BY ALLAN WALTERS — Ten years ago, if a Hyattsville resident wanted to celebrate by going out to a fine dining restaurant, options would have been going into DC or heading off to Silver Spring or Annapolis. Recent years have brought more options to our doorstep, and with the opening of the Hotel at the University of Maryland the next evolution in the local dining scene will take place.
There will be five new dining options available in the Hotel, headlined by Mike Isabella’s Greek restaurant Kapnos Taverna and the Old Maryland Grill, a new restaurant from Mike Franklin, owner of Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store. According to Franklin, the restaurant will open “sometime between Sept. 5 and 8,” depending on how the final permitting process goes.
Chef Mark Heckrotte, who will lead the kitchens in both restaurants, said that the Old Maryland Grill will be a “complement to Franklins and will provide a different kind of dining experience.”
“Franklins was intended as a neighborhood joint, a place to be a little loud and take the kids,” Heckrotte said. “The Old Maryland Grill will also be a place that you can take the family but the food experience will be different. We are going to source food locally from Maryland companies such as beef from Roseda Farm, crab from GW Hall & Son and will serve several farm-raised Chesapeake oyster varieties that will be available year round.”
Franklin summed up the difference between the two restaurants, saying, “Franklins is family night; the Old Maryland Grill will be date night,” and added, “the area needed a more quiet, upscale dining experience, similar to what you can find downtown.”
A mission of the restaurant will be to preserve traditional Maryland recipes that are dying out. “We are going to serve Saint Mary’s County ham, a corned ham stuffed with a mixture of leeks, cabbage, kale and hot peppers,” said Heckrotte. “We felt part of the reason the owners came to us to bring a restaurant to the Hotel, was both because of our local presence and our focus on Maryland cuisine.”
However, it won’t be all traditional food. Franklin describes the cuisine as a “mix of classic and contemporary” that will also include dishes inspired by more recent immigrant arrivals to Prince George’s County, such as “beet kitfo,” a riff on the classic Ethiopian dish of minced raw beef.
Franklin and team had been in search of a place to expand for a few years but the right opportunity had not presented itself. “We looked at a few different options but none were the right fit,” said Heckrotte, “and we wanted to make sure that Franklins remained solid since it was so important to the community. One day representatives from Southern Management Corporation, the hotel operator, showed up at Franklins and a few hours later we had an agreement.”
According to Heckrotte, another big difference between Franklins and the Old Maryland Grill will be the scope and complexity of running the restaurant. “The Old Maryland Grill will be the hotel restaurant responsible for room service and serving three meals a day and brunch on weekends. There will be 260 seats inside and a patio that can expand seating to over 300 people at a time.”
The Old Maryland Grill will be located on the ground floor of the Hotel at the University of Maryland at 7777 Baltimore Ave., directly across from the main campus.