Beaux Arts Beauty With Contemporary Charm
By Christine Fillat
The Sagamore Pendry hotel, home to the Rec Pier Chop House, stands alone, a Beaux Arts giantess among the 18th and 19th century row houses, rowdy bars and cobblestone streets of historic Fells Point.
When the hotel was built in 1914, she was known as the Baltimore Recreation Pier. The building has been used for a variety of purposes, both industrial and civic. Once upon a time, you may have stored cargo here, or danced in the glittering ballroom, shot some hoops or played shuffleboard. Tugboats were once moored alongside her, and, most famously, she posed as Baltimore Police headquarters in the television show Homicide: Life on the Street. Today, the Rec Pier is alive again, reborn as a luxurious boutique hotel and Italian steak house. We have Kevin Plank, founder, CEO and chairman of Under Armour, to thank for resuscitating this beauty.
This monumental superstructure is made contemporary through the design talents of Patrick Sutton, interior designer. Sutton played with opposites, softening the industrial heavy iron beams and brick of the original building with floor to ceiling drapes, tufted booths and lovely lighting. The floor in the bar is a ravishing pattern sourced from Venice’s Doge’s Palace. The dining room’s most graceful feature is a huge glass arch spanning the entire wall and looking out onto Thames Street. Consider yourself lucky to get a table with this view.
The chef at Rec Pier Chop House at the Pendry is Andrew Carmellini, noted Italian chef involved with many New York City restaurants. He has created a menu that is solidly classic Italian steakhouse.
We are encouraged to share our plates. This is a welcome suggestion, because you are going to want to try a few things. The creamy burrata is just that: creamy with a classic peperonata. The steak tartare is fresh and light, with hints of onion, hazelnuts and aromatic truffle, such a delight in Italian cuisine. Wild yellowfin tuna crudo, also delicious, is served with a black olive aioli.
Carmellini’s pastas are very good. Orecchiette with sausage is hearty with a lovely bite from the broccoli rabe. Linguini with crab is mighty spicy and mighty tasty.
The aged prime beef is sourced from Virginia and Nebraska, and offered with a choice of sauces. We chose horseradish cream to go with our 16-ounce boneless rib eye, presented exactly medium rare. Served with truffle fries, this is what steak house dining is all about. If only we had enough room to try the Maryland rockfish cacciatore or the fire-roasted chicken al limone or the adventurous 38-ounce tomahawk chop (at $125, serves two). That will have to be saved for a future visit.
Most of the meal is perfection. The table-side prepared Caesar salad, however, is uninspired. The preparation is done without any special attention, and the salad is a bit under-dressed. Would that it had more lemony-ness, more eggy-ness, more garlicy-ness, more parmesan cheesiness. Then it would have been great.
For dessert, we order the “noce” sundae. Cool and creamy, made of maple gelato, toffee, and praline, this is a delightful ending to a very good meal.
Our major complaint? The servers were quick to whisk away our plates. There was a nice large piece of home-made focaccia on our bread plate when it was lifted away, never to return. We, like many diners, like to linger over every single morsel. Why not let us keep the focaccia for the whole meal, along with the bread plates? Is this practice an an effort to appear to be attentive, to not let the diner feel ignored? We would like to be asked first.
A lot of our fellow diners were celebrating a special occasion. If it’s your birthday, or some other big event, you are presented with a mini tabletop Botero pony, shooting sparklers. The horse is an amusing homage to the 3500-pound bronze Botero equine sculpture commanding the hotel courtyard. It’s details like this that make dining at The Rec Pier Chop House at Pendry a real event. The dining room is beautiful. The food is quite good. Probably, one of the best parts of dining here is simply the environment. “One thing I love about the restaurant,” says Sutton, “is sitting there on a Saturday night across from the massive glass arch and watching the cobblestone streets filed with life as people come and go. It is truly a dinner and a show.”
The Chop House at the Pendry is certainly worth a visit. Luxurious and stylishly fashionable, with a good dose of classic charm.
REC PIER CHOP HOUSE
at the Sagamore Pendry
1715 Thames Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
Breakfast: Mon-Sun, 7 am–11 am
Brunch: Sat & Sun, 10 am–3 pm
Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11:30 am–3 pm
Dinner: Mon-Sun, 5 pm–11 pm
Christine Fillat lives on the Magothy River and is an aficionado of Chesapeake Bay cooking and living.
Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 9, No. 2 2018