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Mar 3, 2011 03:13 AM

Corner - Hampden

Has anyone tried this place yet?

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  1. The Corner BYOB has cramped seating, condescending staff, and charges exorbitant corkage fees. My vegetarian girlfriend ordered the only vegetarian entrée on the menu, a “vegetarian plate.” About 15 minutes later two staff members returned to let us know that it was too much trouble to prepare the vegetarian plate; it takes 9 pans, they explained, and they were very busy – would she like to order something else? She could still get the vegetarian plate, they said, but she would have to wait a long time for it. That’s right – they told us it would put them out too much to actually prepare a plate of vegetables. With the only vegetarian entrée option exhausted, she was stuck with either the corn soup or the appetizer portion of risotto. We would have left if we weren’t dining with another couple. The rest of the experience fared little better. We had to pay $7 to drink the bottle of wine we had already paid for and brought ourselves. I even had to pay $1 for a box to take my uneaten food home with me! We had to ask our waiter twice for dessert menus, and the second time he had a mini-meltdown. Lastly, they didn’t volunteer to knock anything off the bill for the poor service. Corner BYOB may look hip from the outside, but inside it is poorly run. It is not classy, and it seems that the people who run it are in over their head. There are many better restaurants in Hampden that are more reasonably priced; restaurants who understand that they are nothing without their customers, and that don’t make it seem like they’re doing you a favor to prepare standard menu items.

    11 Replies
    1. re: djenkins13

      The $1 for a box to go is pretty ridiculous. I would have to disagree with you on the corkage fee though - $7 is nothing compared to standard $15-25 corkage fees found elsewhere.

      Sad to hear that this place is off to a poor start.

      1. re: mcattrone

        Asking earnestly--not argumentatively--where have you seen $15-25 corkage fees for BYOs in the Baltimore area? In states where you can bring bottles to restaurants with liquor licenses, I've seen those kinds of corkage (and much higher than that) but not in BYOs.

        1. re: chefdilettante

          I guess my comment was aimed towards other states, my apologies.

          1. re: mcattrone

            Not to get this off track, but I think any corkage charge is unacceptable in a BYOB. I'd be very upset at a $7 corkage fee.

            Here's a link to an old thread on that topic:

            1. re: JonParker

              Have friends that live in the 'hood who went and loved it, said the owners couldn't have been nicer and the food was great.
              That said, not a fan of the corkage fee, if you aren'tgoing to serve booze then why penalize me for bringing it.

              1. re: JonParker

                I guess it depends on the state liquor licensing laws. Around here, I think the restaurant liquor licenses are pretty easy to get in most neighborhoods. Usually BYOB places are hole-in-the-walls (holes-in-the-wall?) where the owner doesn't want to pay $500 a year or whatever for a liquor license and where people definitely wouldn't be willing to have $25 added to their bill.

                1. re: jvanderh

                  no idea about the corner, but liquor licenses can be extremely difficult to get and expensive. Unless it is in an business/entertainment district that is being improved, most neighborhoods have a limited amount of licenses that are available, most of which are taken. It can cost in the 10k to 100ks of dollars to purchase an existing license and transfer it to a new location. (That is why rundown bars and restaurants that arent even open are for sale for large sums, though the liquor board has cracked down on this) And the annual fee is triple what you described + extra if you provide outdoor service, entertainment, etc.


                  1. re: cosmonauts1957

                    They can be extremely difficult to get, but from what I understand, that's mostly in Federal Hill, Fells Point, and Canton, where they're not giving any new ones. I think they're also much harder to get for bars than restaurants-- I think there's a freeze on bar liquor licenses in the city, actually. But in other neighborhoods, every four-table taco joint serves beer. I don't know all the inner workings-- my intent was to explain, as a general rule, why corkage fees are probably less readily accepted here than in New York.

        2. re: djenkins13

          Went with my sister-in-law for a light dinner on April 1. I thought the seating was fine. I did not like the smell of the place when we walked in. Must've been a old neighborhood bar and they just couldn't get all the smoke smell out. As the room filled up with people and good food, the smell was not noticeable. Of course, I do have a bloodhound nose. Others may not have cared.

          We weren't interested in wine, so that wasn't a problem. I have dined at "Dish" in Tucson which is attached to a good wine store. Don't remember a corkage fee but it's been a while. Either way, I thought the set up was a great idea. No huge mark-up on the wine.

          Anyway, they had diver scallops on an asparagus and something-else risotto as a special appetizer. In addition, they had very tempting soups and it was cold that night. So...we ordered soups and 2 appetizer diver scallops. The owner said these were small portions and we should order more food but we stuck with our plan. The soups - a corn bisque with crab and a potato leek soup - were delicious and the portions were very generous! Not small portions at all! Then the diver scallops and risotto - again generous portions that could have been main dishes in other restaurants.

          So, the food was really really good! The portions were VERY generous (we saw a lot of main dishes being served, too.) We found the service good, not great, and were annoyed by the person who took our order and tried to discourage us from only ordering soup and appetizers. Everyone seemed to be truly enjoying their meal.

          I disagree with the poster below that the restaurant is off to a poor start. The food was great! The service will improve, hopefully. I urge folks to give this one a try.

          1. re: desert rat

            Is the corkage fee per bottle, per table or per person?

            1. re: hon

              ate there last night, the food was delicious and the service I have to say was great!

        3. Ate dinner there a few nights ago and were really impressed. The food was exceptional, the service was very professional (better than you can usually expect around these parts) and the atmosphere was inviting. Also, I didn't scrutinize the corkage fees but I have a feeling they dropped them since (if I'm remembering corrctly) they ranged from $1-$3 depending on the size of the bottle, or $1pp for individual drinks. Considering that one of our finest wine stores is next door and you avoid the usual markup it's totally fine by me.

          1. I went there a couple weeks ago, and had a nice dinner.
            I had two starters that were on special that day- softshell crab on fiddlehead ferns, and the housemade boudin noir on garlic mash. The softshell was delicious, pan fried without batter. The blood sausage was really wonderful- very creamy texture.
            For my main, I had the Veal Orloff- a beautiful cut of meat.
            I'm excited they are planning to start an exotic meat club here. On special the same day I was there was a kangaroo tenderloin.

            1 Reply
            1. re: 1000yregg

              My understanding is that they serve kangaroo because in Belgium horse is on many menus but the owners of the Corner (rightly) anticipated that not going over in the US. So they went with 'roo instead. Weird decision making process!

            2. The Corner in Hampden is very different than the Hampden Cafe in Bethesda. The link should be removed. Obviously, the posters are talking about the Corner Cafe because BYOB is not permitted in Montgomery County. On the other hand, this is Bernard Dehaene's new place so anyone who is suprised to see things like Kangaroo or Lion on the menu doesn't know him. Bernard has always gone his own way, fantastic chef, nice guy as a friend, but he does things his way. Anyone who at at his Mannequin Pis in Olney knows how great the food can be. As to the corkage fees, $7 is not out of line and anybody who pays corkage in DC knows that. Just be glad that you are allowed to bring a bottle, those of us who live in MoCo don't have that luxury.

              8 Replies
              1. re: dinwiddie

                Anybody who has been to Hampden knows this place is unusual for this part of town. It ain't Moco. Anyone who has been to both places would know the difference.

                1. re: maddogg280

                  Yes Hampden and MoCo are worlds apart. I hung out in Hampden for the first time 2 years ago with some old college friends and had a blast

                  1. re: maddogg280

                    Actually I was commenting on the now removed link to the Hampden Cafe in Bethesda.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      I think it's difficult to say whether a corkage fee is out of line, especially comparing one city to another or even one county to another. If people are paying a big markup at other restaurants in that area, being able to pay $10 and bring their own wine might be a luxury. If they can go to the next restaurant over and get the same bottle of wine for 15% more than they'd pay in a liquor store, they may not be so willing to pay a $10 corkage fee.

                      1. re: jvanderh

                        I posted this earlier in the thread but when I was there the corkage fee was like $3, not $7, so if that amount is turning you off from going then check first and make sure that it's accurate. Cuz it's a lovely restaurant and it deserves to do well.

                        1. re: kukubura

                          During my second visit to the Corner with my wife in a matter of days I mentioned to the server that I understand the corkage fee to be $5 for a bottle of wine.

                          He explained that is $3 per bottle plus $1 per glass--- so for two people drinking wine it is $5 and for four people with 4 glasses the charge is $7. Oops I did not bother to clarify if 2 bottles would be $6 plus $4 for glasses for 4 people but I would think that makes sense unlesss someone requested a fresh glass.

                          At any rate we loved the appetizer with the smoked salmon wrapped around ceab and lobster bits, the cream based potato soup with bits of smoked ham and leeks, and agreed the beef stew with pommes frites were all very flavorful. It seems like the kind of place where you might want to taste every item on the menu.

                          1. re: baltimorejim

                            Ah, I misunderstood. You need a slide ruler to figure that out! Either way, it's worth it. A great addition to our dining scene.

                            1. re: baltimorejim

                              What kind of glasses are they providing? If they are Reidels, I don't mind paying a $1 fee, if they are generic wine glasses that are not specific to the type of wine, I might.