Right up your alley: Mother's in Federal Hill expands

On Nightlife

June 12, 2008|By Sam Sessa

On any given Friday or Saturday night for the past few years, one thing was certain: Mother's Federal Hill Grille would be packed with people.

The sky is blue, the grass is green and after 10 p.m. on a Friday night, you'd find dozens and dozens of post-college kids squeezed into the South Baltimore bar and restaurant. They'd pound shots and beers, hit on each other and sometimes try to dance to the Top 40 hits a DJ spun. But there was never enough room.

Until this spring.

In early May, the bar opened Mother's on the Alley, a huge expansion in the back of the old space. Mother's on the Alley is nearly 4,000 square feet all told, with a new bar, two new pool tables and close to 20 TVs. The grand opening party is tomorrow.

You can still get to Mother's on the Alley by walking through the front door on Charles Street and down through a narrow corridor by the old bathrooms. There are new bathrooms now, thank heavens, and we'll get to them later. But Mother's on the Alley also has a rear entrance on Patapsco Avenue (that's the alley).

Booths line one wall of Mother's on the Alley, and there's plenty of open space between them and the bar for mingling. Dancing, too.

The weekend after the new expansion opened, more than a few 20-somethings had a little elbow room to bust a move. Well, let's say they had enough space to bust half a move. But half a move is better than no move at all.

The bar in Mother's on the Alley is exactly 60 feet, 6 inches long -- the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate on a major league baseball field. Owner Dave Rather, who is particularly proud of this, got the idea from a Harry Caray's restaurant in Chicago.

"I thought that would be a cool thing in Baltimore," Rather said.

So far, it's not uncommon to see lines of thirsty people stretching two and three deep from the bar. There are a dozen beers on tap, with domestic drafts running about $4 each.

When the expansion opened, Rather thought it would take some of the pressure off the old bar space in the front of the building. Not so.

"I thought the front was going to be slower as well," he said. "But we've been busy in the whole place."

People waiting in line to use the brand-new bathrooms can clog the narrow corridor leading from the front to the back of Mother's. But that was my only complaint.

Before the expansion, Mother's was severely lacking in the restroom department. The men's bathroom was run down and had one of those old ceramic troughs from the early 1900s you find in American Legion bathrooms. It's been replaced by new urinals and XLerator hand dryers (the Cadillac of electronic palm dryers). XLerators don't dissolve the water on your hands so much as they turn loose a high-velocity gust of hot air so powerful it knocks the water off your hands and onto the floor. They redefine awesome.

There seems to be a sizable crowd in Federal Hill that flocks to the hot new bar. Last year, people waited in long lines to get into the revamped Ryleigh's Oyster, and early this year they flocked to the reopened Stalking Horse.

For the moment, Mother's on the Alley is it. Though this herd of partyers moves from new bar to new bar, judging from Mother's history of jam-packed weekend nights, I don't think it will have a hard time keeping the expansion full.


Mother's Federal Hill Grille is at 1113 S. Charles St. The grand-opening party for Mother's on the Alley starts at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Call 410-244-8686 or go to mothersgrille.com.

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