As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon's Chicago-based piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
Lisa Markiewicz lends more than her zen-like surname to the wine bar and lounge she recently opened in Mount Vernon. Her extensive knowledge of pan-Mediterranean cuisine—including grecian tapas and grecian lamb chops—informs the menu at Waterstone Bar & Grille, and her love of the region’s signature libation shines through in a drink menu that features more than 100 wines sold at retail price.
The restaurant’s chic lounge space, recently opened for lunch in addition to dinner, strikes a balance between Old-World elegance and the hipness of the Mount Vernon neighborhood that surrounds it. Exposed-brick walls give way to plum pastels—a contrast mediated by the gauzy black curtains draped over windows and doorways, and the restaurant's prime location puts theaters such as the Hippodrome, Lyric, and Centerstage within close walking distance.
The Life of Reilly Irish Pub & Restaurant recreates the feel of an Emerald Isle public house. Framed jerseys decorate an exposed brick wall opposite the bar, above which flat-screen TVs showcase the latest international rugby matches. The bar itself stocks an extensive selection of Irish whiskeys, and its 10 drafts spotlight classic Irish brews such as Guinness and Magners Irish Cider.
But the kitchen's head chef, Dale Fields Jr., hasn't forgotten he lives in Baltimore. Alongside fish and chips and shepherd's pie, he underscores regional classics including a melt comprised of two mini crab cakes served on toasted english muffins. He rounds out his menu with other pub staples such as chicken quesadillas, beer-battered buffalo shrimp, and steak fries smothered with cheese and bacon.
Nestled on a street corner in the Federal Hill neighborhood, The RowHouse Grille beckons to passersby with homey feasts of freshly caught seafood, crispy fried chicken, and burgers. A misty, old-timey charm pervades the welcoming tavern, with wooden rafter beams overhead, dark varnished hardwood floors underfoot, and a silent 'e' defiantly hanging off the end of the word "Grill." Friendly tenders at two different bars pour out frosty glasses of beer from 16 taps, perfect for pairing with a plate of P.E.I. mussels or New England lobster rolls. Servers bear gifts of jerk chicken, gator po' boys, and English pea risotto, or cart out five-course sampler feasts of smoked cheese, seared scallops, bacon-wrapped steaks, and pear tartes.
While technically and metaphorically a chain restaurant, Houlihan's bedazzles its chain with glitter and winsome intrigue, boldly preparing every last bite of its savory fare by hand. Hosts of diverse ingredients culminate inside one open kitchen where professional food handlers slice, sauté, marinate, and arrange food to its tasty and aesthetic best, allowing each meal to display its individuality before being broken down into individual nutrients for absorption in the body. Casual dining is elevated by meticulously designed restaurants that pepper a patron's experience with a playlist of hand-picked tunes and customer-designed coasters that give a voice to condensation-catchers.
Luckie's menu is filled to the page brim with salads, sandwiches, and pizzas for sporty Sunday brunch-goers and late-night libationists. Sip an after-work brew and pass around a plate of buffalo, barbecue, honey mustard, or Old Bay wings ($9), or settle in for a bigger evening meal with a full rack of baby back ribs ($16), which you can pile on top of one of six pizzas ($9–$12) like the margherita ($9). Sandwiches and burgers anchor the rest of the menu with two-handed tastes such as the tuna melt with aged cheddar, sliced apples, and strips of bacon ($9).