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B&O American Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco, Baltimore

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Ichabod Aug 20, 2009 01:52 PM

I had lunch today in the B&O Brasserie, the restaurant in the brand new Hotel Monaco in the B&O Railroad building in downtown Baltimore. The building appears to have been meticulously restored. The restaurant is a two-level, modern space -- the bar, an open kitchen, and a few tables on the first level; most of the seating is on the second. It's a beautiful spot with lots of dark colors, leather, and a mix of banquettes and tables. They don't have a menu posted online yet so I was a little in the dark until we got there.

The menu has both creative and traditional American-esque choices. I had some excellent gazpacho with crab meat; my companion had a very disappointing seafood "chowder" (though it lacked seafood and wasn't a chowder). The menu includes a list of flatbreads, which I had and really liked, and some routine and not-so-routine sandwiches (turkey club, burgers, chicken breasts).

I am anxious to go back and try some of the other things: some of the other small plate appetizers sound good, the salads look interesting, etc. I'd like to hear some other opinions.

Service was very attentive. Prices are on the high side.

  1. p
    Phillyfan77 Nov 23, 2009 12:35 PM

    We went to the B&O American Brasserie this past Friday night. I wasn't overly impressed and even a little disappointed.

    We've heard great reviews about this restaurant, but I think that Baltimore is so starved for good restaurants that people have significantly overrated this place.

    The food was good, but nothing exciting. I had the Char which was quite good, but the octopus it was served with was very overcooked. My wife had the scallops and mussels which was also good and probably the best meal at the table. The flatbreads were creative and tasty, specifically the one with the shrimp. I still don't get the whole pizza/flatbread fine dining thing, but it tastes good, so I go with it. Here's the deal - the food was not anything better or worse than we have had at other Baltimore restaurants. The menu was sophisticated, yet lacking creativity and originality. One plus in my book - no crab cake on the menu (It amazes me how many people insist on eating crab cakes whenever they go out to eat, regardless of restaurant)

    The service was poor. The host and hostesses were confused, the waiters and waitresses couldn't figure out which table to work and the head chef was busing tables. It was strange.

    Finally, they had a very clever drink menu, but couldn't execute. I had one of their specialty cocktails, but they over killed the bourbon with way too much syrup. Wine list is satisfactory.

    Would I go back? Not right now. I would have to hear their service improved and that the menu became a little more interesting. Otherwise, if I have a craving for a meal that B & O offers, I will stick to Woodberry Kitchen.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Phillyfan77
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      chefgf25 Nov 23, 2009 12:54 PM

      If it's any consolation, Friday evening the restaurant was slammed due to a sold out concert at the arena. When I arrived Friday, the bar was six deep. The managers as well as the bartenders were serving drinks. They, at one point , were out of al light beer although it was later restocked. The first floor was mobbed. Not to blame the service confusion entirely on the concert overflow, but personally I felt they were completely overwhelmed by the crowd, esp. if it normally is not that crowded. Poor preparation on management’s part however it could explain for your lack of service. It was my first trip to B&O as well, I was one of the many headed to first mariner arena that night that stopped beforehand for drinks. The food that floated by look great and I will be back on (hopefully) a not so crazy night.

      1. re: chefgf25
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        Zevonista Nov 23, 2009 03:24 PM

        Funny, I tried to get a reservation here before the Springsteen concert, but didn't succeed. Sounds like it's just as well. We'll give it a try another night when they hopefully aren't slammed.

        1. re: Zevonista
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          jck Nov 24, 2009 10:26 AM

          I also was a pre-concert cocktailer this Friday for my first visit. They were so slammed at the bar .....it was silly almost. I saw nothing but the pizzas coming out but they looked pretty good. Of course, it is only pizza. The layout of the first floor is great and I never peeked past my Dogfish Head 60 IPA to view 2nd floor. To say they should have expected the crush is kinda hard since they are so new and the crowd downtown that night was different than they will ever see again...truly. If you go, there is great parking 2 blocks north at 222 Charles on left ($6).

    2. y
      yummyseeker Nov 8, 2009 04:15 PM

      My husband and I went there for dinner about a month ago and really loved it. The restaurant has a modern yet warm atmosphere and the food was excellent -- sort of luxurious comfort food. The hotel to which the restaurant is attached is beautiful and grand in a very turn-of-the century, awe-inspiring style and really adds to the experience of the visit. The one downside was that the service was very slow but for the ambiance and quality of food, I would definitely go back. I'm hoping that with the awful state of the economy there is still enough demand for this type of restaurant to stay open in Baltimore.

      1. Make Me Dinner Nov 8, 2009 01:45 PM

        Jon and I made it over here for lunch a few days ago and really enjoyed it. As you can see, he lost the coin toss and thus had to write up our visit to Pazo last night; I get the much happier task of going over B&O.

        We got there on the late side, around 2:00, and were seated at one of the downstairs tables. The space itself is lovely, and manages to create an intimate atmosphere at the table (downstairs, at least - I didn't get to see much of the upstairs) within the restaurant's two-story open space design.

        We started off with the steak tartare appetizer. It was served with house-made potato chips that were a perfect complement to (and vehicle for) the meat, which was delicious - seasoned just enough to bring out the flavor without overwhelming it. For lunch itself, Jon had the Meatball Flatbread, a roughly 12" pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and (surprise!) meatballs. Very tasty, and more than enough for us to share. I had the Grain Salad - quinoa, faro, lentils, and a few other ingredients that I'm forgetting in a chilled, creamy dressing. It wasn't entirely what I was expecting (I'd thought it would be something more like tabbouleh) but it was very well done and I'd order it again, though probably as a warm-weather lunch.

        While we both thought that the lunch menu could have been somewhat more extensive, we liked what we had well enough to make plans to go again for dinner sometime soon. If we were smarter, it would have been last night, but that's Jon's territory.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Make Me Dinner
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          ronandaim Nov 8, 2009 06:47 PM

          Any word on the average lunch price?

          1. re: ronandaim
            JonParker Nov 9, 2009 10:25 AM

            Pizzas and sandwiches were around $9-12 I think. There were some entrees in the mid-teens.

            Two things I'll add to Courtney's post. One is that the tartare was really excellent -- a very nice dish. The house made chips were paper thin and perfectly cooked.

            The other is that they really need to come up with a new name for the grain salad. She was originally brought a green salad instead, and our waiter said that it was a common error. Naming it something doesn't sound like another dish would make it easier on the staff and the customers.

            1. re: JonParker
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              hon Nov 9, 2009 10:29 AM

              a much better food outing then Pazo!

        2. r
          ronandaim Oct 27, 2009 03:42 PM

          Ichabod, what is your definition of expensive when it refers to lunch? How much is a sandwich? I work like a block from there and have been wanting to check it out. Thanks.

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            a70wilson Oct 26, 2009 06:13 PM

            We stopped by for happy hour tonight, but ended up having dinner. The Monday special is a mixed grill that is served as a ceramic pig with charcoal that a grill grate is placed over, which allows you to continue to cook your food (tonight it was sausage, shrimp and steak). Super fun, and the boy said it was also tasty. He also enjoyed the pork croquettes app which he said were moist, but maybe could have been a bit spicier.

            I had the ricotta gnocchi with squash puree, sage, and anoki mushrooms (I think they were anoki - mushrooms of some sort). So so tasty.

            The beverages were creative. Monday's $5 special drink for happy hour was a pear martini type thing. $5 instead of the usual $12.

            It was on the expensive-side, but the space is beautiful, the service was great (we had our 17 month old with us...I am not sure I'd bring her again, but mac n' cheese gnocchi app came out quickly and when we asked for bread, it came right away). I am also interested in going back and trying a salad or flat bread.

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