gerard Billebault about the fact that he's planning to open his own place eventually. Considering the economy, that won't be before next fall at the earliest.

"We've been keeping [his arrival] down low," says Brier, while deLutis has been reorganizing the kitchen, refining some of the dishes currently on the menu and developing some new ones.

That includes modernizing some traditional brasserie dishes and having fun with them, like serving duck cassoulet in a sausage casing with a duck leg confit, or offering trout amandine as an appetizer made with smoked salmon and almonds.

All this is being done with an eye to the economy, deLutis adds. Tatin has started offering a to-go menu, where you can call ahead and order, and a fixed-price dinner for $40.

More closings? Readers have been asking me about several restaurants that seem to have closed recently. Closings are always tricky because they are hard to check, but I can say that Snyder's Cafe and Deli in Owings Mills hasn't been answering its phone, and its Web site is down. Kiss Cafe in Canton had a sign posted on its door saying, "Sorry for the confusion, but Kiss Cafe is now permanently closed. The event will be held @ Red Square." Py gourmet pizza in Canton isn't answering its phone. I'll be happy to receive updates on the status of any of these places. Just let me know.

Love those oysters If you love your bivalves, consider heading to St. Michaels this Saturday for the first OysterJam. The restaurants in town are, of course, featuring oysters; and Market House Gourmet Grocer will have oyster stew and a beer tasting. It's not all edible: There will be live music at several venues and an exhibit of oyster-themed artifacts. You can even buy an OysterJam T-shirt.

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