By The Glass, By The Bottle

TABLE TALK

People Pouring Into Hampden Wine Bar

July 22, 2009|By ELIZABETH LARGE

From what general manager Peter Keck tells me, Hampden has been in desperate need of a wine bar. Who knew? Since 13.5% Wine Bar (1117 W. 36th St., 410-889-1064, 13.5winebar.com) opened July 10, he said, business has been booming.

Perhaps owner Wayne Laing had fans from when he owned the Wine Underground, the nearby liquor store. Perhaps it's the wine bar's jazzy space, with its retail wall and a handsome flagstone wall opposite the bar. The seating (for 85 or so) is divided between traditional tables and couches in the lounge area, and the bright orange bar stools set the room's color scheme.

Perhaps the wine bar's overnight success can be attributed to its philosophy - if a wine bar can have a philosophy - which Keck describes as "wine is more about having an open mind than knowing stuff."

Along those lines, 13.5% gives customers plenty of opportunity to experiment by making many of its selections affordable. There are more than 30 wines offered by the glass, most in the $6 to $12 range. If you order one of the more than 200 bottles, you pay $8 over retail, which should encourage people to try better wines.

Unlike some other wine bars in the area, Keck said, Laing wanted his to be more of a cafe.

"We're getting creative with a minimalist kitchen," he explained. The kitchen has no fryer and no stove top, just a panini grill, two convection ovens and a slicer. At the moment, the food consists of salads, panini and small plates.

Hours right now are Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and till 8 p.m. Sunday. Brunch is a possibility later.

Bicycle closes : Baltimore has lost once of my favorite Federal Hill restaurants, the Bicycle. The owners, Nicholas Batey, his wife and his parents, tried to adjust to the recession by closing down for a week in January and doing major renovations themselves, then reopening with a new menu and lower prices. It wasn't enough, and Bicycle closed last week.

"I never got in the restaurant business to be a rich man," Batey said in an e-mail to me. "My reward was always the gratitude that our guests showed as they walked past the kitchen line and thanked us for a wonderful meal."

Batey told me he's still planning to open his new project, an Italian restaurant at 554 E. Fort Ave. called Ullswater.

"It's in the finishing stages," he said. "We're just waiting for a couple of permits and inspections."

After Ullswater opens, he said, Bicycle gift certificates will be honored there.

Restaurant Weeks : When it's summer doldrums time for restaurants, it's good news for people who like to dine out. First, check out Howard County's Restaurant Weeks (July 27-Aug. 9). Many of the area's finest restaurants, including Aida Bistro, Bistro Blanc, Cafe de Paris, Jordan's Steakhouse, Kings Contrivance, Tersiguel's and many more, are offering specially priced prix fixe menus, ranging from $10.09 to $40.09. The Web site, at howardcountyrestaurantweek.com, has more information.

Baltimore's Summer Restaurant Week is scheduled for a bit later, Aug. 7-16, and the three-course, fixed-price menus are $30.09 for dinner and $20.09 for lunch. This summer the emphasis is on local and seasonal ingredients for the special meals. The Web site at baltimorerestaurantweek.com has a list of the more than 90 participating restaurants and more information about other events and discounts.

Some Restaurant Week deals are better bargains than others (I've had readers complain that some restaurants that have fixed-price menus regularly don't discount them), so call or check out individual Web sites before making your decisions.

The Deal of the Week

The Deal: 25 percent off your entire check in the bar

Where: Blue Hill Tavern, 938 S. Conkling St., Brewers Hill

When: Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Call: 443-388-9363

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