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November 5, 2009

Is it a gastropub? Or a bistro bar? Or...

ReserveSurfTurf.jpgWe've talked about gastropubs at length before, and the consensus seems to be good idea, terrible name.

But a couple of things came up just now that made me want to bring up gastropubs again.

First, scottbbfm and Lissa introduced the concept of fine-dining bars, or rather I introduced it, scottbbfm pointed it out and Lissa gave it a name I love. ...


Now I'm obsessed with having a Top 10 list of fine-dining bars. Nominations for the list accepted below.

Then this excellent story appeared in the Denver Post. Although there are only two gastropubs in Denver, so we know that the writer has no right to call it a local trend until he comes up with one more, I like the discussion of the word itself.

"The first half is Greek and the other half Latin, but never mind that," [a language expert] says. "The gastro part evokes acid and drastic and the Astros, and gastropod, more than it does gastronomy. A gastropod is a snail or a slug or a limpet — an animal whose one leg, pod, extends more or less from its stomach, gastro. Then there's ghastly. Not to mention gas."

Amazingly, some people actually defend the word in the story. Don't you prefer the term "fine-dining bars"? Or at least "bistro bars"?

It seems to me there's no advantage to calling your bistro bar a gastropub unless you really want to convey some sort of Britishness. And I can't think of a bar in Baltimore that wants to do that.

(Kim Hairston/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:06 AM | | Comments (23)


How about a poll?

Oh, Dahlink, you always say the right thing. EL

Welcome to Slug Pub, where we dump salt on everything.

Nominees: Victoria Gastro Pub, of course; Metropolitan Coffeehouse & Wine Bar in Federal Hill has an upscale menu and booze list; I tend to take out-of-towners to John Steven Ltd. when we want both good beer and good food; don't overlook the food menu at Duda's Tavern--sometimes excellent if unpretentious entrees on the specials; and of COURSE The Brewers Art....... above and beyond that? Let me think. Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City has been recommended to me........... Heck, even DuClaw Brewing has upped their food menus considerably from just regular restaurant food.

I think you could throw Abbey Burger Bistro on the list, though I'm not sure if that qualifies as "fine-dining." Better than standard fare, though.

Did anyone else notice that Argyll has prawn mac & cheese?

Methinks Top 10 Gourmet Mac & Cheese might be necessary.

One-Eyed Mike's

Mitch- LOVE the idea of top 10 Gourmet Mac & Cheese. I nominate the Lobster Mac & Cheese at Mustang Bowling Alley on Bank St. And (yes, another plug for my current favorite food porn) the Mac & Cheese & Chocolate at Jack's Bistro in Canton. Come to think of it, Jack's likley belongs on this top 10 also.

Annabel Lee and Yellow Dog Tavern. Both serve upscale and fresh food in a casual bar setting.

We went to Sonsie Tuesday evening, and I think it has a gastro-pub vibe. Everyone in Atlantic City seems to be offering Lobster mac & cheese, but we're finding more interesting stuff.

Salt considers itself a "New American Tavern" aka gastropub.

I have only ever been to the Victoria gastro pub. We love it. very tasty.

Linneaus here.

I simply can't live with a category that would include both Peter's Inn and Duda's Tavern.

Here's the phrase in my head for separating one from the other : ''presence of the chef." If you can feel the presence of the chef (it could be simply because she is identified on the menu but not necessarily), then it's one thing. Otherwise not.

Also, and I don't think I'm kidding, it must be in the city. Victoria Gastro Pub does not count as a gastropub.

So, on one side:

Peter's, Henningers, Salt, Jack's, Brewer's Art, Hamilton Tavern

On the other:

Duda's, DuClaw, John Steven

In the middle:

One Eyed Mike's (which is adept at riding the middle rail)

Miss Irene's, definitely. A cheese plate, charcuterie tray, upscale entrees and definitely an upscale atmosphere.

I think there has to be a set of qualifications and disqualifications. The DQ's are probably easier to come up with:

-Trendy painted walls and lighting fixtures: that excludes Miss Irene's maybe Salt and a lot of gastro-pubs

-Suburban locations: Du Claws out.

I think there needs to be some non-polished wood in the restaurant. That may throw Jack's out - its debateable.

Can't be bigger than a couple of row houses wide.

-Has to have a significant 'specials' list or weekly menus. I like the "presence of the chef" idea

Lucas may need to be included on this list.

I think Lucas could be placed in this category. Haven't been in a while but they have some interesting menu concepts.

I think they should be called "bar and grille." It's the silent e on the end of grille that lets you know it's fine dining.

Yes, presence of the chef. No to 70% of the places folks have mentioned so far. Being able to competently cook a rare burger rare does not a fine dining bar make.

I'm not advocating for DuClaw's food, but I do believe there is one in Fell's Point. (notice how confidently I've identified the neighborhood!)

Point taken.

One more time, RayRay. Does Fells have an apostrophe or not? I always get confused on that point.

Fells Point is 100% official
If you own a business, run an organization, publish a newsletter, you can call it Fell's of course -- this is still America.

From the US Board on Geographic Names (caution : time suck) Web Site's FAQ

Q..I have heard that the use of the apostrophe “s”, such as Pike’s Peak

A. (Pikes Peak in the database) to show possession is not allowed in geographic names, so why are there many such entries in the GNIS Database?
Since its inception in 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has discouraged the use of the possessive form—the genitive apostrophe and the “s”. The possessive form using an “s” is allowed, but the apostrophe is almost always removed. The Board's archives contain no indication of the reason for this policy.

However, there are many names in the GNIS database that do carry the genitive apostrophe, because the Board chooses not to apply its policies to some types of features. Although the legal authority of the Board includes all named entities except Federal Buildings, certain categories—broadly determined to be “administrative”—are best left to the organization that administers them. Examples include schools, churches, cemeteries, hospitals, airports, shopping centers, etc. The Board promulgates the names, but leaves issues such as the use of the genitive or possessive apostrophe to the data owners.

Myths attempting to explain the policy include the idea that the apostrophe looks too much like a rock in water when printed on a map, and is therefore a hazard, or that in the days of “stick–up type” for maps, the apostrophe would become lost and create confusion. The probable explanation is that the Board does not want to show possession for natural features because, “ownership of a feature is not in and of itself a reason to name a feature or change its name.”

Since 1890, only five Board decisions have allowed the genitive apostrophe for natural features. These are: Martha's Vineyard (1933) after an extensive local campaign; Ike's Point in New Jersey (1944) because “it would be unrecognizable otherwise”; John E's Pond in Rhode Island (1963) because otherwise it would be confused as John S Pond (note the lack of the use of a period, which is also discouraged); and Carlos Elmer's Joshua View (1995 at the specific request of the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names because, “otherwise three apparently given names in succession would dilute the meaning,” that is, Joshua refers to a stand of trees. Clark’s Mountain in Oregon (2002) was approved at the request of the Oregon Board to correspond with the personal references of Lewis and Clark.

wake me up before you go go

Very informative post. Looking forward to my nexy visit.

Sir Laurence Olivier~ Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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