30 May 2012

Stillwater's Of Love & Regret opens

Well, come on, with a lunch opening on a Wednesday, were you expecting a line around the block?
 The bar itself, at least for now, exudes the shininess and glamor of a new car--richly shellacked and varnished tabletops crafted from old timbers.  At the moment, it's what many would call "cozy" or "intimate"--if you've crammed yourself into Mahaffey's or Ale Mary's during a dinner rush, you'll get the idea, although the ceilings are higher.  For the time being, there's overflow space in the as-yet-uncompleted store space on the second floor.

Stillwater Ales owner Brian Strumke had a firkin of his latest "Channel Crossing" collaboration ale with Oliver Breweries, the fifth in the series, with the firkin seasoned with rosehips.  Unfortunately, he needs a little more experience tapping firkins; this writer ultimately had to do the honors, driving home the tap with two well-placed hits.

If you're reading this blog regularly, you probably need no introduction to the "cult" of Stillwater and its esoteric ales.  So what you should want to know about is the place.
Disregard the ironic placement across the street from the old National Brewing building and its newly-iconic "Boh" winking eye sign.  The location is slightly off the "beaten path," wedged between Highlandtown and Canton on Brewers Hill, and the neighborhood is blessed with free (albeit competitive) parking, as well as direct service to the bar by the MTA Route 7 bus route and indirect service by Route 13 a block away.

The bar currently has 20 beer taps, two wine taps, and a house specialty of Strumke's, iced cold-press coffee aged on French oak.  The beer selections are, naturally, dominated by Stillwater specialties (oddly, the bar's namesake beer is not available yet!), and quite obviously the bar will get first dibs on any Stillwater product issued, making it the place to go to find it all for the "completist.".  A number of guest taps were offering such complementary offerings as Pub Dog Wild Cherry (a funky offering from "gypsy brewer" Stillwater's most-brewed-at local brewery), Hopfenstark Lou Lou Porter, Victory Prima Pils, and Schneider Edel-Weisse.  About two dozen bottles are offered, dominated by Evil Twin products and larger Stillwater bottles.  Bottles are available for takeout purchase, though at prices likely to discourage impulse purchases.  Beer prices, and serving sizes, are listed on the menu and adjusted according to the beer's strength and cost, from $6 for a 16-ounce serving of Channel Crossing to $9 for a ten-ounce glass of barrel-aged Debauched.

The food menu, at least for starts, stays restrained in selection yet long on ambition.  The lunch menu offers a soup of the day, a beer and cheese soup; salads; a mac-and-cheese with smoked pork butt, four cheeses, scallions, and Stillwater Premium beer (not to be confused with National Premium!); and crispy pig ears and grilled duck tongues as appetizers.  The sandwiches include half-pound burgers served on multi-grain croissant buns with various garnishes such as Moroccan spice rub and goat cheese with wilted arugula and a "smoke" burger (pork, bacon, and gouda), a buffalo-chicken-and-bleu-cheese open-face sandwich, grilled cheese (cheddar, smoked gouda, and brie), the seemingly-mandatory vegan burger (chickpea-and-lentil), and oddest of all, a quarter-pound beef hot dog with rock shrimp salad and arugula, as well as the mandatory-for-Baltimore crab cake sandwich and a grilled salmon sandwich.  Sandwiches are generally in the $9-$12 range, with the salmon topping out at $17; appetizers are in the $7.50-$10 range.

Dinner entrees, at $14-$20, include spicy Singapore-style poached chicken and rice served cold, salmon, steak, fried chicken two ways (traditional and tempura), and a Moroccan green lentil vegetarian dish.

Not to be missed, for the drinker seeking unique experiences, are a range of beer cocktails.  Yes, yes, beer cocktails are suddenly the "flavor of the month" in craft beer circles, but the combination of truly esoteric blends of liqueurs, spirits, spices, and adjuncts topped off with Stillwater ales make these $10 cocktails a cut above the rest.  And if you insist, they'll gladly serve you a glass of Premium with a shot of Pikesville Rye, though the spirits rack behind the bar is, as would be expected for a Stillwater-led production, resplendent with far more interesting possibilities.

Although plans are in the works for far more to the experience, including the planned charcuterie and food shop on the second floor, Of Love & Regret at least initially manages to bridge somewhere between the local corner beer bar/bistro experience and the high-end restaurant experience of The Brewer's Art and Heavy Seas Alehouse.  If you're comfortable with the bar-food experiences of The Brewer's Art, you'll fit right in at OL&R.


Robin@ Good for the Palate said...

Strumke said the Of Love and Regret beer will appear later tis month. It's on a boat.

JohnM. said...

Excellent article and great pictures Alex. With your permission, I'd like to provide a link to this article on BA, as there's currently a thread going on the pub in their mid atlantice forum. To no great surprise, not just locals are very, very interested in the new pub.

Anyway, please let me know if it would be OK to post a link to your article (I won't do it without your permission). Thanks!

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Go ahead, JohnM.