The Corner Bar is not your average corner bar. For one thing, the corner it occupies at Fayette and Hanover streets makes it part of the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel. For another thing, its swank decor owes nothing to the Formstone and Formica corner bar tradition.
This spanking new bar wants to be a corner bar in the sense that the local business and legal community can casually gather here to discuss hanging files and hanging judges.
"I hate the word 'lounge' because I picture Tony Las Vegas in a place like that," says Omni food and beverage director Steve Henderson, explaining the nomenclature. "This is a corner bar where you can walk in and be comfortable."
And you can be comfortable in your own way. There are nine different kinds of seating here, ranging from sofas to high bar stools. Indeed, the room's three levels allow you to settle into your own niche, whether it be the packed-together cafe seating at the north end of the room or the living room-like clusters of furniture at the south end.
That the bar was pretty full on a recent visit was a good sign for a classy place that really deserves to succeed. The crowd was also a reminder that the 702-room Omni hotel is making an extensive attempt to go beyond its guest book and appeal to the public. A $10 million hotel renovation is now making for more and better public spaces: Jacqueline's restaurant has been restyled as Jackie's Cafe; a second restaurant, the Baltimore Grille, and the Corner Bar have been added; an expanded ballroom will also get more Baltimoreans into the hotel.
The Corner Bar starts its day with the business-lunch trade lured by build-your-own sandwiches whose 6-inch height merit the doggie bags automatically served with them. Much the same crowd comes around for the happy hour buffet. And, of course, they come here to drink. Talk about the bar choices here! Unlike neighborhood corner bars where most people still drink American, there are many imports among the 50 bottled beers.
But beer comprises but a fraction of the bar offerings. There are a whopping 322 different liquor brands and more than 100 non-alcoholic alternatives -- so many selections, in fact, that they're listed in a color-coded bar menu that is textbook-thick. With so much to choose from, I was truly dismayed when the guy sitting next to me ordered a Miller Lite.
After the happy hour trade tapers off, the Corner Bar mostly caters to hotel guests. More locals may come in as of this week, though, because the bar now serves late-night coffee and dessert to coincide with "Tru" kicking off the season at the nearby Mechanic Theatre.
The Corner Bar
Where: Omni Inner Harbor Hotel, 101 W. Fayette St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, noon - 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Menu: Build your own sandwiches at lunch; weekday happy hour buffet; late night dessert and coffee.
Credit cards: All major cards accepted.