Dimitris Spiliadis, the dreamer behind The Inn at the Black Olive in Fells Point, was exhilarated the day the building received its 100% “Green Power” award.
I’d come to talk about the restaurant he added this year on the top floor of the Inn, but this particular September day was a good one to be catching up with Spiliadis about his whole operation.
He is very excited about serving not only authentic and tasty Greek food but doing it in tune with his environmental standards.
Getting the LEED certification was one more step on his path to having both a green and thermodynamic building design and an organic and biodynamic restaurant, as well.
Spiliadis’ parents were both in public-sector professions. His mother, Pauline Spiliadis, always a good cook, opened a catering business with Dimitris in 1996. They were so successful that soon after, his dad, Stelios Spiliadis, joined them and they opened the Black Olive.
The Olive Room at the Inn at the Black Olive
803 South Caroline St.
Baltimore, MD 21231
Open seven days
Breakfast: 7:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Lunch: 12 noon – 3 p.m.
Dinner: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m
Over the years, the restaurant has developed a reputation for elegantly presenting the fish and flavors of coastal Greece.
The Olive Room, open since March, is located on the top floor of the Inn, with a terrace that offers a wonderful view of the harbor. It has already generated a buzz.
The common theme of all the businesses, he said, is to stay true to family tradition.
“In building the hotel I wanted to replicate the feeling of my grandfather’s hotel in Constantinople many years ago,” Spiliadis said.
“I want to always reflect the passion for food that my family has. Some of the spice blends have their roots in Asia Minor, where my grandmother was from.”
Spiliadis said he has long been interested in sustainable and green concerns: “Food that is honest and nutritious is a pleasure to deliver.”
I asked him about the philosophy behind the wine and spirits he buys for the restaurant. “There are now many wonderful vintners and distillers who recognize the importance of bio-dynamics and make delicious wines,” he said.
“The spirits arena is a little smaller but we carry them and have gotten a good response. We serve no colas or conventional soda.”
The bar is stocked with organic beer on tap, as well as local and other wine and spirits, such as an organic potato vodka distilled in Maine.
The mint and basil is grown on the roof. It is all very intriguing and some evening when I am not driving I plan to go back and do some tasting.
Cooks, not Chefs
Spiliadis said his mother is the head chef and she teaches the cooks to make the traditional dishes we serve,” he said. “We hire cooks, not chefs, because we want them to keep our dishes simple and consistent.”
Olive Room food is land based, though of course, we always have fish and seafood on the menu also. The mountains and valleys of Greece have produced recipes for thousands of years.
The melanzana (eggplant) and tzatziki (Greek yogurt with minced onion, cucumber and seasoning) have been made the same for centuries.”
The walls and columns in the restaurant are made from lime plaster, coated with organic colors and olive oil, finished to a satin smooth surface.
There is no music playing and as the room fills, conversations fill the room with a low buzz. A friend joins me for lunch and we can talk in our living-room voices.
The squid salad is soft and tasty, served with thinly-sliced red onions, capers, lemon and olive oil. It didn’t disappoint. My second course was charcoal-broiled sea scallops, served with couscous.
The scallops were flavorful, and though the season for the really large ones doesn’t start until December, these were large enough, and the charcoal added depth to the tender mollusks. I like couscous and this side-dish lived up to expectation with the tiniest currants and bits of veggies.
My friend had the avocado Greek salad. It too was made from local greens, organic avocado and Greek feta. It was lighter than many Greek salads – very satisfying. Our meal was accompanied by bread slices, grilled with olive oil and a Za’atar (a roasted thyme, sumac and sesame blend, with many variations) and dipping oil.
A trusted friend who had dinner recently at the Olive Room said that he would recommend the platter of four, which is a plate of lamb, pork, filet mignon and chicken souvlaka with pita, diced tomatoes and tzatziki. For myself, next time it will be lamb chops, or if I call ahead and ask, there might be lamb cooked on the outdoor spit.
The Inn is itself an interesting place, using components, such as aerated concrete molded in place and vegetable stains on floors, all kept clean with sanitized enzyme cleaners.
The rooms are furnished with organic materials and organic cotton sheets and towels. There is original art throughout. The rooms are named after Greek varietal wines, such as Monemvasia.
The market on the street floor carries some of the wine, cheese, olives and bread that is served in the restaurant. A selection of organic produce and fresh seafood is for sale as well.