The newest restaurant from the Bagby Restaurant Group, Cunningham's, opened on Nov. 22 in the renovated Towson City Center. Billed as a "seasonal American grill," the restaurant features wood-fired flat breads, steaks and seafood.
The previous restaurants from this group, Bagby Pizza, Ten Ten American Bistro and Fleet Street Kitchen, are all located in Harbor East. The executive chef at Cunningham's is Bagby newcomer Chris Allen, formerly of Philadelphia's Farmer's Cabinet and The Boilermaker.
I'll review Cunningham's soon, but here are my first impressions from a visit on Sunday night, just its third day of operation.
So, is Cunningham's more of a fancy restaurant with rustic trimming or a rustic restaurant with fancy trimming?
It's definitely more of a fancy restaurant with rustic trimming. Did I say "fancy"? It's downright beautiful, with bold design effects, like snow-white orchids and billowing light fixtures and that please the senses but don't overwhelm you. It's not gimmicky or overdone, just very pretty. But there are some rustic moments, particularly in the bar annex, which make the whole thing accessible.
The main dining room is divided by low risers into three discrete sections, so it doesn't feel like one gigantic space. There's a fourth room, off to the side, that's a little quieter.
Should we dress up for it?
I think you should. I think everyone should. You'll feel better if you do, and the place is so nice, you'll want to look nice in it. But we saw a guy wearing a Ravens jersey in the bar area, so there's no dress code.
What's the menu like?
It's divided into eight sections: The first section, Table, is for things that are meant to be shared but a few of these plates could easily go into the Appetizers section and vice versa. Then there are House Made Pasta & Gnocchi, which consists of four items that can be ordered as first courses or main plates; Entrees, where you'll find a duck breast, seared rockfish and a grilled chicken breast; and Wood Grill, which includes steaks, burgers and a whole Maine lobster. Then there are Market Sides, Wood-Oven Flatbreads and Raw & Chilled Seafood.
I know this isn't a formal review, just some first impressions, but did you try the food? And if so, how was it?
I did try some food. Let's say I'm excited to review this place - very, very, very excited.
Wow. But come on, give us a few tips.
Ok. Get the butternut squash toast, the ricotta gnudi and the dumplings with pork belly and shrimp.
I heard they have one of those intense bar programs where they make their own bitters and syrups. That's nice, but can my dad get a Tanqueray and tonic?
You always ask that. The answer is yes. The beverage director, Tim Riley, has put together an inviting cocktail list along with affordable selections of wine and draft beer, but you can get your old standby, too.
Sounds good, so far. How about parking?
There's complimentary valet parking in an adjacent garage. If you're on Olympic Drive, look for signs pointing to the garage entrance. They're a little ambiguous, and we weren't sure we were going the right way. A Cunningham's spokesman said the restaurant is working on making the signs more clear. But trust us, there's complimentary valet parking in the garage.
Is it expensive?
It's not crazily expensive. The flatbread pizzas, which you could share at the bar and call it dinner, are $13. And the entrees are in the mid-$20s. But, if you wanted to make a special evening out of dinner at Cunningham's, like for an anniversary, there's a $65 36-ounce dry-aged "Tomahawk" steak with bone-marrow gremolata with your name on it.
So, should we wait until they work out the kinks, or make reservations now?
You know what, go ahead and make reservations now, or just show up at the bar for a weeknight bite. This place opened as "ready for company" as any place I've seen.
Cunningham's is open for dinner daily.
The restaurant is at 1 Olympic Place in Towson. For information call 410-244-1311 or go to cunninghamstowson.com.
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