There are plenty of tell-tale signs that Annabel Lee will thrive

On Nightlife

January 10, 2008|By Sam Sessa

Much like its namesake poem, the new Annabel Lee Tavern is a dark and enchanting place, wistful of a time long past.

After a midnight trip last Friday, I can easily say the tavern is my favorite new spot in Canton for conversation.

With its burgundy walls, cloth curtains and stained glass shaded lamps, Annabel Lee Tavern captures a classic feel from generations ago.

Owner Kurt X. Bragunier, a former general manager at Brewer's Art for seven years, wanted to create a less stuffy version of your grandmother's parlor. He named it after his favorite poem by Edgar Allan Poe. And to his credit, the tavern is comfortable and homey.

There is only one TV in Annabel Lee, and thankfully, it's only turned on by request. For background music, Bragunier went with big-band tunes from the '40s and '50s. And oddly enough, it fits.

"To see people in here who are my age and younger grooving to Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey is very surprising, but it's also very cool," said chef Mark Littleton, 45.

Littleton, as well as two bartenders and a cook, came to the tavern when their former employer, Lulu's Off Broadway, closed last year. Though the Annabel Lee has only been open since Dec. 7, Littleton thinks he's found a new home.

"I knew right away this place was going to take off," Littleton said. "And it is. It's happening a lot faster than we expected."

That should come as no surprise. When you bring together competent management with an experienced staff, the results are almost always good. Annabel Lee's servers are sharp, knowledgeable and accommodating.

Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale is on tap, which speaks volumes in itself. Because there's not too much to go around, it's tough for a new bar to get Resurrection. But because of Bragunier's history with Brewer's Art, it gladly does its best to accommodate him.

Another notable draft at Annabel Lee is the Raven Special Lager, which is not only a decent beer but a fitting one, name-wise. Draft beers are about $4-$5 each. As far as wines go, there are more than 20 on the list - averaging $25 a bottle and $6 a glass.

Two dartboards hang on the wall near the rear of the corner bar. You can play for free - just make sure you don't accidentally prick one of the patrons leaving the nearby bathrooms.

A wall by the dartboards bears one of the verses from Poe's famous poem, as well as a depiction of the man. Another Poe quote is painted on the outside of the building: "The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour."

Last Friday night about midnight, long after the dinner crowd left, the tavern was mostly empty. But once the bar's reputation starts to spread, that will change.

I can see Annabel Lee becoming a hangout for lovers of good drinks, food and conversation - much like Idle Hour in Federal Hill or Brewer's Art in Mount Vernon. You should probably end a Canton bar tour at the tavern. If you start one there, you might not want to leave.

Littleton says it best:

"We have great beer, great wine, great people and great food. It's hard to go wrong."

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

The Annabel Lee Tavern is at 601 S. Clinton St. Hours are 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Call 410-522-2929 or go to annabelleetavern.com.

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