North Beach, Maryland, is best known for its Bay beach and boardwalk. But lately, it’s become a foodie destination, with chefs coming from much larger cities to open restaurants here.
What’s drawing these entrepreneurs to this small Bayfront town of just over 2,000 people? We asked three of the newest restaurateurs in town why they picked “the Beach”.
Long before coming to Calvert County, Vaughan Cheese owners Megan and Tyler Vaughan met at New York’s Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, Megan cooked for Michael Anthony, executive chef at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan; Tyler worked in the front of the house at Tabla while the restaurant earned three New York Times stars. Megan moved to the front of the house at Eleven Madison Park during the same time it earned three Michelin stars, four New York Times stars and was named best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino. Tyler added craft cocktails to his repertoire and went to work for farm-to-table pioneer Dan Barber.
After several years working in restaurants, the Vaughans wanted a new challenge. Megan had extensive experience with cheese and a desire to connect artisanal cheesemakers with restaurants. She researched markets and found that Washington, D.C., was an underserved region. The couple began a hunt for commutable communities, prioritizing quality schools for their baby girl, and ultimately moved to Lothian in southern Anne Arundel County.
One Friday, they heard about the North Beach Farmers Market. They loved the event and the town and opened a cheese booth at the market in 2019. Demand quickly surged for their artisanal cheeses, with lines snaking through the market.
During the pandemic lockdown, the Vaughans sold cheese online and looked for a brick-and-mortar location. North Beach provided.
“Our relationship with the people is why the location sang to us,” Tyler said. They had intended a retail shop with dine-in service. They added wine to the menu and the business “snowballed from there.” Vaughan Cheese opened September 4, 2021.
Dez Virago, aka The Bakist, opened her North Beach shop in early 2021. Virago came from Spokane, Washington, where she owned Maple Street Bistro. In 2017, she sold the bistro and started a blog titled The Bakist. Her then-husband’s career brought the family to the Twin Beaches—another proprietor lured by good schools. The boardwalk was a bonus.
Virago worked for the Bay Avenue bakery Sweet Sue’s one summer and then tried baking and selling her baked goods from home. In need of full-time work, she returned to Sweet Sue’s as a baker and then became the manager of the store. She eventually negotiated to buy the business in January 2021 and rebranded the store to The Bakist five months later.
Virago recently bought the building that houses Chesapeake’s Bounty just down the street and has plans to expand into the larger space, add indoor seating, begin baking bread, and expand the menu. Her goal is to move by summer, but “hopefully in spring.”
City Sliders owner Brian Yousefi opened the lauded Georgetown café’s North Beach location in October. Yousefi is a 30-year restaurant veteran who spent ten years cooking and 20 years revamping restaurants and government commissaries. “I do what Gordon Ramsay does on TV,” he joked.
Yousefi discovered North Beach while visiting a friend. “I saw the small town and thought it needed a nice restaurant, and City Sliders would do well here.”
“We’re happy here,” Yousefi said, “Everyone’s enjoying our cuisine. Our menu is like a box of candy. You try one and want to try them all. It’s all house made – all natural or organic – and we’re pleased with the community support.”
It turns out North Beach’s attraction is more mundane than mysterious. The town’s assets—good schools, boardwalks, a popular farmers market, and small-town charm—are what bring residents, tourists and, it turns out, accomplished restaurateurs, to town.
On any given evening when I step out in North Beach, I can grab dinner at a cheese shop (Vaughan Cheese) featuring an extensive wine list plus unique salads, sandwiches and snacks—not to mention learn a few things about artisanal cheese. Or, I can head next door to Hook and Vine for coastal cuisine and specialty cocktails—my current favorite is the Captain Hook, made with Captain Morgan rum, peach schnapps, orange juice and club soda.
There’s also a Mexican restaurant and a newly opened slider joint that carries a wide variety of tiny sandwiches—last week I had the house-smoked beef brisket, with crispy onions and BBQ sauce plus a side of garlic & herb fries.
Feel like hearing live music or joining in on a game of trivia? Head over to The Wheel House Beer Garden, where you can also order mixed drinks, wine or beer, plus order food delivered from neighboring restaurants to your table.
Many choose to start their evening at our local wine shop where the owners expertly guide you through selecting a glass—or bottle—to sip there or take home. Comfortable seating beckons you to meet up with a few friends to catch up over wine (you can even bring snacks in if you’d like). If you order a bottle and enjoy it there, you get to write your name on a cork for a chance to win a prize at the next drawing.
I haven’t even mentioned the ice cream shop, the frozen treat shop named for the owner’s pup, or Ketch-22, the restaurant at Herrington Harbour owned and operated by the couple who own The Point Crab House and Grille in Arnold.
Somehow, North Beach has welcomed these unique dining experiences without making our town feel commercialized. Rather, they fit right in with the landscape, which sits adjacent to the Bay.
CBM General Manager Krista Pfunder has happily traveled to North Beach for its cuisine over the years and now calls North Beach home. Read her North Beach restaurant reviews City Sliders here, and learn more about Vaughan Cheese here.