At Spike & Charlie's it's nips and tucks and tweedy colors

THE REAL DISH

September 19, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Age 2 seems far too young for a face lift, but that hasn't stopped Spike and Charlie Gjerde from taking a nip and tuck to their namesake restaurant and wine bar.

In the last month, the brothers have done some major renovating of their trendy pre- and post-symphony hangout at 1225 Cathedral St. The bar is closer to a lounge these days, and the restaurant is twice its former size. Dianne Rohrer, an interior designer with Cho, Wilks & Benn, has created an ambience that's more polished than in the past.

If it feels like autumn when you walk in, that's because the walls and ceilings have been painted in shades of ocher, amber, sage and burnt orange.

"We went through the Tweeds catalog for the colors," says Spike with a laugh.

The brushed steel railings, mahogany veneers and sandblasted glass plates add to the modern edge. "But we still want it to straddle the line between casual and elegant," he says.

Like its predecessors (Blues Alley, Ethel's Place), Spike & Charlie's failed to draw the crowds needed to make the basement entertainment area profitable, despite booking some national acts. So the Gjerdes decided to cut the club by a third and expand their dining space. The latter now seats 100, with a raised balcony for large parties.

As for the menu, Spike, who's also the chef, plans to tinker with it more frequently, adding new dishes every two weeks or so. In the works: grilled and braised duck with plum glaze and roasted acorn squash, roasted monkfish with fresh oysters, and lamb loin seared with mushroom crust.

Perhaps the best news of all, though, is the heavenly banana tart is returning to the menu after a six-month absence.

The restaurant plans to show off its new style at an open house Oct. 5. Proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Maryland. Call (410) 752-8144 for more information.

OVEREAGER? The chameleon-like Eager House, 15 W. Eager St., is undergoing yet more changes. The restaurant reopened last week after being closed for a month. Chef Claude Chauvin is at the helm now, having created a menu that owner Ernest L. Murphy describes as "Baltimore cuisine with a French accent."

Among the entrees: grilled lobster with champagne sauce, duck breast with ginger and marinated rack of lamb. At lunch, there's now more of an emphasis on sandwiches than on hot entrees.

Although Mr. Murphy raised prices this summer, citing the consumers' desire for higher-end food, he says prices are coming down again, with $17.50 being the most expensive on the menu now.

"The first months were our training period," he says. "I've learned the hard way, and it's been an expensive tuition. . . . But we think we're now ready."

SO, THIS IS HEAVEN: If you're browsing through Social Registers from the '50s, nibbling on black currant scones and listening to the soundtrack from "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," then you must be in Nirvana.

That's the new "cafetorium" at 1727 N. Charles St., run by Kevin Brown and Bill Maughlin. The restaurant-cum-gallery-cum-theater serves pastas, salads, sandwiches and desserts in a self-serve setting.

You also might call the Metropolitan Theatre Cafe at Nirvana (its full name) a library since the owners have a stockpile of newspapers, magazines and books. (If your heart is broken, this is really the place to be. There's a plethora of self-help titles for the lovelorn.) Nirvana also gets high marks for its front-door sign: "No Waitresses. No Attitude. No Waiting."

MAKE WAY FOR MEATLOAF: There's "homemade good cooking" at Winterling's, 3200 Foster Ave. in Canton, these days. The Baltimore favorite, around since 1923, has reopened under new management.

Bill Ganz, whose previous experience includes the Polo Grill, is running the place with his wife, Angela, and partners Eric Johnson and Glen Norris.

Although Winterling's was known for German food in the past, the owners have scaled back on those entrees, opting for fare such as pork chops, meat loaf and fried chicken instead. Most are in the $6 to $9 range.

A BIRD IN THE RESTAURANT: For most of its life, Birds of a Feather, 1712 Aliceanna St., has been a bar. But this spring, owners Alicia and John Horn opened a restaurant in the Fells Point spot they also call home.

Alicia's son Timothy Pritchett, who trained with Michael Rork at Hampton's, is the chef, serving up grilled salmon with raspberry tarragon cream sauce, grilled rack of lamb with roasted garlic and shrimp provencal. Meanwhile, Alicia tends bar, while John waits tables and manages things.

Since the restaurant is small (it seats about 20), reservations are a must on Friday and Saturday.

As for the name, Ms. Horn says that it has nothing to do with her affection for feathered animals.

"It's called Birds of a Feather," she says, "but we really like cats."

Have news about local restaurants, chefs or clubs? Call (410) 332-6156 or write the Real Dish, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, 21278.

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