The Brass Elephant
Where: 924 N. Charles St.
Hours: Second-floor bar open 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, although it often is open as late as 1:30 a.m. on weekends.
Credit cards: All major cards accepted.
Call: 547-8480. Although the Brass Elephant is a dress-up, reservations-advised restaurant featuring northern Italian cuisine, its equally elegant upstairs bar has a much more casual attitude.
"People often walk by the restaurant thinking they're not dressed properly to come in, but there is no dress code for the upstairs bar," says manager Andy Noppenberger. So you can wear blue jeans up here as you sit on your upholstered bar stool and admire all the marble, brass, mirrors, chandeliers, stained-glass windows and other architectural reminders of the gilded age. Still, amid such plushness you'd rather look like a swell than a slob, right?
This upstairs bar has always been an adjunct of the restaurant, but there have been minor shifts in how it presents itself. Remember the piano bar up here some years ago? There's taped music now, and it includes reggae selections that'll get stockbrokers to loosen their ties.
Other changes have to do with the separate bar menu and monthly art exhibits added recently.
You could always order off the main menu up here before, but the new bar menu makes this upstairs space a baby Brass Elephant, if you will. As you'd expect, the selections are worlds removed from standard pub fare. Items like stuffed eggplant parmigiana, fettuccine alla modena, penne with wild mushrooms and veal parmigiana are basically smaller portions of what you'd order downstairs; the crab cakes are only available upstairs, though. Bar menu prices are under $10, which is considerably less than you'd spend in the restaurant proper.
Later at night, the bar has been doing nice business for the after-theater dessert and coffee crowd; Center Stage, the Mechanic, the Lyric and the Meyerhoff are all nearby.
Where food for the soul is concerned, the upstairs gallery installs the art of today in an ornate 19th century setting.
"The idea is to show local artists who don't get much of a chance to exhibit elsewhere," explains artist Crystal Moll, who serves as curator of the 2nd Floor Gallery.
Art exhibits change monthly, with the current show of paintings, drawings and monoprints by Peter Dubeau and Simone Osthoff up through March 31. This mini-gallery also participates in the round of First Thursday gallery and shop openings along Charles Street.