When I asked Lee Morton of Jay's Restaurant Group why they had closed Neo Viccino in Mount Vernon in July, he said, "We believed a healthier concept could exist for the neighborhood."
For a moment I was stumped. After all, the casual-upscale Viccino has been replaced by Turp's Sports Bar (1317 N. Charles St., 410-347-0349). As far as I can tell, the healthiest thing on the menu is the soft pretzel log stuffed with cheesy crab dip.
Then I realized he meant financial health, and I'm sure he's right. Neo Viccino was busy when the Lyric or the Meyerhoff had performances, like the other nice restaurants in the area, but the owners hadn't figured out how to fill seats at other times. A sports bar makes sense, given that it's so near the University of Baltimore.
Turp's has taken a lot of grief already for its name, and it's only been open a week. It's not a misspelling for Terps, it's not short for turpitude, and it isn't supposed to remind you of "burp," "slurp," or "urp." It's named after manager John "Turp" Turpin, who came up with the sports bar concept for the space.
The place has been renovated from top to bottom. Turp's skylighted entrance is decorated with flags celebrating the Ravens, Orioles, Colts, Terps and Blue Jays. The walls are painted orange and are hung with team memorabilia and eight flat-screen TVs. The 16-foot-long chalkboard lists specials and beers on hand.
The food is classic pub grub, with various deals like Monday's Killer Wing Night (30 cents a wing), half-price pizza on Tuesdays and half-price burgers on Wednesdays. On Thursdays it's half-price nachos plus beer specials.
Turp's is open 11 a.m.-midnight, except Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 2 a.m.
Name game : The news of Turp's opening got nightlife reporter Sam Sessa and me talking about how many bars have opened recently with odd names. Remember when they had names like Duffy's Tavern or Peter's Pub?
Lately we've gotten 13.5% in Hampden, which no one seems to know how to pronounce, and Green Cilantro in Fells Point, which sounds like a trendy Asian restaurant in LA. Sam tells me mist, lowercase m, will be opening downtown soon.
And then there's Canton Arts and Entertainment in - you guessed it - Canton. Can you imagine saying to your friend, "Hey, let's drop by Canton Arts and Entertainment for a beer after work"?
To be fair, this last is going to be more than just a bar, and I'll tell you about it in a future column.
Opening doors : At least new places are still opening, even if most of them these days are very casual. Last week I drove past the Bagby Pizza Co. in the old Bagby furniture building on Fleet Street, and it looked ready to go. The unofficial opening date for the gourmet pizzeria is Oct. 1.
Also set to open in October is All Nations Restaurant at 7 E. Lexington St. with pizza, subs, sandwiches and pasta. Esquire Pub will open in the new Quality Inn at 110 St. Paul St.
All Star's Bar and Grill will open this fall at 34 S. Eutaw St., while Liam's North will open next year on North Avenue near Maryland Avenue. With the slew of new pubs and bars with food on the horizon, the news of two new tapas bars seems pretty exciting in comparison.
Miguel's, featuring Spanish-style tapas, is to open in the Silo Point Condominiums. And Tapas Adela, one of the Kali's Restaurant Group, is almost ready for business in Fells Point. I'll give you more details on both when they open their doors.
The Deal of the Week
Where: : Bluestone, 11 W. Aylesbury Road, Lutherville
The Deal: : Half-price bottles of wine with any food order
When: : Tuesdays
Call: : 410-561-1100