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July 28, 2009

Hampden's new wine bar, 13.5%, is a hit

13.5% wine bar baltimore"Whoa."

I can't remember if I thought it or said it out loud when I first saw 13.5% (pictured). But that was my reaction.

If you walk along The Avenue, Baltimore's newest wine bar jumps right out at you. There's nothing else quite like it in Hampden. In fact, it feels almost out of place with the rest of the neighborhood -- in a good way.

13.5% is named, I'm told, after the ideal alcohol content in a bottle of wine. It's a mouthful of a name.

Inside, 13.5% is comfortably stylish and thankfully unpretentious. Call it '60s chic. I liked the hardwood floors, stone walls and low-hanging decorative metal lamps.

And based on the scene last Friday night, 13.5% already has a broad appeal. How many times do you see hipsters art, students, young professionals and well-to-do 40- and 50-somethings in the same place at the same time?

At 8 p.m., there was a wait for tables and the bar was almost full. Amie and I grabbed two of the funky, hard plastic barstools, and scanned through the menu.

The wine list, which I'm sure will rotate on a fairly regular basis, was pretty long: 15 whites by the glass, four sparkling whites, two roses, 16 glass reds and one "sweet red." Glasses were listed by price, not name, and ranged from $5 to $22. A $5 glass of wine at a trendy new wine bar? Imagine that.

If you'd rather order a bottle of wine, you can pick one from the huge rack on one of 13.5%'s walls. The bottles are listed with an $8 corkage fee, but you can take them home if you want to -- you just subtract $8 from the price tag.

13.5% also has a short but impressive draft beer list: Clipper City Gold ($4.50), Stone IPA ($6), Clay Pipe Hop-Ocalypse IPA ($7), Mama's Little Yella Pils ($8) and Saison Dupont ($10). The beer list is rounded out by 22 bottled beers. It's good to know 13.5% has something for suds lovers too.

But Amie and I didn't come to 13.5% to drink beer. Or eat food, for that matter. She ordered a surprisingly smooth Bodegas Arrocal ($11), and I got a spicier Nomade malbec ($10).

We were also surprised at the pleasant, professional bartender. Hampden isn't exactly known for its stellar service, which made our trip to 13.5% all the more enjoyable.

I'm leery of making predictions in such a downtrodden economy, but based on our night there, I'd say in time, 13.5% could become a neighborhood staple. It's certainly off to a promising start.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Nice review Sam. I'm glad to hear this place has potential. I plan on checking it out this weekend.

I was also at 13.5% Friday later on (around 10 or so) and also got the Nomade malbec (very nice.) I thought the atmosphere was great, but the servers' recommendations were a little off... maybe they'll get better with time to get to know the selections.

In the neighborhood, we just call it "the wine bar." 13.5% is too much.

on my first visit, the bartender was spectacular, and informed us we could always have a taste of a wine before we ordered a full glass, to make sure we liked it.

Do they have a wine presrvation system for their wines by the glass?

I concur with Mr. Twain, Sam. I am going to have to check this place out.

Had a nice weeknite dinner there in mostly full room with attentive staff who were professional and pleasant which is a nice change in Hampden. Under $10 paninis were tasty. Attractive space and it's a very welcome addition to the choices on the AVE. Maybe knock down those draft beer prices a bit!

who's the hottie in the picture, Sam?

Decent beer selection but those prices are laughable.

But like you said... you're not going to a wine bar for the beer!

The place is nice but the owner is a jerk

Jason Z,

You feel like checking it out Thursday? Give me a call.

Jason Z, the woman in the photo is Zita Nunes of Baltimore. It was taken for a Glimpsed! portrait.

Twain, I will email you later...

Sam, hook a brother up!

Why is there a corkage fee for a bottle of wine you're buying and drinking at the establishment? I thought corkage fees were for BYO places???

PJ- I'm guessing (hoping) that the prices on the rack bottles are retail for people coming in to get a bottle to take home. The $8 corkage would most likely still make the bottle cheaper than typical restaurant markups if you decided to have it there.

Ha to Anonymous -- we should just call it the wine bar. I can't figure out what to call it. Thirteen Point Five? Thirteen and a Half? Thirteen Five Percent?

There's definitely nothing like it in the neighborhood, but I suspect it's a little too pricey. Perhaps migrating Roland Parkers will make up the difference. I'd give it a try if they had a $5 wine night like a bunch of places in Fed Hill do.

13.5% now has lots of rockin' specials, including no corkage on some days, etc. It's all on their website. I've had a lot of fun in this place, and as mentioned, the bartenders are great.

I preferred when it was called Proof 27

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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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