La Marsa, a new bar with Mediterranean touches, should attract the lounge crowd

On Nightlife

March 23, 2006|By SAM SESSA

At the peak of St. Patty's Day, when green-clad meatheads ruled the streets, one Fells Point lounge housed a different kind of crazy.

It was dark inside La Marsa, South Broadway's newest bar. A set of colored lights flashed down from the ceiling, but otherwise the place was dimly lit. Lebanese pop music pumped from speakers and hips twirled to beats.

"We were packed, and it was going crazy in there," said owner Raouf Yousfi.

La Marsa, which debuted last week, offers a sharp, clean atmosphere a notch more chic than most of the bars on that street.

As you walk in, a long bar is to your left, and two large but not gaudy mirrors hang on the wall to your right. Right away it's clear you're not in Natty Boh country (though they do have Clipper City on tap). This will be La Marsa's greatest struggle - attracting a lounging crowd when many people still subscribe to the "Let's go to Fells Point and drink" mentality. But Gemini Bistro a couple doors down has been open for more than five years, so there's definitely an audience.

Keep walking into La Marsa, and you reach the lounge area, which has tables with metal legs and stone-tile tops, square leather-cushion stools and a booth wrapped in leopard-print. Yousfi slapped a coat of institutional gray paint over one of the exposed brick walls back there, which really clashes with the cool red and yellow tones of the rest of the bar. He also chose the wrong shade of brown for the men's bathroom.

Other than the mirrors, the walls are kept fairly sparse, which is fine, considering La Marsa just opened. After a few months, Yousfi might want to add to the decor, which will be easy, because he's got a fine foundation to build on.

The bar has about a half-dozen beers on tap, and Yousfi, who said he ran a lounge like this in Tunisia, aims to import more from overseas in the near future. I hope he follows through with the rest of his plans for the place.

Yousfi also wants to start serving Mediterranean tapas in the next month or so, and he has a tobacco license pending approval so he can offer hookahs in the next week or two. Pulling on a hookah and picking at tapas in the heart of Fells Point would be fantastic.

Right now, La Marsa is a funky place to sit, drink and talk. With hookahs and tapas on the table, it could be the hottest new spot on Broadway.

La Marsa is at 706 S. Broadway. Hours are 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Call 410-558-3630.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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