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.”

Bowie Mike March 04, 2011 at 09:08 PM
That's a great list of businesses. Looking forward to trying out the new restaurants, but I just don't think there's enough parking. If parking becomes a pain there, I'll be avoiding Hilltop. I don't see how they could put any housing (senior or otherwise) in the back, and take away more parking spaces. It's already over crowded, and not all the businesses are open yet.
Heather Hills March 04, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Folks, if Mcdonald's can't make it work at Hilltop, none of these other will either. There is way too much commercial development between Suppior Lane and Race Track Rd. This community simply can't support it. We are going to be stuck with marginal choices at best. Seriously, another pharmacy - Walgreens? Really? The City should buy the land, bulldoze the lot, and build a park. Imagaine the value it would add to our declining home values.
Brownie March 05, 2011 at 11:51 AM
I just hate the fact there are two banks sitting beside one another. Whose bright idea was that?
Patrice Crusoe March 05, 2011 at 02:06 PM
I am happy to see a children's play area coming to the Plaza. We moved here a little over two years ago, and although parks are plentiful, indoor play areas (Nice and clean) are almost non-existent in Bowie, besides the one's located Chick Fil A and McDonald's.
Bowie Mike March 05, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I don't think McDonald's was losing money at Hilltop. I forget why they left. If they stayed, they would have been shut down for a period of time for renovations, as I understand it. They did consider relocating to another section of Hilltop when the renovations were being planned. The criteria for staying in a location might be different than the criteria for opening a new store, and since they had to move for the renovations, they might have viewed it the same way they would have for opening a new store, and maybe the location didn't meet that profit criteria. Pomo Grille might be a better example of the area not supporting some restaurants. I think it really depends on whether the store/restaurant can draw customer from beyond the immediate neighborhoods. Grace's at Free State certainly does, and MOMs and Aldi do at Hilltop.
Bowie Boy March 07, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Rt. 450 is looking more and more like Lanham and Glen Burnie to me. Second rate stores and restaurants. Bowie should decrease available square footage and increase demand for quality retail. Bowie can become a destination or something to avoid, we are becoming the latter.
fred quimby March 08, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I'm looking forward to having the Chesapeake Grill come in, but agree that parking could get to be a real issue. It already is on the end outside the Outback.
Zinna March 08, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Are you kidding? I LOVE that the MOMs is at Hilltop. I go there more often now b/c of it. While I agree with the other posters that parking may continue to be an issue, I like the new configuration of the parking lot with the new entrances/exits. I'm looking forward to the Chesapeake Grill, too. It sounds great.
Lucy March 12, 2011 at 02:04 AM
I agree, they look odd next to each other.
Lucy March 12, 2011 at 02:13 AM
I am excited about the new look and the new stores. I have been looking for a salon near home, and I think I may have just found one at Hilltop Plaza. When I walked in for the first time, I felt comfortable, and that's important. And the new restaurants too, five minutes from home. Good job Bowie!
Maria March 13, 2011 at 03:57 AM
I am thrilled that Aldi's has come to Bowie..gas prices, and other living expenses are on the rise it is nice to know I can still feed my family and save $$. Since I have been doing my weekly shopping at Aldi's I save $35.00 average per week. I have been shopping there since they opened and now am a regular. Thank you and welcome to Bowie..
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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