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New Restaurants, Big Changes at Hilltop Plaza

Mark Torsani will open Chesapeake Grille and Deli this spring, Outback getting more prominent location.

More changes are coming to Hilltop Plaza.

Two new restaurants will open soon and one longtime favorite will be moving to a more prominent location in the plaza, located at the corner of Route 450 and Racetrack Road.

will relocate to an “endcap” space on the Route 450 side of the plaza, according to Bruce Levine, director of commercial real estate for M. Leo Storch.

A Walgreen’s pharmacy will open, along with Joyful Jumps, a children’s play space, according to Levine. That Look Hair Gallery opened its doors at Hilltop Plaza earlier this month after moving from Superior Lane.

National women's chain Rainbow will open a store in the plaza, but Levine would not provide an opening date. The Brooklyn-based store has locations in Lanham and Largo.

Since two major grocery stores opened in the plaza—Aldi in December 2009 and MOM’s Organic Market last winter—Levine is negotiating with possible tenants for some remaining spaces. 

According to a February City of Bowie Retail Opportunities and Demographics report, the vacancy rate at the 170,000 sq. foot shopping center is 4.1 percent.

“They are doing very well there. They have attracted a good mix of tenants,” said city planning director Joe Meinert.

A plan that would make way for 49 multifamily units in the rear parking lot of Hilltop Plaza has been on hold at the Prince George’s County Planning Board since 2009.

The city council voted against zoning changes more than two years ago which would give city approval for the construction of the condominiums. Council members said more senior housing in the city was needed, while adding non-senior housing would burden some already over-enrolled schools. But Levine said the site was too small for senior housing.

Levine confirmed the plan is on hold until a meeting with residents of Belair Town II—the townhome community behind Hilltop Plaza—can be scheduled.

The Lanham-based is branching out, with its second location set to open in Hilltop Plaza this spring. The café, which opened  in 2006, serves Caribbean cuisine like coco bread, jerk wings, and oxtail along with two-dozen flavors of their popular oversized muffins.

The Chesapeake Grille & Deli will be coming to Hilltop in late March or early April, according to co-owner Chad Wagaman. Wagaman and Bowie resident Mark Torsani opened the first location in Dunkirk in December 2008. A 1980 graduate of Bowie High School, Torsani formerly co-owned Outback Steakhouse in Hilltop.

About half the restaurant’s staff lives in Bowie and commutes to Calvert County, Wagaman said. Many of those employees will be transferring to the Bowie location, according to Wagaman.

The restaurant features Maryland-inspired favorites like Old Bay Wings, crab cakes and beer battered rockfish.

If Old Bay Seasoning is your thing, Wagaman says, you’re in luck.

“It’s our big flavor,” Wagaman said. “Old Bay is in 80 percent of our recipes.”

The restaurant will be about 95 percent the same as the Dunkirk location, down to the color of the walls, Wagaman said. The menu will undergo a slight revamp, adding some popular specials like the Cream of Crab Soup to the regular menu.

Customers order at the counter and servers bring the food to the table. A sign at the restaurant informs customers of its no tipping policy. Service at the Dunkirk location is friendly and fast. Wagaman said they believe in paying employees well so tips are not necessary.

“We’ve been in the service business for a long time. We believe when you come in, you should get good service. Tip or not,” Wagaman said.

The restaurant donates tips to local charities like the Relay for Life, the Calvert County Humane Society and the local high schools.

Wagaman says he and Torsani are not overly concerned by the somewhat out-of-the way location in Hilltop Plaza across from Planet Fitness. People told them that their current location along Route 4 in Dunkirk was an unlucky spot as other restaurants had failed there, said Wagaman.

 “You fly down the road and can drive right by,” Wagaman said. “But we have built the business through word-of-mouth.”

Maria March 13, 2011 at 03:59 AM
I really hope they do not do anymore housing in Bowie especially there!! That is just ridiculous!!
Sheila September 02, 2011 at 01:10 PM
I was wondering the thing.
Sheila September 02, 2011 at 01:12 PM
I also think that the Chesapeake grill sounds great. I'm ordering something from there this weekend.
Sheila September 02, 2011 at 01:35 PM
I also agree that some of the stores are second rate. At times I have to go to the Bowie Town Center or leave the county to shop. I do like MOMs and Outback Steakhouse and I think that the Chesapeake Grille will be great.
Chelsea Beckman November 28, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Are they ever going to do something with The Market Place? It has become Bowie's "Ghetto" The community, the Bowie Blade and the county coucil had nothing but negative things to say about Richard Ziegler, the last owner that made Market Place a success. That's been 20 years folks, I guess Ziegler wasn't so bad after all.

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