Porter's, the Federal Hill corner restaurant and bar once known as Ransome's, is back in business. Now known as Porters, the place has apparently lost an apostrophe but regained a lot of customers from the old days, the neighborhood folks who missed having a reliable place closer to their homes than Light Street.
The new Porters is off to a good start, according to co-owner Kevin Cooper, who says that the folks living on the east side of Federal Hill were "extremely excited about the reopening of Porters in any form at all." Cooper, a seven-year veteran behind the bar at Regi's, says the opening months have "gone a lot better than expected. We see the same faces over and over, which makes it nice. This was our goal from the beginning."
The faces in the new Porters are younger — a whole lot younger. Porters is an openly kid-friendly establishment in a neighborhood that, back in the Ransome's days, was associated more with singles, young couples and retirees. But now on weeknights, from the time Porters opens at 5 p.m. until about 6:30 p.m., according to Cooper, the dining room is basically "stroller parking." Cooper, who co-owns Porters with his wife, Dawn, has a 9-month-old son of his own. "It was like having two babies at the same time," Cooper says.
To run Porters' kitchen, the Coopers tapped another married couple, Jennifer and Peter Livolsi, which makes Porters start to sound as much like a sitcom pilot as a new restaurant. Peter Livolsi is known for his work with the Charleston Group's restaurants, and particularly as the opening executive chef for Pazo. Jennifer Livolsi worked at the now-closed Three, and before that at Regi's, which is where she met Kevin Cooper.
The Livolsis' seasonal menu is "comfort food with a twist," according to Cooper, who says the early favorites include the Moroccan lamb kebabs, the meatloaf melt sandwich and the Chesapeake fries, which are hand-cut and topped with Old Bay, Virginia ham, cheddar, bacon and lump crab meat. A daily seafood special is decided on when the fish arrives, around 3 p.m.
Also on the menu are edgier items, such as a blackened venison, served with Swiss chard and finished with rum beurre blanc and Bing cherries; jerk chicken served with mango salsa and zucchini-banana bread; and a shredded pork and tortillas dish the menu lists as "Puerco Cano," which I don't think is what it's called anywhere else.
Porter's is open daily for dinner and on Saturday and Sunday for brunch, too. A good time for a first visit might be on a Thursday in summer, when Porters is a short walk from Flicks on the Hill at the American Visionary Art Museum. Porters is at 1032 Riverside Ave. They can be reached at 410-332-7345 or portersfederalhill.com.
Minoan room I didn't know that the cool, flexible lounge space on the lower level of Meli had a name. But it does — the Minoan Room. It's used frequently for parties and big groups, and now Meli has started using it for regularly scheduled music programming, at least in July. The weekly Friday Night Cabaret features Karla Chisholm. On Saturday nights, a rotation of jazz soloists and ensembles will perform an 8 p.m. dinner show and a 10 p.m. late set.
Meli, a very consistent performer itself, is part of the Kali's Restaurant Group. It's at 1606 Thames St. For more information about its live music events, call the restaurant at 410-563-7600, or go to kalismeli.com.