We know you love the Charm City Cook Amy Langrehr. We do too, and so we’ve asked her to post restaurant and food news everyday for all of us in the Baltimore Fishbowl! Look for her posts in the afternoon…just when you start thinking about what to do for dinner.
This week, the successful pop-up dinner concept, Dinner Lab, announced that it was expanding into nine new cities – and BALTIMORE is on the list!
Dinner Lab is a social dining experiment that unites undiscovered chefs with adventuresome diners who are looking for something different from the conventional restaurant experience.
Until this summer, I had never been to The Yard Bar & Grille at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. I’d seen the hotel, of course, as I …
Yes, I’m writing about another Harbor East restaurant. The Hampden girl. But hey, I like to go downtown with the fancy people sometimes. I’m still amazed that Harbor East has become what it is: a dining and shopping destination downtown. How cool is that? I love this city! My big retail weakness there? Oh, just a little bit ‘o Anthropologie. The housewares in that place are pretty much my biggest weakness. Ever. I’d almost say it’s like crack, but I know that’s an incredibly overused term. Some friends of mine wanted me to name my salted caramel brownies “crack brownies.” But, this is Baltimore and people already think we live on The Wire, so no. Let’s just say this store is a real problem for me.
Harbor East is also filled with such good places to eat and drink. One fave is Fleet Street Kitchen. It’s part of The Bagby Restaurant Group, which is a real presence in this super hot ‘hood. Much like the folks over at the Michael Mina restaurants at the Four Seasons, PABU and Wit & Wisdom, as well as Foreman Wolf (Charleston, Cinghiale, Bin 604, PAZO in Harbor East), the folks at Bagby have done an excellent job in recruiting the best of the best to run them and are now considered anchor restaurants in Harbor East. And, we are the lucky ones who get to enjoy it all.
First up for the Bagby group was the opening of Bagby Pizza Co in 2009 – a great casual pizza joint on Fleet Street. I visited with some friends when it opened and we were all very impressed. Great service, even better pizza pie (and sammies, salads and more.) Then came TEN TEN (I went last year and dreamed about the pork belly BLT)…and then Fleet Street Kitchen, where I dined earlier this week. And…next up, Cunningham’s Kitchen in Towson – a neighborhood that can really use a new restaurant! Get ready, my friends in the ‘burbs of Towson, Ruxton, Lutherville, etc. – it’s gonna be in the Towson CIty Center and it’s gonna be good. Most likely opening in September 2013. They are working hard to get it open, but are more concerned with making sure it’s exactly what they want. Bagby’s Chief Operating Officer Chef Chris Becker (formerly the Chef at The Wine Market and most recently, Fleet Street), told me that he’s writing the menu for Cunningham’s now. And with Beverage Director Tim Riley at the helm, I’m confident that the drinks side of the house will be spot on.
The Chesapeake. You went there a million years ago. Or maybe it was your dad (like mine). Or maybe your grandparents used to talk about it. Or you just walked or drove by it for the last 20-plus years wondering what it used to be. Well, back in the day, it was quite the place to go. Think business lunches and anniversary dinners – which included things like steaks, seafood and old school cocktails. It opened in 1933 and sadly, closed in 1986.
Baltimore is a city that values its history, but also embraces new ideas, too: we’re of a mixed bag. The juxtaposition of old and new is quite evident at the Chesapeake. First, they kept the name. Some may say that’s the easy way out…or boring. I disagree. It’s so smart. When I visited for the opening this week, people were all around me saying to the managers, servers and bartenders, “My parents used to come here.” “My boss said he used to take clients here back in the day.” And on and on. And on. So, retaining the name, retains the nostalgia. And, boy, Baltimoreans are nostalgic. They’re even having Throwback Thursdays for those who want to experience the food and cocktails of the original menu. Smart, I’m telling you.
So, the vibe. Vibe is important, no? This place is relaxed, not trying too hard, but definitely putting a little effort in. Yes, they have industrial-esque hanging lights and Edison light bulbs mixed with a gorgeous, modern marble bar and simple bar stools…it all works. And as for that minimal chic decor, it’s not quite ‘done’ yet. Stay tuned for some finishing touches. From the Woodberry-esque uniforms (hello, checked shirts and dark, somewhat skinny jeans…) to the cocktail menu to the minimal chic decor, this place says now. But not in a “we are SO COOL” kind of way. The servers are friendly, helpful and present when needed. As a former waitress, I always struggled with the balance of checking in vs. leaving alone. You have to sort of size up your guests and figure out what they want. That’s not always easy. Our bartender got it just right. I also will point out that the bar stools are padded and pretty comfy. Again, smart. If you keep sitting, you keep eating and drinking! And, I do love having dinner at the bar. Big fan. AND, gals…they have hooks under the bar for your bag. SCORE! One more thing that would be smart (a’la The Food Market in Hampden) would be free valet parking. I had no trouble finding parking, but not everyone is interested in street parking and some won’t want to pay for the lot in the back. But providing valet is a whole other biz and I don’t really blame them for not going there.
The cocktail menu is tight. I like that…too many choices overwhelm me. On my first visit, I tried two cocktails – the Silent in the Morning (Panamanian white rum, lemon, local honey, orange, egg white) and the Mikey’s Rule (Maryland rye, Peychaud’s bitters, maple syrup, absinthe). I liked the latter much more. I thought the egg white of the former would have been more frothy, but maybe they are still working on their game. It’s early. My friend had the Tom Selleck – bitter orange liquor, sweet vermouth, Philadelphia gin and ginger – and it was excellent. I’d definitely recommend that one. One side note: My water glass was continuously filled as I sat and enjoyed our snacks. Little things like that…things that should (but often do not) happen, I notice and appreciate. Thank you, Del.
Silent in the Morning