The dress rehearsal is over. Phillips officially opens for dinner this evening in its new location in Power Plant. I stopped by this morning to talk to the chef.
While we were chatting, people kept coming in to check out the place and see if it was open for lunch. It will be, starting on Monday, and will then be serving lunch and dinner daily. For this weekend, it’s dinner only.
The new space, a few piers from its old Harborplace location, is charming with rich dark woods, shades of grays, comfy booths, and a spiffy piano bar.
But its heart is in the rest of the décor. It captures the spirit of the original Ocean City Phillips. I could feel founder Shirley Phillips’s imprint.
Or maybe it was just me remembering my hostess days at the O.C. crabhouse while I was in college. At the new Phillips, a Tiffany ceiling panel recalls Mrs. Phillips’s love of Tiffany lamps. The crystal chandeliers are from the family’s Beach Plaza hotel in O.C. And a carousel horse in the entrance will remind vacationers of the historic ride at the end of the boardwalk.
The photos of Shirley and her late husband Brice and other family and Chesapeake scenes let visitors know that the restaurant founded in 1956 is very much connected to Maryland. And that’s what this new location is all about.
Chef Todd Weisz, pictured, who has been with Phillips for three years, wants local residents to re-visit Phillips, which had become known as a tourist destination. “Why don’t you come back and try again?” he asks. “Bring back the old memories.”
The kitchen has kept its Eastern Shore roots, the chef says. But there is more focus on local ingredients, products, and seafood. For instance, Marvesta shrimp is used for an appetizer, and FireFly Farms goat cheese is sprinkled in the spinach and arugula salad.
Also, the chef adds, “We try to buy as much Maryland crabmeat as possible.”
He’s excited about the restaurant scene in Baltimore in general. “This town is ready for a culinary explosion,” he says.
Indeed, it is. There are so many restaurant openings you need a scorecard these days.
In South Baltimore, Hersh’s Pizza and Drinks opened this week. It’s the dream of brother-and-sister owners Josh and Stephanie Hershkovitz, who transformed Rub, the barbecue place, into a friendly neighborhood pizzeria with Neapolitan-style pizza and a selection of small plates.
Farther south, Miss Shirley’s Cafe opened restaurant number three in Annapolis, serving the same Southern-inspired fare it has been cooking up in Roland Park and on Pratt Street. The executive chef is Matt Campbell, who was cooking in the other Miss Shirley's kitchens.
And Wit & Wisdom, a Tavern by Michael Mina, will officially open on Monday in the glitzy new Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East.
It really is an exciting food time in Baltimore.
Photos by me