Thai That Binds
Jammed between Dooby’s and the Helmand in Mount Vernon, this hole-in-the-wall—formerly the nondescript Thairish, inviting only if office stress or booze left you craving some comforting pad thai to go—has recently upped its game under new ownership as Khun Nine Thai. The tiny space has received a shot of ambience, so you’ll be just as happy to sit in one of the 24 seats in the softly lit, pearl gray room as to pick up your food on the run. The menu, which bills itself as “Thai Soul Food,” contains the usual suspects and then some: panang curry with kaffir lime leaves and broccoli that hasn’t lost its fab crunch; larb gai (spicy chicken salad with tangy lime dressing); and, of course, pad thai (slithery noodles tossed in egg, spiked with lime and basil, and crunchy with chopped peanuts). 804 N. Charles St. khunninethai.com —MARTHA THOMAS
Healthful fast-casual joint Honeygrow isn’t wasting any time taking root in Baltimore. Within a few months, the from-scratch stir-fry and salad chain has sprouted in both Charles Village and the Exelon building at Harbor Point, even tailoring its menu to be more Charm City-friendly (enter the Chesapeake Crab, a specialty stir-fry with egg white noodles, Old Bay tomato broth, blue crab and assorted veggies). Sounds tasty … but what makes it different from, say, Nalley Fresh or Noodles & Company, which offer similar savory dishes? It’s all about options, says Honeygrow founder/CEO Justin Rosenberg, from a sour cherry BBQ stir-fry to a roasted wheat berry salad to a “honeybar” dessert featuring fresh fruit, wildflower honey and house-made whipped cream. “We want to be the kind of place where you’d want to come more than once a day,” he says. “We actually see our customers doing that a lot.” Charles Village: 3212 St. Paul St., 410-243-0107; Harbor Point: 1309 Dock St. honeygrow.com —KIMBERLY USLIN
“We’re an interesting business,” says Sylva Lin, co-owner, with Piper Booher, of Pigtown’s new market/caterer/custom kitchen hybrid, Culinary Architecture. “Our name reflects exactly what we do. We put food together.” A former personal chef for D.C. politicians and professional athletes, Lin has become acutely adept at building meals on the fly—whether that means whipping up a creative catering menu of soup and banh mi sandwiches, accepting a culinary challenge posted on the space’s suggestion board or pointing customers in the direction of the right condiments to kick their chicken up a notch. Even the store’s offerings are flexible: Lin creates globally inspired weekly dinner specials but is willing to prepare a unique meal for two to-go using the shop’s state-of-the-art equipment, and she’d just as soon sell you three eggs from her kitchen as a pound of locally roasted artisan coffee. As she puts it, “We want to be what the neighborhood needs.” 767 Washington Blvd. culinaryarchitecture.com —K.U.
Two in the Bush
The new Bird in Hand, a Charles Village coffee shop and bookstore across the street from a Barnes & Noble (and a Starbucks around the corner), may be a way for its owner, Foodshed (which also owns Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact Coffee), to affirm the superiority of fresh-baked treats made with whole grain flour and local butter, wholesome snacks and ethically sourced coffee carefully brewed. As the section of St. Paul St. near Bird in Hand’s perch becomes ever more like a mall food court, the airy coffee shop with its stark interior and soaring shelves of books is a nourishing respite. The restaurant shares baking with Artifact, and the Ivy Bookshop curates the reading material (as well as author visits and readings). While the book selection is engaging and au courant, if you need an 18th-century novel for your lit class or a chemistry textbook, you’ll have better luck flitting across the street. Same goes if you crave a supersized sweet iced tea or a white chocolate mocha frappuccino. 11 E. 33rd St. birdinhandcharles village.com —M.T.