Hot Spots w/Brian Michael Lawrence

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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Hot Spots: M&S Grill

M&S Grill calls itself the “casual sibling” of big brother chain McCormick & Schmick’s, and indeed, that’s what it is. Anchoring the western end of Harborplace’s Pratt Street pavilion, it opens onto the crossroads of downtown’s tourist district, at Pratt and Calvert streets. Given that we’re smack in the middle of Light City week, I figured I’d duck in for a cocktail at this casual barroom that’s centrally situated to view the festival. The space’s design cues mimic McCormick & Schmick’s—lots of dark wood paneling and trim, brass fixtures and tiled floors. There’s a large dining room, plenty of outdoor seating that overlooks the harbor, and a snug barroom that includes bar seating, high-top tables and some booths. The view from a barstool here allows one to see all the action outside at this busy intersection that is the gateway to...

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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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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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