Instead of limiting themselves to one type of cuisine, S & J Crab Ranch has included two of their favorites—Maryland seafood and southern barbecue. Local flavors pile up at the raw bar, where diners can order gulf shrimp by the pound or plates of clams and seasoned mussels; however, as the restaurant’s name implies, crabs are the signature item. They can be steamed and served whole, as jumbo lump crab cakes, or in a creamy soup spiked with a bit of sherry.
Of course, the seafood seeps into the southern-inspired meals as well. A selection of classic southern sandwiches includes fried catfish with creole mustard. Regional cuisine builds out the rest of the menu, giving diners options such as slow-cooked Texas brisket, Carolina-style pulled pork, and st. louis ribs rubbed with secret spices. Even the classic American dishes take cues from S & J’s penchant for the ocean—fresh crab meat bulks up the mac ‘n’ cheese, and pulled pork and barbecue sauce enhance a pile of nachos.
Benchwarmers Pub bustles with the raucous cheers from Ravens fans watching the game on wall-mounted TVs intermingled with clinking pint glasses and ambient tunes from the Megatouch jukebox. Here patrons gather to throw back brews while snacking from a menu of classic pub food. The cooks whip up baskets of crispy fried pickles and wings smothered in fixings ranging from mild honey-barbecue to spicy 3-Mile Island sauce. Heartier fare includes half-pound cheeseburgers, quarter-pound Nathan's hot dogs, and barbecue pulled pork piled on pretzel rolls.
When they're not glued to the TV or filling their bellies, patrons can challenge one another to a friendly game of pool. Benchwarmers Pub also plays host to live DJ sets and weekly karaoke sessions, during which patrons can show support for their favorite team by belting out every song on the Rudy soundtrack.
As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s 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.