And, the Price is Right

Meat lovers rejoice, because there’s a new kosher game in town that rivals in both price and quality the wood-paneled, white-tableclothed varieties that have for years plied their trade in offering decidedly treif hunks of juicy steak.

The brainchild of Accents Grill and Cocoaccinos owners Lara and Larry Franks, Serengeti aims to do for Baltimore kosher cuisine what such establishments as Ruth’s Chris and Capital Grille have done for everybody else; its mission is to be no less than the final authority when it comes to competitively priced, high-quality dining that, while offering gourmet flavors, focuses on, as Lara Franks said in her South African lilt, “giving diners a healthy portion of protein at a good value.”

With a décor heavy on earth tones and angular designs and metal antelope heads hung on the walls, Serengeti evokes the spirit of an African hunting lodge or a rustic cabin. On a recent Wednesday evening, the place was packed, and a hurried Franks, who serves as hostess, revealed that the indoor location — the OU-supervised restaurant sits behind Accents in the Atrium mall at the Greenspring Shopping Center off of Smith Avenue — has had steady dinner and lunch crowds ever since a soft opening in late June. Reservations, she said, are highly recommended.

That the restaurant gets by essentially on word of mouth — Serengeti is just now beginning an advertising campaign — is a testament to the niche its owners identified several years ago, said Phil Rosenfeld, who manages the front of the house. “The idea is a classy steakhouse, something that was missing from the Baltimore kosher scene.”

Appetizers run from $7.50 for the soup of the day — it happened to be beef brisket split pea this particular night — to $17 for what Rosenfeld said is the restaurant’s most popular dish, a plate of sweet and spicy bourbon-braised short ribs served over creamy grits and topped with crispy onions. The meat, offering a substantial dose of smokiness with a hint of spice against a background of peppercorn, falls off the bone, while a tuna ceviche tower ($12) presents alternating layers of diced raw fish on “crackers” of tortilla chips and dollops of avocado cream.

For the main course, the Franks, along with Chef Daniel Neuman — a returnee to Baltimore after stints in New York kosher catering outfits — are taking an all-encompassing approach. Their menu leans heavy on steaks to be sure — grilled rib eyes can be ordered on the bone or boneless in both 12-ounce and 16-ounce cuts, spice rubbed or accompanied by one of three house sauces — but diners can also choose from braised lamb shank with red wine reduction ($27), a fish dish, two chicken entrées ($18), a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie ($18) or four entrée-sized salads ($15-$25). The chili-rubbed seared steak tournedos with peppercorn sauce ($42 for 16 ounces/$32 for 12 ounces) comes as thick as any chophouse filet and just as tender, while the grilled honey chipotle marinated rib eye steak ($32 for 16 ounces/$25 for 12 ounces) evokes images of Texas ranch hands enjoying a meal of well-deserved barbecued sustenance after a hard day’s work.

Eight different sides can be ordered al a carte and sandwiches include lamb burgers, hamburgers, grilled chicken and veggie varieties. Desserts run between $6 and $9.

A prix fixe option, at $50 per person, includes an appetizer, salad or soup, entrée with a side and desert.

For his part, Neuman relishes the chance to interact with his diners one on one, although he admitted that the cooking arrangement has taken some getting used to as both Accents and Serengeti share the kitchen.

“I’ve got two lines here going on simultaneously!” he shouted as assistants and wait staff scurried to and fro. When he was reminded that hotels and cruise ships frequently have multiple restaurants using central cooking facilities, he laughed: “Cruise ships! They have bigger kitchens!”

Franks, who got her start in the restaurant industry by running corporate lunch counters and catering kitchens in Southern California, said her foray into kosher dining and move to Baltimore a decade ago has been interesting. She and her husband preside over an ever-expanding empire of restaurants and, judging from the mix of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, patronizing their newest establishment, they seem to be answering a need. Less than a month since opening, some patrons have already become regulars and order without the help of the menu.

“When we designed this, we made sure that we were comparable and competitive to the non-kosher steakhouses in the area,” said Franks. “We know what the standard is on the open market and we’re going to deliver that same quality.”

Serengeti is located at 2839m Smith Ave. in Baltimore. For reservations, call 410-413-6080.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Local Businesses Hold Their Own

Ray Hinish, who owns Expert Nutrition Center and the building that houses The Flying Avocado Café and Admiral FITT Personal Training, welcomes the competition Foundry Row will bring. (Marc Shapiro)

Ray Hinish, who owns Expert Nutrition Center and the building that houses The Flying Avocado Café and Admiral FITT Personal Training, welcomes the competition Foundry Row will bring.
(Marc Shapiro)

When Foundry Row is up and running in 2016, an LA Fitness will be next door to Lynne Brick’s and only a few miles from Brick Bodies and Planet Fitness, all three owned or franchised by the same local company.

But Lynne Brick, president and founder of the female-only Lynne Brick’s and coed Brick Bodies and operator of local Planet Fitness gyms, isn’t worried about another national fitness chain coming to the Owings Mills area.

“We’re a hometown business, locally grown,” Brick said. “We’ve been at it for 30 years now, and I think a lot of people in the community know our name.”

Other business owners share Brick’s sentiment and even look forward to the new center being built at the former site of the Solo Cup factory and the increase in traffic they expect to bolster interest in the area.

“We know what we’re doing here. We’re established here,” said Larry Lawrence, a manager at Beauty Supply in the Painters Mill Shopping Center. “If there’s more traffic, it’s better for business.”

In June, Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons announced future tenants LA Fitness, Sports Authority, DSW, cosmetic shop Ulta, Panera Bread, fast-casual Mediterranean eatery Zoe’s Kitchen, cook-to-order Smashburger and build-your-own eatery Nalley Fresh. These businesses will join Wegmans, the anchor of the center with a 130,000-square-foot store.

If past projects are any indication, Brick and Lawrence may be accurate in their assertions, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

“In most areas, there’s a large shopping complex with a collection of national brands and there’s typically a Main Street with local retail, local mom-and-pop shops,” he said. “Typically there is a coexistence there. Different retail formats serve different purposes for different consumer wants and desires.”

Tron added that projects such as Foundry Row often bring people to the area, who then find local retailers that don’t necessarily have the marketing dollars to reach potential customers.

“This is giving us an opportunity to keep people here,” said Colleen Brady, president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce, noting that people often travel to Towson or Hunt Valley for some of the same stores that will open at Foundry Row. “It’s a good way for us to look around and see what is in our backyard.”

Those backyard businesses may have an advantage over national chains, Brick theorized, by having visible owners who are often invested in the community. Her company, for example, is involved with the Reisterstown Festival and supports local 5K runs and community groups, and the owners can be spotted at the gyms, talking to customers and doling out workout advice.

“I’m not sure a big chain is going to be capable of doing that,” she said.

Ray Hinish, who owns the building that houses the Flying Avocado Café, Expert Nutrition Center and Admiral FITT Personal Training on South Dolfield Road, welcomes the competition.

“I think there are plenty of hungry people to go around,” he said. “A little competition never hurts, it only helps you become better.”

He believes the smallness of the business also helps, as some people are turned off by chain establishments.

For others, the coming of Foundry Row is an opportunity to look toward the future. Jessica Normington, executive director at the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is discussing updating its strategic plan, which is about 10 years old. The plan would look at the chamber’s vision and goals, its board structure, bylaws and what businesses the chamber would like to attract to the area.

“Right now, we don’t know how it’s going to impact [the area],” she said. “We could see a whole transformation that could trickle down to Pikesville.”

Maller Receives Leadership Award

071814_bbriefs_mallerPeter Maller, founder and president of Maller Wealth Advisors in Hunt Valley, has received the National Corporate Leadership Award from The Friends of Chabad at Johns Hopkins University, a student social service, humanitarian and support organization and a center for education and outreach activities serving the Jewish community.

With more than 20 years of experience in the financial-services industry, Maller founded Maller Wealth Advisors in January 2014. The wealth-management firm provides investment strategies, financial planning, risk-management services, business-succession planning and employee benefits to business owners, accomplished professionals and high-net-worth individuals.

Restaurant Association Announces New Officers, Members

The Restaurant Association of Maryland has announced new officers and directors to its board of directors. Their board term is effective July 1. Officers hold their post for one year, while directors have a three-year term.

The new officers are Sherry Giovannoni, owner of The Fish Market in Clinton; Eric King, owner of the Shanty Grille in Ellicott City; Dan Stevens, owner of Houlihan’s in Columbia and Waugh Chapel; Joe Barbera, owner of AIDA Bistro in Columbia; Kathie Sewell, regional VP of Golden Corral; and Brian Boston, owner of the Milton Inn in Sparks and Highland Inn in Highland.

The new directors are Mary Ellen Hammond, VP of finance at DavCo Restaurants, which operates over 150 Wendy’s; Michael Holstein, owner of Quench in Rockville; Lee Howard, owner of Urban BBQ in Rockville and Silver Spring; Erin McNaboe, VP of marketing for the Rams Head group; Bryan Kight, district manager of Ecolab; and John Corso, president of Coastal Sunbelt Produce.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland is a 2,000-member statewide trade association whose purpose is to promote, protect and improve the food-service industry in Maryland.

ScholarChip Coming to Owings Mills

ScholarChip, a New York-based company recently awarded a contract from the Baltimore County Public School system, has signed a lease with St. John Properties, Inc. for 7,560 square feet of space at 9 Easter Court, a LEED-designed, single-story, 30,120-square-foot office building contained within Dolfield Business Park in Owings Mills.

ScholarChip has pioneered technology and products that are used by school systems around the country to monitor attendance and support safety protocols for students and faculty members. The company anticipates employing approximately 20 workers at this new regional office during the first year of operation, with the possibility of increased hiring as new contracts are won.

Beginning with the fall 2014 school year, ScholarChip will supply 126,000 students and staff members of the Baltimore County Public School system with smart ID cards that will be used to take real-time attendance, both in the classroom and at the entrance to the school building. The system automatically reconciles attendance data, assisting personnel in establishing a school environment that is conducive to improving student behavior and school safety. All data is recorded near to real time in cloud-based reports. ScholarChip technology and products are used by Carver Technical Vocational High School in Baltimore City.

Kidney Foundation Honors Owings Mills Volunteers

071814_bbriefs_kidney-volunteersThe National Kidney Foundation of Maryland recently presented its Ambassador Family of the Year Award to Rose and Jeffrey Karlan at its annual volunteer awards reception at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

“We could not exist without our volunteers whose efforts help us to make the community aware of the life-sustaining role the kidneys play in health and of the risk factors and real dangers presented by kidney disease,” said NKF-MD Board Chairman Christopher Simon.

“Over the past year-and-a-half, this Owings Mills couple has so graciously allowed the foundation into their lives and to share the memory of their son, Harrison, who died as an infant from renal failure. In 2013, the Karlans raised over $20,000 for their walk team, Harrison’s Heroes, and were the top family-and-friends team in the country.”

Har Sinai Presents Einhorn Award Honorees

Har Sinai Congregation recognized this year’s Rabbi David Einhorn Award recipients — Dr. Robert Brookland, David and Marilyn Carp, Rabbi Floyd and Barbara Herman, Rabbi Edward Israel (posthumously) and Howard and Judith Kahn­ — at an awards ceremony and dessert reception on June 8. The award recognizes families and individuals who exemplify Jewish values, show outstanding leadership or achievement within the congregation or community or contribute significant service, personal resources and support to the congregation.

The award’s namesake, Rabbi David Einhorn, born in 1809, gave voice to his ideals for human equality, spiritual commitment and study of Torah. In addition to serving as Har Sinai Congregation’s first rabbi and helping to found Reform Judaism in America, he published a prayer book that became the model for the Union Prayer Book in 1894.

Baltimore County Recognizes Small Businesses

Thirty-nine locally owned businesses were honored at the Baltimore County Commercial Revitalization Awards, a new program that recognizes businesses, property owners, volunteers and organizations that contribute to the well-being of Baltimore County’s Commercial Revitalization Districts.

The Baltimore County Department of Planning invited chambers of commerce and business associations to make nominations in 11 categories.

Among the honorees were Commerce Center — Klein Enterprises, Hooks Lane, Pikesville (nominee, best before and after); J.S. Edwards, Pikesville (nominee, best established business); Mari Luna Mexican and Mari Luna Latin Grille, Pikesville (winner, best neighborhood restaurant); former Suburban House site, Schwaber Management, Pikesville (nominee, special development project) and David Elkes, Nick Mangione and Mark Pressman, Pikesville (nominees, outstanding volunteer).

Appel, Bromberg Named Kidney Champions

Dr. Jonathan S. Bromberg and Dr. Lawrence J. Appel

Dr. Jonathan S. Bromberg and Dr. Lawrence J. Appel

The National Kidney Foundation of Maryland has named Drs. Lawrence J. Appel and Jonathan S. Bromberg as its 2014 Kidney Champions.

The physicians were chosen for their accomplishments in the medical and surgical world, related to kidney health and transplantation.

“We are delighted to honor these prestigious doctors who have made significant contributions in the field of kidney disease research and organ transplantation as our 2014 Kidney Champions,” said NKF-MD Vice President Christie Vera. “Their personal sacrifices will continue to have a lasting impact on the future of kidney health and the success of organ transplantation for generations.”

Appel is the C. David Molina professor of medicine and director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, a joint program of the School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.

Bromberg is professor of surgery and microbiology and immunology and chief of the Division of Transplantation at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Harbour School Wins $25K for Meals on Wheels

The Harbour School at Baltimore’s Harbouring Hope for Hunger campaign was chosen as a winner of LEAD2FEED, a nationwide student challenge created by the USA Today Charitable Foundation and the Lift a Life Foundation with assistance from the Yum! Foundation, which encourages service learning directed to solving world hunger.

In conjunction with the school’s Museum Day 2014 — Solutions in World Hunger — Siri Wenrich, English and language arts teacher in Baltimore, created Harbouring Hope for Hunger. Her team of students worked throughout the school year to find solutions for world hunger, and they won $25,000 for the charity they chose, Meals on Wheels. Their project was chosen from 1,500 entries nationwide.

The Harbour School is a Maryland State Department of Education-approved nonpublic special-education school, serving publicly funded students in grades one to 12 from 14 school systems and the District of Columbia.