Now that Baltimore’s ESPN Zone is closing—the original location, no less, which has served Buds to backwards baseball-capped brahs for more than a decade—where is a sports-and-beer fan to go for a filling meal before an Orioles game?
Here’s a thought. Forego the big-screen TVs and take a stroll up the hill away from the tourist-laden Inner Harbor, through the historic neighborhood of Mount Vernon—maybe stopping to admire the Colonial architecture and massive monument to George Washington, or just hightailing it past the historic Belvedere Hotel to The Brewer’s Art.
Upon the enthusiastic recommendation from Good. Food. Stories. Guy Correspondent Max Rudy, Dan and I snuck in a quick but satisfying trip to this Baltimore gastropub before Friday’s baseball game.
Under the original cornice mouldings and imposing mantelpiece making up the bar back in the front parlor room, we chose wisely from the multiple offerings on the bar menu: the country ham flatbread, a heavenly pillow topped with 18-month Benton Smoky Mountain ham and herb-flecked mascarpone cheese, liberally studded with bourbon-soaked cherries and flecked with black pepper honey and pickled mustard seeds.
Wow. What a list of ingredients, and what a satisfying effect they made when combined. Singly, the ham was salty and smoky (beautifully so, but still), the cherries were soft and sweet, the cheese was smooth and tangy—but together, they hit every single tastebud in just the right proportion.
Dan kept looking at me as I couldn’t help but keep smelling the ham, lifting the flatbread up to my nose to take a big whiff. But even he and his big plate of cheeseburger and rosemary garlic fries couldn’t resist snagging a piece. My poor chili dog (one of Baltimore’s own Binkert’s Debreziner sausage in a pretzel bun, housemade pepper jack Cheez Whiz, sweetly pickled peppers, and crushed Fritos, all overwhelmed by sadly too-cumin-flavored chili) didn’t even stand a chance.
Even the world’s most perfect country ham flatbread needs something to wash it down, and we luckily managed to lap up a few of the artisanal brews that are the restaurant’s hallmark. Ozzy, a crisp summery Belgian-style brew, and Resurrection, a smooth brown ale, were deceptively refreshing on a humid day, especially when you consider they both hover around 7 percent abv. We supplemented these heavy hitters with two lower-abv seasonal specialties: the light and floral Chaimper’s Ale, and Zodiac, a pale ale that changes monthly with the current astrological calendar. My Gemini was fruity and clean with a hoppy wallop coming in at the end.
For a more refined meal that would still go perfectly with a frosty goblet, a spacious dining room behind the bar rooms has a heartier menu that still maintains the insouciance of the bar vibe: rabbit pot pie, Utz-crusted cod (yes, Utz as in the regional potato chip brand), and chicken brined in the house’s Ozzy beer.
But if you’re in or around Charm City, it’s your patriotic duty to get thee to The Brewer’s Art for a taste of the country ham flatbread. It’s almost worth missing three innings of a baseball game to eat. (Not that we did that, nosirree, we would never.)