Review: Wayne Mahaffey's Bistro Rx
The corner of Linwood and East Baltimore streets has had three different owners in the past five years. Bistro Rx seeks to find success were others flopped.
First was Parkside Restaurant, which, when it opened in the mid aughts, was considered “ahead” of the neighborhood.
"Ahead" meaning nearby residents were not obvious patrons for $20-roasted duck and rosemary entrees.
But shortly after Parkside's opening, the housing market crashed, the economy tanked, and Upper Canton once again became Highlandtown.
The restaurant closed, and the similarly spirited Three...[owner's ellipses] opened in its place shortly thereafter. Three thrived for a time as an upscale restaurant/bar with picturesque outdoor seating near the leafy Northeast corner of Patterson Park.
But it too shuttered earlier this year.
On Thursday, Wayne Mahaffey's Bistro Rx, officially replaced it. From the looks of things, though, little has changed at 2901 other than ownership.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. For what it is—an upscale wine bar with a hummus-and-flatbread-leaning menu—Bistro Rx makes a good first impression. But will the mobile, distinctly non-Highlandtown crowd stay loyal to Bistro Rx when a trendy new joint opens in, say, Harbor East?
Mahaffey is banking that they will, and using a formula very familiar to 2901 E Baltimore. The only changes to its previous incarnation are a few new pendant lights and two new draft taps. The beer selection is largely international, with macrobrews available only in bottle. A wine chiller sits at the corner of the bar near the only operating TV.
Overall, the atmosphere is sleek and modern. So too are the 30-something horn-rimmed glasses-wearing clientele, who sipped cocktails and nibbled on pita while Norah Jones tunes played in the background.
Drinks were reasonably priced. A tall liquor drink cost $6 and came in a pint glass. It's hard to complain about a place that serves Jack Daniels as their house whiskey. The bartenders were fast and friendly and the serving staff seemed amiable if a little stressed out over a few opening weekend kinks.
Still, if only a few tears are shed on the first weekend of business, consider it a smooth opening.
Also, the “test menu” available on Saturday did not try to do or cost too much. The most expensive dish was a $25 filet with lobster sauce. Chicken and salmon entrees were $16 and $17 a piece. Rx serves wings, but they are served with gorgonzola dip, not blue cheese, mind you.
Mahaffey's figured out a formula that works for his eponymous beer bar in Canton, with weekday and happy hour specials that highlight the bar's extensive beer selection. Here's to hoping he finds a way to make Bistro Rx stick, too.
Once Rx settles on a more permanent menu, the trick will be to get customers to come back during the winter months when the shiny newness of the place has worn off, the outdoor seating has been folded up until Spring, and the see-and-be-seen crowd has new places to be at and be seen.
- Jay Trucker.
Jay Trucker teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County. Occasionally, he wanders the Patterson Park neighborhood in search of chicken wings. He has contributed to Midnight Sun in the past.