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Atlas Restaurant Group announces new venture — but you can't get a table there

Atlas Restaurant Group is doubling down on the farm-to-table experience.

The Baltimore-based company announced on Monday the creation of Atlas Farms in Carroll County, with the goal of supplying 100% of the produce at its restaurants and becoming a certified organic farm within three years. In addition to supplying the restaurants, the farm’s fruit, vegetables and herbs will also be sold at local farmers markets and donated to area food banks, according to a release from Atlas.

This latest move by Atlas expands the company’s Maryland footprint beyond Baltimore City where it currently operates nearly a dozen restaurants, including Ouzo Bay, The Bygone, Tagliata and more.

Atlas Farms currently occupies five acres with the option to expand to 25 acres. There is also a heated greenhouse and two high tunnels that will enable year-round growing.

The farm is located at 2089 Brown Road in Finksburg and was previously a corn and soybean farm. Since corn and soybeans don’t require as much nutrients in the soil as vegetables and produce, Atlas had to spend a lot of time investing in the soil before it could start farming, said Joe Sweeney, director of marketing for Atlas.

Property records show the property on Brown Road is owned by an LLC linked to Dr. Frederick G. Smith, the father of Alex and Eric Smith, the brothers behind the restaurant group. The farm is next to Gerstell Academy, a private school in Carroll County founded by Frederick in 1996.

Atlas Farms will initially focus on growing vegetables and herbs, including lettuces, Japanese turnips, radishes, kale, beets, carrots, tomatoes, shishito peppers, eggplant, oregano, mint, lavender and basil. By next year, the farm will also begin growing a dozen fruit trees, as well as blueberries, sour cherries, asian pears, persimmons and pawpaws.

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The venture also includes a mobile chicken coop that will contain 50 chickens capable of producing 350 eggs a week — a third of Atlas’ current usage. The chickens will be pasture-raised so they can help till the land and naturally fertilize the soil.

Atlas Farms will be overseen by Larson Weinstein, a Maryland native who apprenticed at Mountain View Farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, which supplies produce to many Washington D.C., restaurants.

“At Mountain View, I learned about the best practices to ensure the quality and consistency that fine-dining establishments rely on,” Weinstein said in a statement. “From the soil to the time invested in caring for the crops, everything we do guarantees that we will [be] providing our restaurants with superior quality.”

The first produce from Atlas Farms should start showing up in Atlas restaurants in late April, Sweeney said. In the first year of production, the goal is to supply 75% of the restaurants’ produce needs before eventually ramping up to 100% over the next three years.

Other restaurants operated by Atlas include, Maximón, Azumi, Loch Bar, Italian Disco, Harbor East Delicatessen and the Elk Room in Harbor East, as well as The Choptank in Fells Point. The company also has restaurants in Florida and Texas.

The restaurant group also has two other restaurants in the works: Monarque, a French brasserie and dinner theater in the Bagby Furniture building, and Watershed, a crab house coming to Cross Street Market. Alex and Eric Smith are grandsons of the late H&S Bakery magnate John Paterakis Sr., who developed Harbor East.

https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2020/03/02/atlas-restaurant-group-announces-new-venture-but.html

By Jessica Iannetta | Baltimore Business Journal