Hot Spots w/Brian Michael Lawrence

Hot Spots: Restaurant Reboot

After 14 years in business, The Wine Market, the popular South Baltimore bistro and wine store closed its doors. Owner Chris Spann felt that the concept had run its course and wanted to rethink it. So after a closure of several months, he reopened with a new name and a new concept: Ludlow Market, Bar & Bottle Shop. Inside, the space is organized in much the same way, with the wine shop up front in the first room. Walking through that, the bar and dining room space opens up – one wall sporting Mondrian-style illuminated panels - with patio seating outdoors. The bar area is now separated from the main dining room by a half-wall, and a few high-top tables have been added. The new food menu offers main dishes that include steaks, chops and scallops, as well as lots...

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Hot Spots: Luck of the Irish

One of the world’s most iconic beers—Guinness—brewed in Dublin since 1759, is now brewing a selection of its beers right here in Baltimore. The Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House recently opened in its new home in Halethorpe, near BWI Airport. The expansive brewery, taproom and restaurant occupies a large brick building on the campus of the old Calvert whiskey distillery. Outside, a wide green lawn sprawls out, complete with picnic tables and a performance space for musical acts and other programming. Up the steps, one enters an expansive lobby lined with distilling barrels. Off to the right is a fun retail area, where you can purchase any number of books, shirts, glasses, hats, signs and all manner of Guinness-branded merchandise. To the left is the massive taproom with a...

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Hot Spots: Party On!

The redeveloped Rotunda, which straddles the neighborhoods of Hampden and Roland Park, now has so much to offer… …a wide array of dining and shopping choices, a dine-in cinema, and lots of new condos around back. Tucked into the middle of it all is a grassy open quad surrounded by four charming outdoor kiosks. The first one to be activated this summer was Garden Party, an al fresco wine bar with food options that include charcuterie boards and gourmet sandwiches. The brainchild of restaurateur Bill Irvin and business partner Patrick Dahlgren, it’s become a gathering spot for neighbors, wine lovers, and parents of youngsters who like to congregate over a glass of wine while the kiddies splash in the sidewalk fountains nearby. Customers stroll up to the service window, place an order, and find a seat at...

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Hot Spots: Asian On The Avenue

I’ll admit, I was really sad to see the closure a few months ago of the Corner restaurant and its cozy back room The Other Corner charcuterie bar. I spent many an evening with friends in that back bar enjoying some great meals and drinks, and— in theback,back room— playing darts and foosball. But after a long, successful run, the Corner’s jovial Belgian owner, Bernard, put the place up for sale, and it’s now Nori... …a sushi bar with an extended menu of Asian dishes. The new owners formerly operated Ruby 8 sushi bar in Locust Point’s McHenry Row. The space retains its former layout: a casual dining room up front with the sushi bar set up at the rear, and the back room with a traditional bar and some additional table seating. Suspended above the bar are some suspiciously...

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Hot Spots: French Fowl

For years, if you wanted French bistro food in Charm City, you had one choice: Roland Park’s Petit Louis (still a dependable stalwart). Now, within the past few months, the city has added two more choices—Chez Hugo downtown, and now Duck Duck Goose in Fells Point. An offshoot of its sister restaurant in Bethesda, Duck Duck Goose has settled into the spot near the foot of Broadway that has formerly housed Tapas Adela and 8 Ball Meatball. The space retains its former layout: a big barroom up front with a common high-top table in the center. There’s more bar seating in the large front windows overlooking the street... ...and a comfy lounge area in another corner. Colorful wall murals spark up the room, and the bar itself features a pop of bright green on...

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Hot Spots: Make it a Double!

A gleaming new office tower just outside the gates of Merriweather Post Pavilion is home to one of Columbia’s newest and special dining and drinking experiences. The sprawling space houses two distinct yet linked culinary concepts: Cured Table & Tap-- a casual craft beer and charcuterie bar; and 18th & 21st—an upscale supper club, bar and live music venue. The managing partners behind the operation are Steve Wecker and Vince Culotta, also partners at nearby Iron Bridge Wine Company. The space is divided into two distinct areas, sharing a common kitchen. On the Cured side, an open tavern feel is created with polished concrete floors, metal bistro-style chairs, and wooden tables and accents. Multiple taps supply brews like Goonda Beersmiths Timbo lager, Founders Breakfast stout, and local favorite Brewer’s Art Resurrection. The back bar is replete with a great selection...

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Hot Spots: Show Time

The stretch of North Avenue between Howard Street and Charles Street has become a vibrant part of the heart of the Station North Arts District. Over the past few years, as it’s grown, it’s become part of my regular circuit of stops. Change is a factor as the neighborhood evolves: Joe Squared has moved its digs over a block to a more upscale space, but still helps anchor the area. The loss of Liam Flynn’s Irish Pub last year was a blow, and Red Emma’s has just announced a move to Mt. Vernon. But glossy openings like the new Parkway Theatre complex and the continued presence of the Windup Space, Metro Gallery, the Charles Theater, Tapas Teatro, Pen & Quill and others make this a vibrant part of the city for creatives. The space on North Avenue that formerly housed the Load of Fun Gallery recently underwent...

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Hot Spots: Market Place

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my top go-to food destinations in town is The Food Market on “The Avenue” in Hampden. Opened six years ago by Chef Chad Gauss, it’s as popular as ever, both with neighborhood locals and diners from around the city. The approachable menu offers clever spins on classic dishes, incorporates seasonal aspects, and changes regularly, so there’s always something new to try. And the consistency of the food quality, as well as how quickly it arrives from the kitchen, makes it one of the best dining values in town. Superb service and an always-buzzing crowd in its dining room make it a northside treasure. The bar, located at the front of the restaurant with big windows overlooking The Avenue streetscape, has always employed personable, knowledgeable bartenders. I usually stick to two standard choices. ...

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Hot Spots: Woodberry Watering Hole

I think we’re all familiar with La Cuchara, the cavernous Spanish/Mediterranean-themed restaurant helmed by Chef Ben Lefenfeld. Opened in 2015, it’s been a stunning success and a great addition to the neighborhood. There’s so much to love—the expansive cheeseboard and charcuterie selections… …the dramatic open kitchen with its open-flame spit… …the large, comfortable bar area—even basic things like a free parking lot and outdoor seating in nice weather. I’ve come to appreciate it not only for the dependably excellent food and service, but for the bar program. Helmed by a fleet of personable, knowledgeable bartenders, the bar here offers solid takes on age-old classic cocktails and creative spins on new ones, as well as a respectable beer list and a lengthy, interesting wine list. And the generous size of the bar area here really...

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Hot Spots: View from the Top

I was recently a guest at the soft opening of the new Topside bar and restaurant high atop the recently opened Hotel Revival on the square in Mt. Vernon. The new hotel is a complete renovation of the former Peabody Court Hotel. The building has been completely refurbished, shedding its conservative, formal air for a bright and airy hipster, boutique hotel vibe. In its former incarnation, this rooftop, glass-enclosed space housed the very formal Conservatory restaurant, and more recently was used as private event space. Stepping off the elevator, one is immediately struck by the expansive views of the neighborhood and city, visible in every direction. A large central bar is flanked on three sides by tables, high-tops, some communal dining tables… …and lounge-y seating areas, some replete with foosball tables. Tile floors and ironwork accents give the space a beerhall...

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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 continues to pique this Baltimore style maven's interest, be it fabulous food, cool cocktails, or great looks he finds, both on people and in places. 

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