BY ANNA RUSSELL
University of Baltimore graduates are renowned for having entrepreneurial spirits, but did you know many also boast excellent taste? Quite literally, in some cases. UBalt may not have a culinary arts program, but this group of alums is using their degrees to offer up some of the best bites—and brews—Baltimore has to offer. When we say “Knowledge That Works,” we mean anywhere, including a brewery, a taqueria, a delicatessen and a food truck.
(Scroll down for restaurant guide key.)
Peter “PJ” Sullivan, M.A. ’04
Wet City Brewing
PJ Sullivan’s palate wasn’t the first sense he put to work while building a “brewery + full bar + restaurant” with his brother, Josh. It was his keen eye for sharp design. When he came to UBalt, it was the only school around to admit people with a marketing degree in lieu of graphic design credentials into the Publications Design (now Integrated Design) program.
Sullivan started his career in marketing and business development, but knew learning design would give him the edge he needed to branch out into brand development. Branding for local restaurants, including interior design, became his bread and butter. In 2016, the brothers leapt at the chance to combine their talents, and their award-winning home- brews, into a sleek and chic brew pub that radiates homey, neighborhood vibes. (The interior was inspired by Sullivan’s Scandinavian honeymoon with wife, and fellow UBalt alum, Nicole Sullivan, J.D. ’12; the funky artwork is all Baltimore.)
Wet City, which takes its name from its cheeky hometown’s staunch refusal to stop selling alcohol during Prohibition, has an enviable selection of home and guest brews, craft cocktails and boozy slushies, alongside a seasonal menu of food specials. Since they brew onsite—the actual brewery in the back of the house boasts multiple fermenters and a canning line—they also sell canned beer to-go, which, of course, feature awesome original designs.
Most Popular Item(s): The Spagett. Both Bon Appetit and Food & Wine have featured Wet City’s play on an Aperol Spritz. Sullivan shared “We thought ‘Why not replace the champagne with “the champagne of beers?”’ And it totally worked. It’s an unpretentious and fun drink.” Wet City’s Dope IPA and the fruited sour beers in their “Making Out” series are also in-house favorites.
PJ’s Favorite Creation: A toss-up between Wet City’s Dope-IPA and Pilsner-ish
Gelmin A. Portillo, B.S. ’03, and Jimena Portillo, B.S. ’07
Taco Love Grill
B L D C
You can definitely feel the love at Taco Love Grill. It’s in the signature, slow-cooked birria. It’s in the carefully curated selection of tequilas. But it’s most noticeable in Gelmin and Jimena Portillo, its founders—a deep love for each other, a deep love of Mexican food and, surprisingly, a deep love of accounting.
The two were already married when Gelmin received his degree in applied information technology and Jimena, hers in business. In 2011, they decided to expand their partnership outside the home and both embraced their operational roles with gusto, knowing their skills would help their new venture thrive. Gelmin handles all their technical needs (e.g. POS systems, inventory, website, etc.), while Jimena oversees the finances and marketing, which she “fell in love with” while at UBalt. Everything else, they develop together, from the extensive menu to the generous paid leave policy that allows their staff to spend more time with their families—and has kept some of them employed by the Portillos since the restaurant opened.
Their solid business acumen and discriminating palates have helped them spread the “Love” across the region, with the original location in White Marsh and a satellite location at Cross Street Market in Federal Hill, plus a new stall at M&T Bank Stadium and a birria-forward eatery coming soon to Parkville!
Most Popular Item: “All of the tacos” and the Chesapeake Burrito (with fresh crabmeat, of course)
Gelmin’s Favorite Creation: Chilaquiles and a House Margarita
Jimena’s Favorite Creation: Alambres and La Patróna Margarita
Vincent Fava, B.S. ’86
B L D C 🍽 🥡 🛒 🗺 🍸 ♿
Unlike our other featured foodies, Vince Fava didn’t have to build his business from the ground up. He faced the daunting challenge at the opposite end of that spectrum—taking over the family business that’s been a Baltimore fixture for over a century.
Trinacria Foods has been a beloved purveyor of imported foods and wines, deli sandwiches and fresh meals, and that quintessential “old world” vibe people love in an Italian market, since 1908. But Fava wasn’t always interested in carrying that torch. After high school, he went to the University of Maryland, College Park with a mind to become a lawyer, but it didn’t suit, so he transferred back home to UBalt. Fava grew to love the school because it allowed him to stay in the city he knew and loved, while still getting out of the neighborhood for classes—classes that were much smaller and much more attuned to his needs. In one business administration class, everything finally clicked—marketing, accounting, management, all the skills he was learning that he found he loved, were exactly the skills he would need to assume his family’s legacy. The rest is history.
Fava recently expanded Trinacria’s footprint to Lexington Market, where they serve signature items from their deli menu and pizza-by-the-slice, alongside a curated selection of the market’s most sought-after grocery items and legendary frozen pasta dishes.
Most Popular Items: Italian Cold Cut Sandwich and the Lasagna
Vince’s Favorite Creation: Trinacria’s Lasagna—it’s his family’s recipe they’ve been making for generations and it’s always served at their holiday meals. Now, his customers snap it up each year: “Our holiday lasagna is now their family’s holiday lasagna, too.”
Robin Holmes, B.A. ’12
Deddle’s Mini Donuts
B L D C 🍽 🥡 🛒 🗺 🍸 ♿
The free-standing donut machine Robin Holmes purchased in 2016 with her winnings from The University of Baltimore’s Leonard and Phyllis Attman Competitive Business Prize still cranks out dozens (upon dozens, upon dozens) of hot, fluffy mini-donuts daily. But custom confections weren’t always on the menu for Holmes.
She got her degree in human services administration from UBalt at age 30. After the passing of her mother, a lifelong cook, in 2013, her mission to build a legacy that would keep her memory alive brought Robin back to UBalt’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. There she learned a simple, but key lesson, from her mentor Thom Shipley: “Know your numbers.” Precise management of her books, combined with the kitchen skills she got from her mother and the support system she built at UBalt, allowed her to expand beyond her original truck, and her wildest dreams.
A semi-permanent stall at Lexington Market now allows her the flexibility to still take the famous Deddle’s truck out for events and catering, as well as manage a stall at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during baseball season. Holmes features a rotating menu of popular favorites and seasonal specials, and even offers “adult” flavors like “Drunken Apple” for catering events. Covered in crumbles and drizzles, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream, Deddle’s Mini Donuts are everything your inner child dreams about for dessert.
Most Popular Items: “Funnel Cake” is the top seller at Lexington Market, while “Oreo Smash” and “Strawberry Shortcake” are the big hits on the festival circuit.
Robin’s Favorite Creation: The “Flying Pig,” with cinnamon, caramel and bacon. Robin loves “anything with bacon. Anything creams breakfast.”
RESTAURANT GUIDE KEY
B – Breakfast/Brunch
L – Lunch
D – Dinner
C – Catering
🍽 – Dine In
🥡 – Carryout
🛒 – Store/Merchandise
🗺 – Multiple Locations
🍸 – Alcohol
♿ – Accessible
Anna Russell is advancement communications coordinator at The University of Baltimore and serves as managing editor of the magazine.