With the opening of his newest project, Ida B’s Table located in downtown Baltimore, Thomas finally has the perfect venue to showcase everything he’s learned about soul food from his time as executive chef for Metropolitan Kitchen/Lounge in Annapolis, Maryland; traveling the country as a chef consultant learning about local, regional cuisines; and—most recently—running Herb & Soul in Parkville, Maryland.
Ida B’s, at over 6,000 square feet, is on the first floor of a red brick building owned by The Real News Network, a nonprofit news organization that is also an investor in the business. “That’s how Ida B. Wells came into play,” Thomas says of the famed African American activist whom the restaurant is named after. “She was a journalist and she fought for—and stood for—the truth.” For Thomas, who sees creating dishes as a form of storytelling, she was the perfect patron saint.
Thomas’ travels and career have expanded his palate considerably. At Ida B’s, it’s not unusual to see French, Japanese, or Indian flavors in his dishes.
One popular lunch item is the fry bread taco, a pillowy Native American bread that is stuffed with local grilled vegetables and chicken, beef, or lamb. “That one dish sums up my thoughts about food, because there are so many different things mixed together,” he says. His grandmother was part Native American, and Thomas also has great appreciation for Asian cooking. “The sauce is Asian, but the flavor profile, with madras curry and fresh garlic, lends itself to more [Indian flavors].”