Hot Spots w/Brian Michael Lawrence

Hot Spots: Hey, Neighbor!

For years, Long John’s Pub on 29th Street in working-class Remington was the very definition of a neighborhood bar. But aside from the locals, cheap drinks and a low-key vibe made it a gathering spot for in-the-know hipsters from around the city, and karaoke nights there could be epic. Sadly, some structural issues and ownership changes dictated its closing last year. With new ownership (the owner of Swallow At The Hollow in Belvedere Square) and some renovations, the pub reopened recently as 29th Street Tavern. They've kept the low-tech, homey vibe, but basically cleaned up the space; replaced some things that needed attention and repaired things that need fixing. The surroundings are not fancy, but they are inviting. As you approach from the sidewalk on 29th Street, the first thing you'll notice is the new, attractive, Art Deco-style red neon-trimmed sign hanging over the door. Smart navy blue awnings...

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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...

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Hot Spots: Days Gone By

The Bygone is one of the more anticipated openings to happen in Baltimore in the past year. The newest brainchild of restaurateur Alex Smith and his Atlas Group, it comes on the heels of last summer's openings of sibling establishments Tagliata and The Elk Room (other nearby Atlas establishments in the city include Loch Bar, Azumi and Ouzo Bay). Perched atop the Four Seasons Hotel on the 29th floor, the glass-walled restaurant, bar and club offers swoon-worthy views of the Inner Harbor and the downtown skyline. A special elevator whisks patrons upward, where they disgorge into a central lounge area (where I intruded on a workman one day recently). Walk to the right, past upholstered booths separated by privacy curtains, and into the swank main dining room, where every seat in the house offers stunning views that overlook the city and the water. [caption...

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Club Scene

Longtime stalwart No Way Jose had been pouring Natural Light (and many other varieties of beer) on Cross Street for more than a few years.  Part of the large collection of bars on Cross Street in the Federal Hill neighborhood, the space has been given a refresh, and now has a new look, a new name, and a new menu. Welcome to One Star Country Club. Inside, the layout of the bar area is the same, but brighter colors abound, a glass garage-style door now opens up to the sidewalk outside, and a series of TV screens line the back bar overhead. In the rear dining room, a staircase has been relocated to the rear corner, opening up the space a bit. The stairs lead up to another small dining room on the second level. The décor...

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All Grown Up

The space at 1110 S. Charles Street has long housed a series of bars with a party-centric vibe, including Boomerang and Mad River. Now, as The Charles, it projects a much more adult, sophisticated feel. It occupies a soaring two-level interior, originally constructed in the early 20th century, as a branch of the Provident Savings Bank. Now, as one enters, there is a large bar along the left wall with a series of shelves that climb up to the open, second level. Interspersed with decorative elements are multiple TV screens for showing sports. An open staircase leads upstairs to a series of booths on a mezzanine that overlooks the bar area. Overhead, a black-and-white checkerboard pattern fills in the original skylight. Toward the rear, there's another bar and an open space for dancing to...

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Heart & Soul

Chef David Thomas, who formerly operated Herb & Soul restaurant in Parkville, has a new venture downtown near City Hall. Named for a 19th-century African-American journalist and activist, Ida B’s table serves what it calls modern soul food. It occupies a large space in a brick industrial building within a stone’s throw of the elevated JFX overhead. Inside, there’s a barroom to the left, and large dining room divided into two areas with a wrought-iron rail. Polished wood, industrial ductwork overhead, exposed brickwork and wood-textured drum shades for lighting, constitute the décor. There are also two adjoining spaces that can be used for private events. Dramatic, oversized artworks portraying prominent African-Americans - including actor Paul Robeson and the restaurant’s namesake - adorn some of the walls. The menu contains Southern-style classics and modern takes on soul food....

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En Español

Amidst the explosion of the Hampden restaurant scene in recent years, Holy Frijoles has been a longtime stalwart. Located smack-dab in the middle of the The Avenue, the informal joint serving dependable Mexican cuisine has been at it for a number of years. So last year, when a devastating fire closed the establishment, folks waited patiently for the reopening. It took just about a year, but the unveiling finally took place in late fall, as the restaurant/bar not only reopened in its former digs, but added a healthy addition as well. The main room looks pretty familiar, with the big main bar on the left… …and a scattering of high-top tables along the right wall. Bright, bold colors and lots of funky artwork define the space. Along the rear wall are several colorful vintage pinball machines. [caption id="attachment_12071"...

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German Accent

Opened last spring on a stretch of Cross Street, Crossbar is the brainchild of local restaurateur Brian McComas (owner of Ryleigh’s in Federal Hill and Cockeysville). The big, open space was created from joining four older properties together, all under a three-story glass atrium roof. Communal tables encourage socializing, as does a ping pong table and four separate bar areas, one of which resides in the old Turner’s spot at the end of the complex, and two more on an upstairs level that overlooks the main room. As you might expect, much of the bar program focuses on beers, particularly imports. It’s a vast selection, but you can still always opt for a Natty Boh, if you prefer. On the menu, you’ll find items such as sausages, Bavarian soft pretzels and sour beef & dumplings. The crowd...

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To Sir, With Love

The venue at the corner of Bond and Aliceanna streets has housed some legendary music establishments, including Fletcher’s and The Get Down. It now houses Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store. The place exudes an aura of nonchalant cool. The bar is up front on the right, with several tables in the center and a casual lounge area on the left. Vestiges of its time as a music and dance venue remain, reflected in the artwork that adorns the walls. The excellent, eclectic music selection on the sound system plays to this as well. Walk toward the rear, and a back room contains shelves of hooch, available for purchase. A cool accent is the retro bicycle, built in as a support for the counter bar. The service is friendly and unpretentious, and daily happy hour specials include...

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Room for Cocktails

The Elk Room is a newcomer on Baltimore’s craft cocktail scene. It joins a growing list (think Bookmaker’s, Rye, The Bluebird Cocktail Room, etc.) of establishments dedicated to serious mixology. Situated behind a non-descript door at the rear of a courtyard that it shares with its big brother, Tagliata Italian chophouse, its interiors are dark, refined, and lush. Duck through the heavy velvet draperies and you’ll find yourself in a smallish, dimly lit barroom. The walls behind the bar are stocked with a breathtaking variety of alcoholic elixirs, all residing under the watchful eyes of a mounted, stuffed…you guessed it…elk. A handsome leather-bound menu lists the house cocktail specialties as well as a short menu of cheese plates, charcuterie, fondue and sliders. My choices for cocktails included two classics: a vodka martini… …and a...

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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. 

Email Brian