Home to older big-band set

January 04, 1991|By Mike Giuliano

Gabby's Lounge Where: Pikesville Hilton Inn, 1726 Reisterstown Road.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.

Menu: Lunch may be ordered off the San Marco restaurant menu before 4 p.m.; bar menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizza, clams casino, served at night.

Credit cards: All major cards accepted.

Call: 653-1100.

Under new ownership and freshly renovated, with the coveted Hilton name restored, the Pikesville Hilton Inn is aiming to grab the attention of northwest Baltimoreans who may have surmised that its time had passed.

Area night-lifers who frequented the hotel pub in years past will discover that what had been Billy's Saloon is now Gabby's Lounge. Adjacent to the hotel's Italian restaurant, San Marco, Gabby's is a semi-swank lounge that would never be mistaken for a saloon.

Billy's Saloon had a faithful following of mostly older customers who were as reliable as the big band tunes they danced to there. But the appearance of the saloon in its later days, as described by bartender Michael Kettering, was "circa 1973 decor that had become dated and disgustingly ugly."

As part of the hotel renovation, Billy's was gutted and rebuilt. Gabby's has a pleasing enough deco design in which the hard edges of the deco look have been softened a bit. Although there is nothing wrong with the varying shades of glossy black, pale green and rose of the new decor, one wonders if the interior designers of the lounges of the '90s will be bold enough to expand their palettes by a few more colors.

Gabby's Lounge attracts both hotel guests and Pikesville business corridor workers for happy hour. Later at night, the bar and dance floor are mostly frequented by Pikesville residents who otherwise don't have all that many nightlife options.

There is live entertainment Thursday through Saturday nights starting at 9. So far, Top 40 and big-band mix seems to be drawing an older demographic. Mr. Kettering said most of the clientele is "27 and upwards," but on a recent visit most of the lounge-goers I saw may have had children who are 27.

Not that those on the other side of 50 don't have the right to swing. In fact, it was smile-inducing to watch how effortlessly the Matchmakers, a big band-emulating little band, got couples onto the dance floor. Of course, some of these folks have been taking the A train for decades. It would be nice, though, to see more than a smattering of young faces in the crowd.

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