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)