Pen & Quil opened Monday at The Chesapeake

Pen & Quil opened Monday at The Chesapeake (photo courtesy Pen & Quill / August 12, 2014)

The original Chesapeake Restaurant was a Baltimore dining institution for more than 50 years until it closed in the late 1980s.

After a 24-year dormancy, the doors at 1701 North Charles St. opened in June 2013, with a new restaurant, named The Chesapeake, which was operated by the property's developer, Ernst Valery, and his partners.

Valery closed The Chesapeake in May and turned the restaurant space over to the Karzai family, the restaurateurs behind The Helmand (which is named, partly, after the family's oldest son, Helmand Karzai), B, a Bolton Hill Bistro and Tapas Teatro.

The Karzai's new restaurant, which is named Pen & Quill, began dinner service on Monday. 

We figured you’d have some questions, so we went to see Pen & Quill for ourselves. It's too early to give it a full review, but here's what things look like so far. 

Can you go over the Chesapeake thing again?

Sure. The original Chesapeake Restaurant was a dining institution, a restaurant for special occasions but also for random, weekly visits.

In its prime, the restaurant rambled across first and second floors of what had originally been five former townhouses. The restaurant space that opened in 2013, which is now called Pen & Quill, occupies only the ground level of the two southern-most buildings.  

And the restaurant right before Pen & Quill was called The Chesapeake?

Yes, and maybe, looking back, that wasn't a great idea. Because it raised people's expectations.

What if, from here on in, you just called that restaurant the New Chesapeake? 

That's a great idea.

OK, beside its new non-expectation-naming name, what else makes Pen & Quill different from the New Chesapeake? 

There are cosmetic changes, some of them subtle, some of them pretty emphatic. The half-wall that ran almost the whole length of the main dining room has been removed. That's a major thing, because now the space has great energy. It feels like a place you want to be.

What else?

There is some new furniture and new wall treatments. Like I said, some of it's subtle, but what seemed like a problematic space before now doesn't.

How about the menu?

That's different, too, but it's not a radical departure from the menu at its immediate predecessor. There are your basic tavern snacks, small plates and entrees. There is also a hamburger, a lobster roll and a pulled pork-cheek sandwich. 

Is there a theme?

No, and that's good. The New Chesapeake tried to promote itself as a farm-to-table restaurant, and it just felt awkward.