We humans are funny sometimes. When we live in a city, we tend to think of it as a stable, almost static place, where nothing much changes from year to year. When we do notice a change, we tend to be so surprised, never quite grasping that change is inevitable and even desirable.
A thriving city is an evolving, ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and tastes, odors and sights. This is life in the city of Frederick.
Restaurants open, close and change hands. Craft breweries are the hot trend, and then craft distilleries are an even hotter trend.
In just the past few months, we have seen several instances of this continuous change. The popular Ragin’ Reef seafood restaurant on East Church Street has reopened after an extended closing. The eatery was damaged by an electrical fire but has been rebuilt and expanded, to the relief of its larger clientele.
On the other side of town, on West Patrick Street, the owners of the venerable China Garden are vowing to reopen after their restaurant was hit by another fire last month. The Chiang family, which has run China Garden since the 1980s, promise to rebuild as soon as possible.
On the near north side of town, the Huynh family recently announced that it has sold the Lucky Corner Vietnamese restaurant at Seventh and Market streets. The family will keep the second location of Lucky Corner at the Westview Promenade on Md. 85.
The original Lucky Corner was opened in 2005, and has been a popular spot for lunch and dinner ever since.
The new owners are a husband-and-wife team, Nikki and Eyi Jin Song, who are continuing to offer many favorite dishes from the old regime. But soon they will be changing the name and mixing in some traditional Korean fare as well.
Downtown on Carroll Creek Park, a new Mexican place is packing in diners at the outdoor tables along the creekside walkway. Roro’s Mexican Grill opened in January but has really taken off with the milder spring weather.
Speaking of Carroll Creek, Idiom Brewing Co. has opened in the historic Union Mills Building, to rave reviews. It joins its neighbor, McClintock Distilling Co., which has been open for about two years in another historic building along the creek.
Tenth Ward Distilling Co. has expanded from its original location on East Church (right next to the Ragin’ Reef restaurant mentioned above) to a storefront at 55 E. Patrick St., in the heart of the historic district. That’s another place to make a stop for a taste of local spirits.
The dining (and drinking) district on North East Street is also thriving, building around Bryan Voltaggio’s very successful Family Meal. Oscar’s Alehouse, a mainstay of Eldersburg in Carroll County, is building a big following in the neighboring shopping center, and not one but two breweries are drawing crowds, Midnight Run Brewing and Rockwell Brewery. Cafe Bueno, an excellent, unpretentious Mexican restaurant, is across the street in a small shopping center.
If you think you might like to live downtown, you might want to get on the waiting list for the Kemp Hall Lofts & Studios in a wonderful old building at Church and Market streets. All 18 units have already been rented, but they will take your name. The units have soaring ceilings, original wood floors and towering windows overlooking downtown.
Little wonder then that most owners of downtown businesses told the Downtown Frederick Partnership’s seventh annual Business Performance Survey that they had a positive economic outlook for 2019, and 38 percent said they plan to increase staff.
The city and the business community always need to be vigilant about the economic health of the downtown area, and everything is far from perfect. We still battle against blighted buildings, and we still must push to get the state to join with us to bring the downtown hotel to reality.
But things are going well in Frederick as we evolve and change. It is a process to make a successful city, not an event.