Hot Spots: Chez Hugo

Hot Spots: Chez Hugo

In 2006, the Miss USA Pageant was broadcast to the world from right here in Baltimore, at the Royal Farms Arena. At the time, as Editor-in-Chief of STYLE magazine, I was invited to the broadcast show and to the VIP afterparty, held at the long-shuttered Merchant’s Club building downtown.

Though I don’t recall the specific winner (it was Tara Conner of Kentucky—I looked it up), I do recall it being my first time in the venerable Merchant’s Club building, where I hung out with show judge Carsen Kressley, leaving sometime after 4 a.m. after having spent half the night dancing the frug and the twist with a former Buddy Deane Show dancer.

Today, that grand space on Redwood street has the Shakespeare Theatre in the grandiose old Redwood Trust Building next door and the chic, hip, Hotel RL across the street. And Chef Steve Monnier, hot off his well-reviewed French bistro, Aromes, in Hampden, has opened Chez Hugo.

Step inside off Redwood and choose between the well-appointed barroom to the left…

…or the spacious main dining room to the right. A continuous banquette around the border walls offers seating for individual tables in the dining room…

…along with a cozy fireplace hearth in the middle of the room.

The right-hand side of the main dining room offers views into the open kitchen.

The classically tiled floors and wood paneling and trim make for a warm, inviting atmosphere.

The barroom is a social space – including some high-top tables in the room for socializing – with a well-stocked collection of classic elixirs on display.

My bourbon Manhattan was well-executed.

Beyond, in the main dining room, diners choose from durable French classics. I sampled the excellent French onion soup (actually, in a French restaurant, it’s just known as “onion soup”), which was extremely satisfying, and a classically prepared chicken dish (“poulet roti aux ecrevisses,”) which includes a half-chicken, potato puree, legume du jour and sauce nantua, a great value at $25.

The dining room was relatively quiet when I was there on a Tuesday evening, but as word spreads about this downtown gem, I’m sure that will change.

As a longtime fan of classic French bistro fare at Petit Louis uptown, a few blocks from our house, I’m now thankful to have another alternative for this cuisine downtown, two blocks from my office in the World Trade Center. {Chez Hugo, 206 E. Redwood Street, Downtown}

Brian Michael Lawrence

Brian Michael Lawrence is one of THE Baltimore style experts. After all, he was the longtime editor-in-chief at STYLE Magazine, which specialized in covering everything stylish around the Baltimore area. Brian also served as editorial director for the digital division at Sinclair Broadcasting, and creative director at Blue Sky Design. Currently, he oversees communications & marketing for the department of Tourism, Film & the Arts at Maryland’s Commerce Department.  In his bi-weekly column, you’ll get to see what cool hotspots are piquing the interest of this Baltimore style maven and why - whether it's the fabulous food, cool cocktails or elegant environs.