Daily Record Business Writer//November 29, 2011
//Daily Record Business Writer
//November 29, 2011
The large copper crab is back.
Phillips Seafood, a Baltimore tourist landmark for more than three decades, has formally reopened in a new location at the historic Power Plant at the Inner Harbor following $2 million in renovations to the former ESPN Zone.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, restaurant owner Steve Phillips and local developer David Cordish officially opened the 15,000-square-foot restaurant located at 601 E. Pratt St. Tuesday afternoon, two weeks after the eatery started serving under limited hours.
“We had a facelift,” said Brian Fountain, general manager of the reopened Phillips that seats 425 in a main dining room festooned with vintage photos of the Phillips family, tile floors, antique mirrors and stunning replicas of the city’s two favorite ships, the Constellation and the Pride of Baltimore II.
“Thirty-one years later, we had to have a new image,” he said.
The Power Plant building is owned and operated by The Cordish Cos.
On Tuesday, Cordish announced collaboration with Phillips to open a restaurant next summer in the “Live! Market” section of the $500 million Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills, now under construction. Details of the new restaurant there were still being worked out.
Owner Steve Phillips said Tuesday that he sells more than 1 million crab cakes each year.
“It’s not in the billions like McDonald’s, but it’s a lot of crab cakes,” Phillips said. “We have been able to get Maryland-style crab cakes into areas of the country that normally would not have them,” he added of the company’s distribution arm in addition to the restaurants.
Phillips said he was “pretty excited” about the move across the Inner Harbor.
“This area has a lot of energy and is close to the aquarium,” he said. “I think we have opportunities over here that we didn’t have at the other location.”
Phillips is advertised on the Power Plant facade by a 17-foot tall red neon sign spelling out its name. The new digs also feature many decorations from the former location in the Light Street Pavilion at Harborplace, such as the copper-colored crab, a jumbo swordfish head, stained glass window panes, a carousel horse and a well-worn piano in the bar area.
Private dining rooms also offer space for large and small parties, Fountain said.
Phillips announced in June that it was closing its original Baltimore location at Harborplace on Sept. 30, rather than sign a new lease. Two other Phillips locations in Harborplace, the Seafood Express and Seafood Buffet, also closed.
The establishment had been one of the last remaining original tenants of Harborplace, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on July 4, 2010.
In May, the 13,000-square-foot space vacated by Phillips at Harborplace will be filled with a new location of the San Clemente, Calif.-based Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. chain, officials of General Growth Properties, owner of Harborplace, said.
Phillips’ move to the Power Plant occurred less than two months after the restaurant shut its doors, said Joanna Phillips, a manager at the restaurant.
“We are still a family restaurant,” she said Tuesday as a lunchtime crowd began to fill the many booths and tables in the new restaurant despite a steady downpour outside.
The restaurant opened in what was once part of the ESPN Zone, which abruptly closed in the summer of 2010, and rendered the prime waterfront commercial space vacant for over a year.
Phillips restaurant grew from humble roots in Ocean City. It was opened as a carryout crab house in 1956 by Brice and Shirley Phillips, Steve Phillips’ parents, and has steadily expanded.
This spring, a “crab deck” will open outside on a floating dock where up to 100 patrons will be able to sit and pick crabs, Maryland style, under a canvas awning. Other steamed seafood specialties will also be available on the deck.
Fountain said Phillips was considering adding outdoor air conditioning vents to the deck in an attempt to keep patrons from wilting under Baltimore’s sultry summer heat.
“We are trying to recreate an old fashioned Eastern Shore crab deck where people can sit or walk up and carry out,” Fountain said. “We want to make this place a flagship restaurant going forward. This is where we want to be our new proving ground.”
Phillips said the crab deck was one of the business opportunities not available at the Harborplace location.
Among the items on the lunch menu are Phillips crab cakes, which cost $34 for a large platter of two, steak and shrimp for $22, Marvesta shrimp and polenta for $15 and oysters on the half-shell for $2 each.
Dinner menu items include a pork chop for $23, fried stuff shrimp for $22 and jumbo sea scallops for $29. The executive chef is Todd Weisz.
“Customers have been saying they like the fresh take on the menu,” Fountain said.r