The article below was originally posted by The Baltimore Sun.
The foccaccia at The Tilted Row arrived dusted with zaatar and uncut. It was symbolic, a manager explained, a way of “breaking bread” with the Bolton Hill community surrounding the restaurant, which opened on the first floor of a brand-new apartment building this summer.
Such overtures could easily feel like a gimmick, but instead come across as sincere at the Tilted Row, an elegant new gastropub which opened in The Jordan Apartments (formerly known as the Flats at Eutaw Place) from Washington-based Somerset Development Company. The firm partnered with Lebanese-born Ziad Maalouf, who also runs Mount Vernon’s Cafe Fili, to open the restaurant. And the strategy appears to be working. By the time the restaurant had been open two weeks, some customers had returned four or five times, Maalouf said. “It looks like a block party,” Maalouf said. “Everybody knows everybody. They’re really happy to see us here.”
While Cafe Fili serves mostly Mediterranean food, Tilted Row’s menu veers more toward Southern staples like chicken and pork chops, interspersed with a few more exotic options. Check the use of zaatar, a thyme-heavy spice blend popular in Levantine cuisine.
First impressions: The interior hits you like a brand new Birkin bag: beautiful, pristine and expensive-looking. Floors are white and tile or hardwood, countertops are marble, finishings are gold, chairs are blue and leather. Guests can sit at either a table or one of two gleaming bars, one for cocktails and another overlooking the kitchen, allowing diners to become spectators at the theater of food. At the helm is chef Andrew Thomas, formerly of the Elephant and Donna’s Cross Keys.
The open-kitchen concept ties in to the overall ethos of the restaurant, said Maalouf. “We want the whole restaurant to be part of the community, not just the front of the house.”
Must tries: The spicy Moorish eggplant appetizer accompanied by charred bread was a clear winner. A dollop of lebneh, Lebanese yogurt dip, perfectly balances the acidity of the dish. An entree of breaded crab cakes, staged on a succotash of corn, tomatoes and lima beans, made me wonder why all Maryland crab cakes aren’t served this way. (Seriously, it’s delicious: the succotash is just what you want beneath the salty crab.)
Special touches: The comprehensive cocktail program is designed by Woodberry Kitchen alum Hannah Baker. Try the “do gooder” cocktail, made with Pride vodka and orange juice — $1 goes to local charities — or the Tilted Word, made with Scotch and garnished with rock candy. There are plans to include a cocktail made with arak, a Lebanese anise liquor similar to ouzo.
Pro tip: A daily blue-plate special offers the entree of the day with a dessert for just $20, a steal. I regretted that I missed Wednesday’s “shrimp and grits” night. More regrets? The dessert of strawberry shortcake was so good that it made me wish I had also ordered the biscuit and pimento cheese for an appetizer, an opportunity to sample more of the kitchen’s delicious carbs. But there is only so much room in one’s stomach. Like the Bolton Hill regulars, I’ll be back.
Bottom line: The Tilted Row is everything you want in a neighbor — the rare spot that manages to be as glamorous as it is welcoming. No wonder Bolton Hill loves it.
305 McMechen St., Bolton Hill, 443-552-1594, thetiltedrow.com. Open for dinner Monday through Fridays, and for brunch and dinner on weekends. Accepts reservations.