Here's a promise the dining-out crowd may love to hear: It'll be the best place to eat in the area. That's what the owner/chef of Canton's newest restaurant is vowing. Ted Stelzenmuller certainly knows East Baltimore restaurants. He's worked for the last few years in the vicinity, first at Red Fish, and then at Salt. If all goes as planned, starting tomorrow you'll be able to see whether he lives up to that promise, when he's set to open the doors of Jack's Bistro.
OK. His name is Ted. Yet, his eatery is called Jack's. Hmmm.
"I grew up watching Three's Company," Stelzenmuller says. When the John Ritter character, Jack, left Angelino's, the restaurant where he worked, "the first place he opened was Jack's Bistro. ... I just liked the name."
Many Cantonites may find the location of Jack's Bistro somewhat familiar. It's situated in the space previously occupied by Doobie's and the Elliott Street Grill. But, that's where the familiarity ends.
Stelzenmuller says he and his partner, mom Michele Jackson, did some major renovation. He says they put down brushed Turkish marble floors and gave Jack's a look that's "very modern, with retro tinges."
One thing they didn't change - just freshened up - was the large wooden bar that's been in the space since 1902. It's surrounded by walls in neutral earth tones, "Jetson-style" art and cranberry high-back bar chairs.
There are a few chrome high-top tables as well as booths made up of old church pews set on a brick tile platform. He says the whole combination gives the bar area a light and fresh feel.
There's also a small separate dining room with tables to seat about 24. Exposed brick and terra-cotta painted walls set off the "Dr. Seuss-looking vases and Moroccan tea lights" on each table. The far wall features a pass-through kitchen.
"It kind of has a cool James Bond, mid-1960s `mod' feel," Stelzenmuller says.
The food, however, is definitely 21st century.
"It's stuff you won't find anywhere else, but nothing anyone would be afraid of," Stelzenmuller says. "That's my goal."
That "stuff" begins with appetizers like grilled corn on the cob garnished with parmesan cheese, red pepper, sea salt, European butter and a splash of citrus ($4.75); logom, "Swedish snack food" consisting of a grilled all-beef hot dog wrapped in flatbread with shrimp salad, mashed potatoes, fried onions, lettuce and spices ($9); and crab bisque dip, made with sherry lump crab meat and cream cheese, and served with a crusty French baguette ($12).
In the salad section, you can order grilled Caesar salad ($8); surf and turf: grilled bistro tenderloin and gulf shrimp resting on a bed of chopped Boston lettuce tossed with house peppercorn-parmesan dressing, tomatoes, diced red onions, shaved parmesan cheese and Genoa salami ($18); and the Jell-O ahi tuna salad ($10.25).
There are more than a dozen entrees, such as bistro bento box: Maine lobster cake with tomato-herb aioli, panko-crusted smashed potatoes, sauteed forest mushrooms and a small salad ($19.75); and beef tenderloin braised in Guinness beer and spices, garnished with cinnamon-vanilla scented smashed potatoes and grilled asparagus ($19.50).
Not to worry, Jack's offers burgers, too ($10.50 to $14.75).
Gastronomic thrill seekers also will enjoy the cocktail list, which includes a bubble tea cocktail made with green tea vodka, chai tea and "a huge straw to suck up those crazy black [tapioca] pearls" ($9).
Jack's Bistro, 410-878-6542, is at 3123 Elliott St. Its hours will be 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with Sunday brunch served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservations are taken. It's strictly first-come, first-served. Smoking will be permitted only in the bar once the dining room is empty.
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