(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
As Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young cut a ribbon with a pair of oversized scissors, a band on a nearby stage started the familiar first notes of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Just behind Young, City Councilman Robert Stokes and a group of collaborators on the new project, a bar with diner-style stools readied burgers, fries, milkshakes and cocktails. With TV and phone cameras alike at the ready, onlookers stood between the cabinets holding classic arcade games like Frogger, Centipede and, fittingly, BurgerTime. On one wall, neon lights from an installation by local artist Scott Pennington added to the glow.
“The new business that we are celebrating today will be an anchor in the Station North Arts District,” Young said, adding that the Baltimore Development Corporation provided a loan to help the project come to fruition.
The scene was taking place inside North Ave. Market. At the corner of W. North Avenue and Maryland Avenue, the 4,600-square-foot portion of the former public market is now home to a new restaurant, bar and arcade.
It is run by Secret Sauce Co., a Baltimore sauce company that specializes in ketchup. Partners Matthew Steinberg and Vaughn Weitzman set out to spread the sauces with pop-ups, starting at the former Lost City Diner on nearby N. Charles Street.
The new spot marks a more permanent endeavor, which came about after building co-owner Michael Shecter and VP Jaimes Mayhew started seeking out a restaurant concept for the space. (It was formerly home to Red Emma’s before it moved to Mt. Vernon.) They met Steinberg and Weitzman through an intro from Central Baltimore Partnership’s Jack Danna, and decided to move forward. It held events starting in the summer during Artscape, and had a soft opening to preview the menu in the fall.
“It wasn’t until just last week that we finished getting Scott Pennington’s light installations on the walls,” Steinberg said. “So in mind today is actually our grand opening. We have filled the pieces and we are ready to rock and roll.”
Officially opened at Thursday’s ceremony, the space can now move forward to deliver on the vision of creating a gathering point in the community. Alongside the burgers, beers and cocktails with retro and video game names to fit the vibe, the space will have a rotating slate of vegan options, with Weitzman serving as chef.
And the menu of offerings at the space goes beyond food and drink. As indicated by the band that played at the opening, they’re planning live music, with a platform and sound system ready to host a range of genres like bluegrass, disco and hip-hop. The organizers are working with local James Nasty and other local DJs to introduce Soul Train Saturdays.
“We love working very closely with local artists, and making sure they’re getting taken care of and seeing success,” Steinberg said.
Any time it’s open, folks who eat or drink at the restaurant will be able to play the roughly 30 arcade games — for free. Steinberg said they worked with organizers of MAGFest as they sourced classic titles, which form a majority of the games.
“A lot of it was looking back at our own childhoods and going, ‘What were the ones that we really loved, what do we think people are going to love?'” Steinberg said. “We also keep a forum on our website where anybody can go online and request to a game.”
It’s also now the home for Baltimore’s edition of Killer Queen. First housed at Hampden’s Holy Frijoles, the massive 10-player game is its own hive of activity on one wall of the space. Todd Blatt, who is among those organizing around the game and bringing it to Baltimore, said they are also hosting meetups to play and meet others interested in the game on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
“We’re really excited that we have a new venue for Killer Queen,” Blatt said. “It’s great that it’s a welcoming environment.”
With the space opening, the partners already looking toward building on the foundation that’s in place. Steinberg said they are planning to add more arcade games. There’s also space to expand into other areas of the building that could lead to a Secret Sauce Co. diner that’s double its current size in the future. The larger market building also houses the Baltimore Print Studios, Institute of Contemporary Art Baltimore and recently opened Rituals (which moved in following the closing of the Wind-Up Space).
“We absolutely wanted to be in an arts and entertainment district,” Steinberg said.-30-
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