Home Howard County Periodic Table opens with flair for food, spirits

Periodic Table opens with flair for food, spirits

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Sara Richards and Lance Cook introduce The Periodic Table. Photo by Nicole Giannini Cook.

Lance Cook, owner of Tino’s Italian Bistro, has teamed up with Sara Richards to open The Periodic Table.

Although the new restaurant is located just across Centre Park Drive from Tino’s, the concept is completely different – and the beloved Tino’s is staying put.

With 5,578 square feet, The Periodic Table is more than 2,000-square feet bigger than Tino’s and will be what Cook describes as “more edgy.”

After riffling through some proposed names – including “Rouse’s Place” – Cook and Richards decided on a name that plays on the chemistry between the elements of food and spirits.

Though by some measures it’s an act of courage to open a new restaurant during a pandemic, Cook and Richards had the opportunity to put all the safety precautions in place before they even opened, skipping the retrofitting costs others have had to foot.

With 400 square feet of outdoor seating, The Periodic Table will be welcomed by diners who want to get out but aren’t ready to go indoors yet.

“People have been very supportive,” said Richards, a self-identified “beer person” who is having a great time deciding what’s in and out at the restaurant’s 15 taps.

The cuisine, Cook says, will be “American fusion,” evolving as it goes, working occasional Asian, Cuban or Indian flairs into the menu.

The chef and the bartenders will create suggested pairings for each offering. This isn’t high school chemistry: “It’s about the symbiotic relationship between the spirits and food,” said Cook.

We’ve waited long enough for fun

The Periodic Table has some fun creative twists that will appeal to adventurous diners.

There are opportunities to make your own cocktail – and you might even get to use a Bunsen burner and a test tube!

A “progressive happy hour” starts at 2 in the afternoon with a big price break, and ends at 6, then starts again with another late-night discount.

For the designated drivers or health conscious folks, “mocktails” are carefully put together, not just offered as an afterthought.

In a twist on Taco Tuesday, the restaurant features “Mezcal Monday,” pairing tacos with the agave-based spirit.

On Thursdays, check out “Hypothesis Night,” where experimental food and cocktails are put up for vote by the customers. All you menu-influencers, have at it!

An “interactive dessert platter,” where the chef makes your sweet ending table-side, is a great way to end the meal – with a little edible show.

For now, the restaurant has hired about 20 wait staff but, as COVID-19 continues to lift, the workforce will grow to about 50 people.

And, of course, carryout will remain on the scene as a major factor to keep the doors open.

In fact, Cook estimates that, for the next few years, half of his customers will choose carryout over indoor dining. “The model of the brick-and-mortar restaurant will be forever changed,” he said.

Rethinking the restaurant business model has been part of opening The Periodic Table.

At Tino’s, carryout is thriving, even though Cook estimates that packaging for carryout ranges between 45 cents and $1 extra per order.

At The Periodic Table, Cook and Richards decided against initial plans to offer shared plates and booths, and went with tables that can be spaced apart, and with carryout cocktails, at least for now.

While Tino’s will continue having charity nights, The Periodic Table has an eye on larger outdoor fundraising events, featuring contests and other creative activities.

The new restaurant also features an area with a large screen and a projector for businesses who want to book corporate meeting space.

What’s the ultimate vision for The Periodic Table, still in its infancy?

“The moment you walk in, you’ll be greeted,” Cook said. “You get seated right way. You laugh — and you have fun.”

We’ve all been waiting for this.

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer |The Business Monthly | August 2020 Issue

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