Whereas Pavlov's dogs were set off by the sound of a bell, advanced human minds require a much bigger bell or a savory slideshow to whet whistles. For $15, you get $30 worth of fine, slideshow-worthy American cuisine and drinks at the contemporary Blue Hill Tavern. Located in the heart of Brewers Hill, this modestly upscale "beacon of refurbished sleekness" masterfully merges a classically conditioned menu with an un-snooty atmosphere and complimentary valet parking. Your Groupon can't be used on Saturday evenings or to gain backstage entry to the Flying Wallendas reunion tour.
The vibrant space of one of Baltimore’s finest neighborhood gems lays the backdrop for the meal to follow. The Blue Hill Tavern's modern and sophisticated décor sends ripples of dining auras swirling throughout the restaurant. A private dining room is also available, and if the weather’s right, you can dine outside. The entire establishment is a carefully refined orchestra of ambiance. Brian Lawrence, editor of Style Magazine called it “the most beautiful new restaurant to open in the city in recent memory.” From eye candy to mouth candy, Blue Hill satisfies them all.
Lunch is served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and features a lineup of moderately priced salads and sandwiches. Simple salads like the Caesar ($6) and mixed green ($6) are mixed in with fancifuller options, such as the tavern salad—a bed of lettuce topped with chicken salad, cranberries, walnuts, and toast points ($11). Blue Hill Tavern has perfected grilled cheese by nixing Wonder Bread and Kraft singles in favor of Swiss, cheddar, and tomato between slices of Texas-toast brioche ($8). Other sandwiches include the gourmet Kobe-beef Tavern burger ($12) and the grilled chicken (Swiss, garlic pesto, and roasted peppers on baguette, $11).
Blue Hill's dinner menu offers a diverse selection of diverse tastes made by people. Start with a tasty appetizer like scallops ($14) or pork belly ($12), but don't get too appetized, because you'll want to save room for a mouth-moistening entree. Try the pork tenderloin ($22), mushroom Wellington (shitake, portabella, feta, spinach en croute, and onion sauce, $18), or rabbit ($24). Pair your meal with a glass of wine (one glass is $19–$24). Prolong your experience with a dessert drink or a dessert dessert that include items such as pumpkin fritters, crème brûlée, and apple-cranberry turnovers (desserts are $8).
Baltimore Magazine describes Blue Hill Tavern's atmosphere in depth:
- In a transitioning part of town known as Brewers Hill, the new Blue Hill Tavern is a beacon of refurbished sleekness—from its classy vertical sign to its renovated beige exterior. But wait until you go inside. The building—within sight of the Natty Boh warehouse—has been dismantled and reassembled to wow visitors with a sophisticated spaciousness. Open stairs with chrome railings lead upward to a second-floor bar, balcony, patio, and dining room. Huge windows add light to the cerulean-blue accents and dark-wood floors and tables on both levels. The downstairs bar even has a cascading waterfall. – Suzanne Loudermilk, Baltimore Magazine
A reviewer from the Baltimore City Paper enjoys the cuisine as much as the surroundings:
- ...the food walks a line between over the top and modern classic, clever and fussy. Based on a recent Friday night visit, though, it almost always succeeds. – Mary K. Zajac, Baltimore City Paper
- Absolutely THE BEST crab cakes you can buy ever. The muscles and Kobe burger are also better than anywhere else I have been. The atmosphere is quite delightful and very modern, great looking, and still comfortable. Very clean restaurant with great staff and beyond awesome food. My new favorite restaurant, I go once a week at least. – Chris Tharp, Urbanspoon
Out of the Norm
For better or worse, the warmth and friendship portrayed on the popular sitcom Cheers have raised the bar, so to speak, for the expectations of real-life taverns. If these standards are too lofty for your local watering hole, consider stacking the deck to make sure these lyrics from the Cheers theme song become your new friendship reality.
Where everybody knows your name: This can be largely accomplished using a simple adhesive nametag and felt-tip marker, but for a dazzling first impression, upgrade to a blinking LED custom-message necktie and relentlessly refer to yourself in third person.
And they're always glad you came: Bring donuts. If you anticipate running into a tavern patron with a gluten allergy, become proficient in close-up magic.
You want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same: This is a tricky one. In order to ensure that everyone has the same troubles, spend several preceding nights robbing all houses within a five-mile radius. At each house, leave a calling card in ornate calligraphy, attributing the crime to a charismatic gentleman thief known only as The Copper Fox. When you are certain that The Fox's crimes have effectively damaged the morale of the entire community, burst through the tavern doors, barefoot in a wrinkled business suit, and cry out, "It's finally happened! I've been outfoxed by the Fox!" Sympathetic patrons will nod solemnly and offer you a drink to calm your jangled nerves, but the sweetest nectar of all will be the friendship you imbibe before they discover the calligraphy-ink stains on your fingers.
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Blue Hill Tavern
Segmented by awnings and gently protruding balconies, the cubic exterior of Blue Hill Tavern conceals a young yet illustrious kitchen where, as City Paper extols, "usual entrees become unusual." Critics have indeed taken note of the chic tavern’s dinner menu, whose sous-vide prepared meats and seasonal ingredients recently turned heads on Baltimore magazine’s list of top 10 eateries in 2012.
Smudges of robin's-egg blue punctuate the tavern’s two-story dining room, where pearlescent curtains shade tabletops from the afternoon sun as patrons look over the lunch menu’s gourmet sandwiches and simple bar snacks. Outside, diners peruse the wine list or head up to a balcony peppered with high-top tables, fire pits brimming with glassy blue stones, and hopscotch courts drawn with drizzles of aromatic truffle oil.