Over the years, Mount Vernon’s City Cafe has adroitly kept up with, or been just ahead of, changing tastes.
When it opened 1994, on the ground floor of a four-story office building, City Cafe was very much a neighborhood coffeehouse, with a limited menu and an informal atmosphere that encouraged long, lingering visits.
In 1996, City Cafe annexed an adjoining storefront space and expanded seating and kitchen capacities. More changes, cosmetic and otherwise, continued on both sides, including the 1998 acquisition of a liquor license and the addition of an eight-stool cocktail bar in the annex.
But the original side, which always remained a more casual option, had started in the past year or so to feel like space that wasn’t being used to its full potential, according to its owners, Bruce Bodie and Gino Cardinale. The coffeehouse culture that had fueled the space’s early success had moved on.
So Cardinale and Bodie decided to try something new.
Now after months of remodeling, the original space is back open, with a new, subdued, lounge-like look, and a new name — City Bar, or formally, City Bar at City Cafe. The space opened a few weeks back, on the night of the monument lighting, but its official unveiling is Wednesday.
There is not a separate menu for the City Bar, but one might be added later. The new bar does area have its own cocktail list. It also has a bigger selection of draft beers than the cocktail bar, which the owners say will remain as it is.
“They’re two different bars, with different moods,” said Bodie.
“Our original bar opened primarily to serve drinks to the dining guest,” Bodie said. “Over the years, it developed a slew of regulars, but with only eight stools and a half dozen tables, it was too small for anybody new to get to the bar most of the time.”
On a cold Wednesday night, there appeared to be plenty of customers for both bars. The new bar area can more easily accommodate large groups of friends and a happy hour crowd, while the old cocktail bar has a more intimate and cosmopolitan vibe. On our way out, we saw the mayor perched there with a few companions.
Bodie said he wants City Bar to be equally comfortable for daytime and nighttime visits. There will no longer be counter service, Bodie said, but guests are still invited to linger as long as they want. By day, diners can come in for breakfast, lunch or coffee. And at night, they can order from the dinner menu, or come in for drinks, as they like.
And they can stay later. City Bar will stay open until midnight on weeknights and 1:30 a.m. on weekends.
City Bar at City Cafe is at 1001 Cathedral St. For information call 410-539-4252 or visit citycafebaltimore.com.