The Den enlivens nightlife-challenged Charles Village

On Nightlife

August 03, 2006|By SAM SESSA

The Den might be a Miami-style lounge, but it definitely keeps Baltimore in mind.

Located on the floor above Tamber's on St. Paul Street, Charles Village's newest bar is a sharp and stylish alternative to the neighborhood's few other watering holes. A black granite bar, cherry wood floor, beds and long faux suede booths put the Den's decor on par with some of the city's other upscale lounges, such as Kamp and the late Club X Ultra Lounge.

But the best thing about the Den is there's no cover charge. That puts it in a totally different league.

The problem with high-end joints like Kamp and Aqua Lounge is they forget what city they're in. This is Baltimore. A changing Baltimore, sure, but it's still light years from turning into the next Miami. When most people in this city fork over $10 just to get in, they expect plenty of substance in return, and a lot of these lounges don't deliver.

Without the $5 or $10 entrance fee, you don't have as many expectations for the Den, which means you'll be easily impressed.

Still in its first month, the Den occupies a relatively small space, but the furniture layout and large windows open it up considerably. According to co-manager Trey Thompson, the club comfortably holds about 150 people, which seems about right.

Though there are some tables and chairs, the primary seating is on black, red and white booths and beds. Each of the half-dozen or so beds is supposed to be separated with curtains hung from the ceiling, but only one was up last weekend. To score a bed, you have to call in and reserve it ahead of time and order plenty of drinks when you get there.

The bar has about eight beers on tap, which range from Yuengling to Newcastle and cost $4-$5 per 20-ounce glass. Bottle service -- the Den's specialty -- is $85-$350 for liquor and $45-$250 for champagne, depending on the brand. I'm still warming to the idea of buying a bottle of liquor at a nightclub and making my own drinks, even if it does end up a slightly cheaper in the end. Sound expensive? Try going during happy hour, 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, when all beer and rails are half price and mixed drinks are a dollar cheaper.

The Den's menu has almost a dozen dishes meant for sharing, like fried calamari, filet mignon skewer kebabs, cheese fondue fries, spinach artichoke dip and dry-rub wings. Most of the dishes hover around $8, though the kebabs will run you $12.95.

Finding parking nearby might be a little dodgy. There are some meters on St. Paul Street, but you may end up a couple of blocks away on Calvert Street in a two-hour permit spot.

Though I can see the Den drawing tons of gelled Johns Hopkins University students in designer jeans and button-downs, the place and the staff didn't seem too pretentious when I was there. The bartenders were friendly, and they told me the Den is relying mainly on word of mouth, not advertising.

"We're starting off low-key," Thompson said.

Charles Village desperately needed something to help its struggling nightlife scene, and the Den is a big boost.

The Den, on the second floor of 3327 St. Paul St., is open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. There is no cover charge. Call 410-243-9308 or visit

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