Outdoorsy Mad River comes to Federal Hill


December 04, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Outdoorsy sorts may find a new Federal Hill spot is just the place to hang when they can't get out of the city. The Mad River Bar & Grille is having its grand opening today in the space that used to be known as the Boomerang Pub.

John Durkin - who owns the eatery with Michael Mastellone and Eric Tucker - says the concept recalls Vermont's Mad River Glen area. So you'll find a "warm, outdoorsy feel indoors" featuring hardwood floors, dark reds and greens on the walls - along with canoes, kayaks, fly fishing rods and photos of Vermont landscapes.

Downstairs, there's a copper-topped bar and dining area. Upstairs is a lounge with exposed brick and plush booths and a private dining room. Total seating is around 100.

This is the third Mad River Bar & Grille. The first two are in Albany, N.Y., and at 82nd Street and 3rd Avenue in New York City.

Durkin says he has friends he's visited several times here, who have urged him to open a Mad River in Baltimore, and when he and his partners saw the Boomerang space, they decided to take the leap.

Mad River's corporate chef, Gabriel Ryan, describes the restaurant's menu as "health-conscious bar/grill foods" - made with less fat, when possible, and fresh ingredients. A few added items are for the Baltimore crowd, like crab cakes ($10). Mind you, these are crab cakes with a chipotle cream reduction over a medley of sauteed vegetables.

Otherwise, we're dealing with classic pub fare such as buffalo wings(10 for $6), potato skins ($7), nachos ($11) and spinach artichoke dip ($7). There are several entree salads like Cobb ($8) and Mad River salad - green leaf lettuce with tomatoes, red onions, Monterey Jack cheese and strips of seasoned steak($9). The burgers, Ryan stresses, are grilled, with additional fat drained off, and freshly made buns ($8 and up).Sandwiches include turkey club ($8), pulled pork ($8), and even a couple of wraps - spinach and portabella mushroom ($7) and blackened chicken ($8).

There are also several entrees like Mad River chili bowl ($7) and thin crust pizza ($8 & up).

Mad River Bar & Grille, 410-727-2333, is at 1110 S. Charles St. Its hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. - with food served until 11 p.m. - seven days a week.

Welcome back, WIE

Finally. After being closed for almost a year, the Woman's Industrial Exchange re-opened this week. Meaning its fans no longer have to dream of chicken salad, deviled egg and tomato aspic, the classic dish the Exchange is known for.

What's more, says operations manager Mary Brown, when you walk in the doors, it should still feel like coming home. Just fresher and cleaner.

Brown describes the work done in the dining room as a "gentle facelift."

"The changes are barely recognizable if you're not a regular," she says.

You'll see the same fireplaces, wainscoting and decor. The tables and chairs are both a little larger, but with the same look. The banquette is still there, Brown says, but it's been plumped up and redone.

"You won't need help getting out of it anymore," she says.

The kitchen, however, is a different matter. Completely different, as a matter of fact. It's been restructured, a complete gutting and rehab, with new flooring and new equipment.

But, don't worry about the menu. Brown assures that the classics are still there: the aforementioned chicken salad plate, crab cake sandwich and Charlotte Russe dessert. Brown does say there is a slight increase in price for some entrees, but, considering the old prices - $7.50 for the chicken salad plate, for instance - we're not exactly talking about breaking the bank.

You'll find the Woman's Industrial Exchange, 410-685-4388, at 333 N. Charles St. Its hours right now will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Although Brown says those hours could expand into either breakfast or dinner time next year. We'll just have to wait and see.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions by fax to Sloane Brown, 410-675-3451, or by e-mail to sloane@livetabletalk.com.

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