The Neopol Savory Smokery location on Hollins Street was buzzing with activity when we shot the photos for this story. I noticed several hospital staff stopping in to buy lunch, along with other people who were also at the hospital to visit relatives. Neopol staff made it a point to take time to speak with each person, ask them their preferences, and offer them samples. The restaurant was warm, enveloping, and comfortable.
My first visit to Neopol Savory Smokery was over 15 years ago at their Belvedere Square location. I was visiting my cousin Nettsannett that summer. When I moved to Baltimore in 2016, I started going more frequently. The quality of the food is as spectacular, as is the level of customer service.
Neopol Savory Smokery specializes in smoked meats and sides. You may have seen their smoked mussels and lobster rolls at a local farmers market. It is co-owned by mother and son duo Barbara Lahnstein and Dorian Brown. Whether at Belvedere Market, their location at Union Station, or on Hollins Street, Neopol makes you feel special. When setting up the shoot for this issue, Brown was adamant that we included every member of the team, not just the more public and familiar facing parts of the crew, like he and his mother.
I met with Brown over Zoom. Brown has been working in food service since the early ’90s. We talked about sandwiches, the importance of quality customer service, and how he and his mother have built a business that is known for making people feel welcome and well-fed.
Holidays can be difficult for people with non-traditional backgrounds, and for those who are grieving, those who are marginalized, these last few months of the year can be lonely and isolating. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the opportunity to be still and reflect about the things that I am grateful for, including my friends and chosen family. Here are some recipes from Neopol Savory Smokery that you can make at home for your friendsgiving or more traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. If you don’t feel like cooking, I suggest stopping by one of their locations, which will make you feel like you are at home. Happy Thanksgiving!
Teri Henderson: Where are you from? Where are your roots? Where are your people from?
Dorian Brown: I’m from Baltimore. Like 100%. And when I say 100%, I’ve lived all over Baltimore. I went to three different high schools. My mother [Barbara Lahnstein] is from Germany. She came here when she was 21 years old.
My dad is from Lawton, Oklahoma. I don’t have a relationship with my dad, but later in life, I found my grandmother. Having an old grandmother from the South is cool.
Obviously, my mother is a white lady from Germany, and my dad is a Black man from Oklahoma. There’s no genetic crossover.
But that’s pretty much where I come from.
TH: How do you describe your role at Neopol Savory Smokery? What do you do?
DB: I make sandwiches. Often, when people ask me what I do, that’s what I lead with. That is one of my favorite things to do. I’m the co-owner of a local small business that happens to specialize in smoked foods, and we’re most known for our smoked salmon. Essentially the retail spaces operate as a deli.
Our very beginnings, our roots, are from the farmers’ markets. [Those] are still a significant part of our business– both financially and emotionally. I grew up in farmers’ markets. My first business was selling lemonade at a farmers market; they’re very special to me. I love participating in them, and whenever you’re traveling in any city, a farmers market is a good place to go and check things out.
TH: When you talk about your retail locations, are you talking about the one in Belvedere Square or the one on Hollins Street?
DB: They’re all essentially set up the same. There’s the one in D.C. at Union Station, the one at Belvedere Square, and the one with the production kitchen. The difference in the [location] with the production kitchen is that it’s just us. When you come in, you’re in our space and retail setup, unlike the other two in food halls. But the setup is the same. You order at the case, you pay at the register, and the sandwich should be the same at any location.
TH: When did y’all open the production kitchen?
DB: We got in there in 2018, we had a couple of transitional months, with just the process of moving everything from one location to another, and we couldn’t afford to be closed for a couple of weeks. It was bit by bit, and we were smoking at both places, and then on one Sunday night, we finally got everything moved over, and by Monday morning, we were all set. I love it down there. Southwest Baltimore is a place that I did not spend a lot of time in as a kid, but it is a cool neighborhood. It has a little bit of everything down there. It’s dope.
TH: What are some of your favorite things about working at Neopol?
DB: People have given us a lot of their time, a lot of their effort, a lot of their talents, and made Neopol better. When people say, “Oh, Barbara, I can’t believe you made all this food” or “Oh Dorian” It really takes away from acknowledging what I think is the most important part of why the food comes out that way. It’s a hard thing to do, because sometimes people don’t really want to jump in front of the camera, but at the same time, everybody likes to be acknowledged for what they’re doing.
I love food. I really do. I found something that I really enjoy making food, and then we have built a business around it. But as that happened, I realized that the thing that I love even more than making the food is putting the food in somebody else’s hands.
Like when somebody comes from across town, and they’re like “I have been waiting for this sandwich all week” or when someone says: “Oh, I got a family member that is sick and I want to take them something.” That is not a small thing to me. You show up in people’s homes, at their special events. That’s a very special thing to me. That’s a very good feeling.
We’ve got people that have walked in the door with no food experience and learned how to do things they didn’t know how to do before. And those skills, they can take somewhere else, or they can share in my appreciation for food and things like that. So that’s really wonderful too.
TH: I think that definitely translates. I’ve seen so many businesses leave Belvedere Square. Neopol seems to be a staple.
DB: It’s based on the support of the people who keep coming. That’s another thing about taking an interest in the customer service aspect of it. You should have good customer service. Right? It’s a thing you should have, but every once in a while, you know, you slip a little bit. If you have a relationship with folks, they might say, “Hey, Dorian, I just wanna let you know this wasn’t right. So I’m going to come back next week.” Because people want to support you, and it’s not just about coming in the door and spending some money. It’s about telling a friend, and it’s about giving real feedback. We have that, and we are very, very grateful for that.
TH: What’s your favorite meal to cook at home?
DB: Funny enough, because we order so much salmon, sometimes it’s cheaper than going to the grocery store to cut a piece off. I make a lot of pan-seared salmon and things like that. We’re getting really quality raw salmon, so it’s better for me to sneak a couple of pieces from Neopol rather than going to the grocery store and getting something that’s been sitting there for a few days. I also really like making sandwiches, still. But simple sandwiches. Like three-ingredient sandwiches.
TH: What are some of your hobbies? When you do have time outside of work how do you spend it?
DB: That is a point of interest because I am working on my work-life balance. I got married recently.
DB: Thank you! It changes the dynamic of needing to be home. Not that that’s a hobby. Spending time doing things with family, also my mother is getting older. You have to realize that there’s more than just work.
Although the relationship that I have with work is not just work, I really love it. It never feels like I’m at work, so I never feel like I need to clock out. But when you share a life with someone else, sometimes you have to clock out. I have two wonderful dogs. So just taking them out on trips and things is kind of where I’m at right now.
TH: How are you and your family spending Thanksgiving?
DB: I have a very small family. It’s basically just my mother and I. But my wife has a much larger family. So my mom and I are going to go to her family’s house and have Thanksgiving. We also have another chosen family with my godson. Jess and I are godparents to [Jinji Fraser] ‘s son Stokely; he’s two. We have yet to figure it all out, but we are going to Jess’s parent’s house and Jinji’s house for Thanksgiving dessert.
TH: Jinji has a space at Belvedere Market, right? So you’ve both been holding down the spot there.
DB: Our parents were friends. So we’ve known each other for about twenty years.
TH: What are some of your favorite Baltimore spots that you’d like to shout out?
DB: My favorite food person in Baltimore is Damian [Mosley] from Blacksauce Kitchen. I like how he and his team make food. The menu changes up a lot, and you can always get something different. Even if it’s something that I don’t fall in love with, I always think, “I’m glad I ate that. Let me see what’s on tap for next week.” Blacksauce is great. I love the drinks at Clavel.
TH: What is the best way Baltimore Beat readers can support you and your work?
DB: I think the best thing readers can do, not just for us but for food businesses in general, is to go out and buy some things.
Exercise a little bit of patience as people are still adjusting, and tip your staff whenever you can. To support us – I think of it as supporting all of us. Like if you come to us, or you come to Blacksauce or another place, as long as you’re out and keeping us all moving, it’s good because we all want to do well.
Let’s maintain that culture of still going places and not just DoorDashing. Let’s keep coming through doors; let’s keep those interactions going. We are on DoorDash, but let’s not make everything about delivery.
1 lb 10 shrimp (cleaned)
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves fresh garlic (diced)
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
- Combine all ingredients for marinade
- Toss shrimp in marinade and refrigerate for 1 hour
- Smoke shrimp for 25-30 minutes at 275 degrees
- Serve right away
Smoked Pulled Pork
4lb pork shoulder
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp cumin
3 Tbsp granulated garlic
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp chipotle power
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp black pepper (ground)
5 cups pork fat
- Coat the shoulder with the dry rub and refrigerate for 12-24 hours
- Place shoulder in a deep pan with pork fat. Cover and cook for 5 hours in a 250 degree oven
- Remove pork from fat and place inside smoker for 1.5 hours at 200-250 degrees
- After cooking the meat should be fork tender and fall apart
Smoked Salmon Cakes
12 ounces hot smoked salmon
⅕ cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cups roasted sweet corn
2 tablespoons white onion
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 large egg
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil
- In a medium-sized bowl shred the salmon using your hands or a fork until it is finely chopped. Mix flakes salmon with all ingredients except the bread crumbs. After everything is mixed, fold in bread crumbs.
- Divide the mixture into 4 even cakes or 8 mini-cakes.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add oil. Cook the cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.