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November 17, 2008

Our night at the Abbey Burger Bistro

Friday night, Amie, a couple friends and I went to the Abbey Burger Bistro for dinner and drinks.

We ended up getting dinner and drinks -- just not in that order.

When we got there around 7:30 p.m., the downstairs was packed. The only open seats were a couple barstools, which we claimed.

We waved down a bartender and ordered drinks: Amie had the house pinot noir, which was served in a stubby, stemless glass. I had a light, wheaty Reading Ale.

Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Abbey, and the upstairs dining room wasn't ready for people yet the night we were there.

So we camped out at the bar, and waited for a table to open up. After about 20 minutes, one did.

But a couple who had arrived after us swooped in and sat down at the table before we could ...


When told the couple we were there first, they said the server sat them, and if we have a problem with that, talk to the server. We did have a problem with that, and when we confronted the server about it, he reluctantly made the couple move. We apologized for the confusion as he was seating us, and he mumbled something to the effect of, "Well, you're the ones doing the review, so ..."

Now, I don’t exactly keep my identity a secret. If you’ve seen the photo of me that accompanies this column, you already know that. But this was the first time I’ve been out for a nightlife column and a bar has not only spotted me but told me they know I’m there for a review. It was awkward and unnecessary.

Whether or not we were there to review the place, we still deserved that table. That server can mutter all he wants -- we waited our turn just like everybody else.

As the name suggests, the Abbey specializes in high-end burgers. But the kitchen is still getting up to speed – it took about 90 minutes for our four burgers to arrive. No biggie, though. When you’re in a bar with a big drink list, it’s easy to kill time.

(Photo by Doug Kapustin/Sun photographer) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:38 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I haven't tried to get a table there yet, cause I'm more of a sit-at-the-bar kind of guy, but the two experiences (wed/sat nights) I have had there are both positive. Obviously, as with any bar that's been open less than 10 days there are going to be kinks to work out- and one of them may be a seating arrangement for guests that are dining. But in my opinion, they are doing pretty well for being brand new. The amount of time I waited for a burger wednesday night was reasonable, given it was madde fresh and cooked to order (less than 20 minutes) and like you said, there are plenty of liquid distractions! We actually did a little beer tasting of sorts, with each of us getting a different bottle of beer, and splitting it between smaller glasses that the barstaff readily provided.

All places that are new have to work out different kinks, and the Abbey is no exception. I for one think its doing pretty well, given how long its been open, and am excited to have a new, fun place to go to in Fed hill.

I guess fame does have its price, sam! I for one promise to "pretend" not to recognize you :)


Given this establishment’s forte is burgers, this posting is devoid to any mention of quality or satisfaction to be derived from your and Amie’s repast. Well, how wasthe very late arriving meal? and what stood out?

For a service industry, apparently a lot of eateries places, like this one, don't seem reward their patrons with much civility or promptness after having waited 20 minutes or more to be seated. A fair number of family and friends wouldn’t wait 90 minutes with good grace for a meal to arrive, particularly hamburgers. The extensive offerrings from the bar wouldn’t be enough to compensate. They most likely wouldn’t return and, if were willing try get it another chance, not if they had to get out in less than 90 minutes. Isn’t the idea to build a clientele of repeat customers?

If your name was on a higher waiting list to be seated, the waiter should known, at least, to button his lip, particularly if thought you were there to review, and had no consideration to possible tip, which has been discussed elsewhere.

Even new places, for a lot people, first impressions are important.

Mather, my worst fear is that I'll get bloated on fame, much like Orson Welles.

Well, he got bloated on fame and food. I hear that dude ate two steaks and drank a bottle of scotch with dinner. Mmm ...


What about a rating on the food?

Welles, whatever he got fat on, like 5 boiled chickens at one sitting, it wasn't on fame. He himself regarded his career as starting at the top (Citizen Kane) and working his way down.

He rarely had studio backing on any of this fims after "The Magnificent Ambersons".
He usually had to raise or make the money himself.

If seating is first come, first served ... why is there someone seating people? I'm picturing the self-seating style of Dog Pub.

Fair or not, you'd think if they knew you were reviewing the place they would have expedited your order a bit. New or not, a 90 minute wait for burgers is just crazy.

We asked one server when we got there if there was a list, and she said no, first come first served. So we asked a table who was waiting for their check if we could have their table when leaving.... which they tried to give us, and then apparently another couple that came later had asked a different server for their table. The trouble that night was differnet people said differen;t things- its either first come first serve or its a waitlist. Hopefully they'll pick one and go with it. Thirsty dog is a great example of first come first serve- cant have a bone to pick with anyone if you grab a table first, regardless of who came when.

hahahahaha! all these Federal Hill people pushing and shoving for a burger joint and a lite beer. "hey! that's my table, Bra!"
and Sam, if the waiter offers you "one wafer thin mint" say no.

So... where's the review? :) I don't see it anywhere.

Who wants to go out and hawkishly wait for a table so they can wait 90 minutes for an over priced hamburger. Oh wait, you did Sam, but, it's your job to do that. Thanks for taking the bullet for me buddy, I'm never going there if I have to fight for my table. Sheesh.

I checked it out last Thursday and had a pretty damn good burger. The nacho waffle fries were pretty sweet too.
We did have a bit of issues with the timing and a disappearing waiter but it was understandable with it being the first couple days open. In that case, a free beer does do wonders.

I don't like that the burgers don't come with fries and that adds another $2-3. At least you get tomatoes for free (unlike Mothers)

Locust Point Man- I feel your pain. I have to pay for my tomatoes too...however we just dropped the price to 50 cents. You are welcome to still snicker...but I thought I should let you know as it was this blog that made them reconsider the $1 smackdown.
And I haven't eaten at the Abbey yet but i go there every night after work to support Russ. I will try the food this week.

An item to investigate.

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I had a burger at the Abbey today and it took less than 10 minutes due to the fabolous bartender Michelle, even though I doubt it had anything due to her making the burger. The burger was delish'. The chipwich ice cream sandwich was good as well. I wish Russ the best.

I had a burger at the Abbey last week, before the full menu was rolled out. It was just a basic burger, but it was definitely one of the best I've ever had.

In all fairness to the Abbey, the first few weeks of a restaurant opening are usually complete chaos. I know from experience. Everything is new to everyone--the computer system, the menu, table numbers, fellow servers, etc, etc. It takes a little while for everything to jive. An experience on one of the first Friday nights is not a very fair reprensentation of what's to come. I think, once all the kinks are worked out, the Abbey will do very well.

Now the fun part - figuring out which posters are friends of the establishment trying to drum up business, and which are true customers.

Go go Midnight Sun truth-o-meter.

Sam, LOVE the blog. But the constant talk about your picture is too much! It may have affected your outings a bit, but does it matter to your readers? None of your readers are going to have this type of issue when they go's a scenario unique to you, and I'm not sure it's a relevant part of the review. Skip the self-involved navel-gazing, and tell us what the place is like.

Ashely -- constant talk? I brought it up in this review because this was the first time anyone has called me out about it.

I wrote about it a lot a few months back when they decided to make me a semi-public figure. But otherwise, I don't rarely bring it up.

Ashley, as a fellow nightlife columnist I feel Sam's pain. Where as I have been out of the closet as a columnist for awhile, it's rude of someone at the establishment in such a disrespectful way.
The bottom line is that any review is good for business but to call the reviewer out in public shows no class.
Personally, if I had heard that waiter or whatever mumble that under their breath, I would have just left. No review, no free publicity. Managers of bars and rests. need to tell their people, look if you see a reviewer you recognize, just treat them like any other customer.
Sam seems to have a lot more patience that I would have.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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