The renovations are almost done, and the owner of the Starlite Diner at Belvedere Square says they plan to open by mid-September.
The Starlite will be in the space that was most recently Shoo-Fly and, way back, a Hess Shoe store.
“It’s hard not to love this building,” said owner Leonard Clarke, who says he wants to keep things fun and a bit irreverent. “We simply wanted to play off the fun feel of the existing architecture, with a few updates here and there. Our goal was to re-inject a bit more of the mid century retro flavor but to try and keep things light, fun and approachable.”
Clarke said he will draw on a range of mid-Atlantic, Southern and Southwest influences, with a variety of vegetarian and more health-conscious ingredients.
“As a diner, we are pitching a big tent. We have a large menu with a variety of delicious, fun options. We are making every effort to source as local as possible through our vendors and will constantly be evaluating our progress in this area,” he said. “We agree that it’s meaningful that customers have the ability to know what they are eating and where it comes from, clearly that is the direction of our industry.”
The Starlite plans to offer full in-house baking from scratch, including eat-in or carry-out breakfast sweetbreads and pastries as well as desserts, milkshakes, fresh-squeezed juices, espresso drinks, and local craft and boutique cocktails.
Clarke said he’s hoping to attract a wide range of customers, including “families, couples, single adults as well as corporate clients and company happy hours.”
The restaurant, whose renovation was handled by Kuo Pao of PI.KL Design, will seat about 200 people, including in the main dining, bar areas and front patio.
Clarke has brought on Arim Isabel as the executive chef and Jack Elsby as the general manager. Isabel, a Texas native, has run popular kitchens in New York City over the past 15 years, including Sex and The City favorite filming location Cafeteria and Southern Hospitality, a Hells Kitchen staple co-owned by Justin Timberlake.
Elsby was the longtime managing partner at the former Brass Elephant restaurant in Mount Vernon, as well as posts running the Milton Inn and Food and Beverage Director at The Harbor Court Hotel on Light Street downtown. Clarke is a former partner at Red Maple in Mount Vernon.
“We are really excited to be here in North Baltimore, to be a part of the Belvedere neighborhood and, of course, a part of the Belvedere Square family,” said Clarke. “There are so many great vendors and businesses around us, it just feels really nice to be among all this positive energy. We can’t wait to open so we can begin contributing.”
As for the slide, Clarke said: “Of course we are keeping it!”