August 15, 2008

Review: The Owl Bar

Just down the street from Brewer's Art in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood, inside the lobby floor of the Belvedere Hotel is The Owl Bar. It is so named because during Prohibition days it was a speakeasy and the giant owl structures overlooking the bar would signal impending raids.

Today there are no such worries, and they are but a bit of the many eclectic items decorating this old bar and dining establishment. They have mounted zebra and other animal heads, other assorted owls, etc. on display throughout. The brickwork near the ceiling is rather elaborate and notes to a much different era than our own. There are some cozy booths to sit down in, but most of the dining is between the booths and the bar, with tables galore. They also have a brick oven off to the side for the in-house pizzas. Nice touch.

The bar itself is loooooooong, with two rows of tap handles at opposite ends of the bar. They have the usual all audiences stuff like Stella Artois and Sam Adams, but also a few craft offerings. Those include two in-house brews, the "Owl Pale" and the Ole something or other I've since forgotten. Also: Troegs Troegenator seems to be a regular, and I saw a Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, a Shiner Hef and a Leinenkugel Summer Wheat available. Nothing too fancy, but enough to intrigue.

The dining menu looked solid as well, including Bang Bang Shrimp which I need to try at some point. Happy Hour is impressive as myself and my guest were able to turn jumbo portions of nachos and Old Bay wings plus four pints for less than $18. The Old Bay wings were new to me, but our bartender sold us on having to try them to be a true Baltimorean. They were delicious, with more of a salty flavor than an old bay flavor, but the key was the wings being fried. Not enough places do that right, there was no slimy skin or slightly undercooked chicken meat to be found, just moist, crispy skin and meat.

The Owl Bar is listed at Beer Advocate, so they're seen as a place to enjoy craft beers, but they're far from the first place I'd go. They did have some stuff I don't see often which is part of the appeal, but they also make sure to cater to all audiences which isn't the worst business decision ever. The rest of the experience is quite nice and worthy of more visits, partaking in the history of the place and drinking downtown somewhere other than Fell's Point or Canton.


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