When you order a burger for lunch at Alchemy on 36th, the husband-and-wife team behind the scenes doesn't just conjure up any old bun-and-patty act. Chefs Michael Matassa and Debi Bell-Matassa—former owners of Fusion Grille in Fallston—take their roles as culinary alchemists very seriously, and craft a ground sirloin specialty on toasted brioche bread with tobacco onions and a roasted garlic-and-red-pepper aioli. Michael stocked his bag of magic tricks at the Academy of Culinary Arts in Atlantic City, and Debi studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley; holds a sommelier certification; and is a member of the Society of Wine Educators.
But their burgers aren't the only thing on the menus that have garnered attention because of the avant-garde approach to classic food. The brunch lineup earned the eatery a spot on Gayot's list of the Top 10 Baltimore Brunch Restaurants in 2012. Rob Kasper of the Baltimore Sun said the bistro "had [him] at its appetizers," which, in his case, was a fish plate with “just the right amount of applewood smoke.”
The atmosphere also echoes the chefs' commitment to blending new and old. "From the art deco downstairs room to the French country upstairs," said Francine Halvorsen of online journal Baltimore Brew, "each detail has been attended to with the comfort and pleasure of the diner’s environment in mind." Exposed brick walls and a white metal ceiling give the place a vintage vibe, as do the tables, which, according to Baltimore magazine, are made of wood retrieved from an Amish barn. Suzanne Loudermilk, also of Baltimore magazine, described the decor as "big-city chic with a neighborhood comfiness" and noted the same distinctions in the menu. An upholstered white banquette invites guests to lean back, relax, and pin up photographs of their favorite high-school culinary memories.