By now, many of you have likely seen the big announcement that five new retail tenants, including a restaurant by renowned chef Peter Chang and two other new restaurants (Po Boy Jim and juice/toast bar Toastique) are coming to Columbia in 2022.
Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal first broke the news of these new restaurants at 10:38 AM Wednesday November 10. Soon thereafter, I shared the news on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. By the end of the day, news articles covering the announcement were published in many major news media outlets and blogs.
Here's a rundown:
Szechuan chef Peter Chang will open a new restaurant in Columbia, Baltimore Business Journal by Amanda Yeager
Peter Chang set to open restaurant in downtown Columbia in fall 2022, Baltimore Sun by McKenna Oxenden
Sichuan Food Empire Builder and Chef Peter Chang Plots His Next Restaurant, Eater DC by Stephanie Carter
Five New Retailers to Join Downtown Columbia's Merriweather & Central Districts, Scott E's Blog by Scott Ewart
To add to all this excellent coverage, here's my dive into the announcement.
The legendary Peter Chang is considered by many to be the greatest Chinese chef cooking in the United States. His fiery dishes, like scallion bubble pancakes, Beggar's duck, dry-fried eggplant and crispy pork belly, have earned Chang a legion of devoted followers and obsessed groupies. And while his food deserves the reputation it has earned, the story of Chang himself warrants a Google rabbit hole in and of itself.
Chang's lengthy Wikipedia page covers his early life in Hubei China, emigration to America, time spent as chef at the Chinese embassy, his enigmatic period of disappearance and movement that earned him a cult following before he ultimately created his restaurant empire. Over an 8 year period earlier this century, Chang constantly moved from kitchen to kitchen evading U.S. immigration officials and Chinese bureaucrats using assumed names while legions of food bloggers and devotees of spicy Szechuan food obsessed over the mystery "Where is Peter Chang?". After finally obtaining authorization from immigration authorities to work in the U.S., Chang opened his first restaurant, and continued empire-building. Over the past decade, Peter Chang restaurants, known as "Peter Chang [location]" have opened in Arlington, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Short Pump, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, and Rockville. But before one assumes we will be getting Peter Chang Columbia, its worth noting that Chang has also opened other restaurants themes such as Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda, Mama Chang in Fairfax, and NiHao in Baltimore. Chang has received numerous awards (James Beard Award 2016 finalist for the Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic), has made multiple media appears on the Food Network and Travel Channel, and has story has been told in countless featured articles, such as the ones linked above, which are well worth the read.
So yeah, a Peter Chang restaurant coming to Columbia is a big deal!
One mystery that is easier to solve is where will Peter Chang's Columbia restaurant be located? The Baltimore Business Journal article says the restaurant will open in Fall 2022 in a 2,900 square feet in the Merriweather District, and the only retail spot of that size is the prime corner spot next to the Color Burst Park stage, so I think it's safe to assume the space in in the map below which I added the label "Peter Chang" is where the restaurant will be located.
Po' Boy Jim
While Chang's Columbia restaurant may have gotten the headline, I may be even more excited about the announcement that Po Boy Jim is coming to the Metropolitan near the Mall. The establishment is dedicated to the Louisiana style po'boy sandwich. The H Street NE location of Po' Boy Jim in DC has 16 varieties of po'boys on the menu ranging from the classic fried shrimp, oyster, roast beef, or catfish to specialty versions like steak & cheese, lobster, and Salmon BLT. In addition to po'boys, other Cajun/Creole dishes like gumbo, crawfish etouffee, shrimp & grits, and creole crab pasta are on the menu. Plus, there are 5 different types of Hurricanes, the famous cocktail that originated on Bourbon Street.
Po' Boy Jim is a creation of chef Jeffeary Miskiri, who is the founder and owner of Miskiriti Hospitality Group, a unique collective of black, family and woman-owned restaurants in the DC metropolitan area with a proven commitment of excellence to the communities they serve.
My guess is that Po' Boy Jim will be located in the vacant space between Corner Bakery and MOD Pizza in the spot formerly occupied by CaliBurger. The articles say the restaurant is aiming for a Q1 2022 opening, which means it is anticipated to be the first of this group to open its doors.
Personally, I'm super psyched about this one, having recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where I waited in line for an hour for a delicious shrimp po'boy from Domilise's. So, yes please, bring po'boys to Columbia!
Also part of Wednesday's announcement is the confirmation that gourmet toast and juice bar Toastique will open up in a yet-to-be built standalone building in Color Burst Park in Summer 2022. In late September, the online HR Retail site plan for the Merriweather District was updated with a label for Toastique for the standalone building retail space next to the splash pad in the Merriweather District which is currently a fenced-in pebble lot. I published a blog article previewing the gourmet toast and juice bar on October 2. Two days after my blog was published, the site plan was updated by removing the label for Toastique ( as shown in the map above), and replacing it with the generic "Restaurant". My guess is that the marketing folks weren't quite ready for this news to get out and were not anticipating that one of my readers would notice the map update and tip me off! For more on Toastique, including pictures and menu, read my October 2 article.
Inspire Nail and Amanda Gallagher Orthodontics.
Closing out Wednesday's announcement is news that Inspire Nail Bar (opening Q2, 2022) and Amanda Gallagher Orthodontics (opening Q1, 2022) have also leased spaces in the Merriweather District. These spots are already added to the leasing map above - Inspire Nail Bar on Merriweather Drive and Amanda Gallagher Orthodontics next to The Charmery.
What about the Lakefront?
Since the pandemic began, by my count, 9 new restaurants have opened in the Downtown Columbia area: Akira Ramen & Izakaya, Urban Hot Pot, The Charmery, Grillmarx, Clove & Cardamom, The Food Market, Walrus Roadside Stand, Dok Khao Thai Eatery, and Busboys & Poets, but as I recall, all of these were announced (and lease signed) prior to the the shutdown. These new retails spaces announced this week are some of the first new restaurants announced for the Downtown Columbia area since prior to the pandemic; a welcome sign of a rebounding retail leasing market in our area.
However, some have noted that the Lakefront is languishing with several empty retail spaces, whereas all this new leasing activity seems to be concentrated in The Merriweather District or by the Mall. The 3rd has in fact leased the former Lupo space to open a business incubator and café at the Lakefront, where they have already hosted several events. Follow The 3rd on Facebook. And a teaser on perhaps the most prominent vacancy in Columbia was hidden in an article examining The Future of Downtown Columbia: Where are the workers, shoppers, and diners from the November edition of The Business Monthly.
[Downtown Columbia's] growth will include a new tenant at one of Columbia's classic locales, as the Howard Hughes Corporation expects to be able to announce the new business going into the former Clyde's space very soon.
I'm patiently waiting...