JD’s Smokehouse Returning to Canton With Craft Brew Lineup (Oh And They Named a Sandwich After Me)
Steve Fogleman, Baltimore Beer Baron
Baltimore, MD November 18—It’s been two years since JD’s Smokehouse in Baltimore closed its doors. The restaurant was a cornerstone of Canton’s O’Donnell square in the Two Thousand Aughts with its dependable food and focus on delicious local craft beer. Like all good things from the past, JD’s is headed back to the old neighborhood, this time taking over the site of dive bar extraordinaire American Harry’s at 623 S. Luzerne Street. Baltimore’s liquor board approved the transfer of ownership of the liquor license yesterday at City Hall.
JD’s was a pioneer and a risk taker in the local beer scene. Founded in 2000, owner Paul Friedenberg installed 58 draft lines in 2008 in an effort to set themselves apart as a lupulin locale.
When they closed in November 2014, they did so to focus on the other JD’s Smokehouse they’d built–in Bel Air. They continued to pour craft beer at the northern location with 30 taps featuring locals like Key, DuClaw, Union Craft and Bel Air’s own Independent Brewing Company. “He’s brewing some really good beer,” Friedenberg said of brewer Philip Rhudy at Independent.
Despite the success, they missed Canton. “We’d drive through Canton and realized how much we needed to be back here,” Friedenberg told me.
And by “we”, he means his daughter and General Manager Gabrielle Friedenberg. At only 24, she doesn’t look like she has a decade of experience under her belt in the hospitality industry–but she does.
Friedenberg was practically raised at JD’s in Canton. I remember a server who looked about 13 delivering our order on a visit a few years back. She was 16 and hustling then. She went full-time for the family business at 18. After a one-year stint at Towson University, Friedenberg knew her true calling was managing the business and she dove right back into it.
“I am thrilled to be headed back to Canton. I grew up behind the bar at the original JD’s and still have many friends in the neighborhood. I hope that we will, once again, provide the neighborhood with a warm, friendly place to grab a bite and watch a game,” she said.
The ‘new’ location, American Harry’s, is actually a venerable spot in Canton. One of the last-remaining dive bars in a neighborhood once full of them, it was once owned by State Senator American Joe Miedusiewski. Luckily, they’re not going to screw the place up, but they could use some more natural light. Just not the beer.
“We are not changing anything structurally,” Paul Friedenberg explained. “We’ll get some more windows in the future, but the coolers behind the bar, the same floor and the same ceiling will remain.”
“But it will look like the JD’s you remember,” he said. All of the wooden murals from the original O’Donnell Square location have been sitting in his garage for the last couple of years and they will all be back in Canton in time for the opening, tentatively scheduled for New Year’s Eve .
There are a couple of other improvements to the program since the Friedenbergs rolled out.
The first are the beers. American Harry’s sports 8 taps, and JD’s will require at least 30. There will also be a very healthy collection of cans and bottles and a 15-20 strong Bourbon lineup.
And yes, Canton, you’re getting another beer club for Christmas! Hirsute Papa Friedenberg began growing a beard a couple of years ago. “I had the idea for the Brothers of the Beard Beer Club when I was down in Canton, but it fell by the wayside,” he explained. “Then I got it off the ground in Bel Air. I thought if I got 25 guys to join, it would be a kick. A year and a half later, we have over 300 members.”
It’s $20 to join, which gets you a personalized, laser-engraved 21 ounce goblet. After that, it’s always a $6 craft beer refill anytime. Despite the name, no facial hair is actually required. JD’s also has a Honey of the Hops Beer Club with 20 ounce snifters available for the ladies. Though the drink ware stays at the bar, they plan a reciprocity program with house goblets for members who visit either location.
The menu is the same with two notable additions.
More important to you is that JD’s now offers hickory-smoked baby back ribs.
The other menu change is more important to me.
I am #humblebrag speechless. They’re naming a sandwich after me.
It’s brilliant marketing on their part. Do you know how much time and money I will spend eating that sandwich and drinking that Delicious Local Craft Beer?
It’s called ‘The Fogleman‘ and it sounds disgustingly awesome.
I’ll have the sandwich for two–for one, please.
(Disclaimer: I provided legal representation for JD’s Smokehouse at their liquor licensing hearing yesterday)