Shoo-Fly, the new restaurant from Amy and Spike Gjerde, opened Friday in Belvedere Square. The timing coincides with both the re-opening of the Senator Theatre, which is just across York Road, and the continuing upgrades in Belvedere Square's market building, where merchants have started keeping later hours on some nights to accommodate patrons from the movie theater.
Shoo-Fly occupies the free-standing building, originally a Hess Shoes store, where generations of Baltimoreans shopped for children's shoes. Former restaurant occupants in the space include Taste and Crush, which closed earlier this year.
Shoo-Fly is the Gjerdes' third restaurant, following Woodberry Kitchen (2007) and Artifact Coffee (2012).
Is Shoo-Fly really just Woodberry Kitchen, Jr.?
No, not really. Woodberry Kitchen is a remarkable farm-to-table restaurant, while Shoo-Fly combines aspects of a classic diner and a suburban gathering place.
While all of the conscientiousness about reliable and local sourcing that form the foundation of Woodberry Kitchen's operations are present at Shoo-Fly, the menu takes a much more light-hearted approach to cuisine.
What do you see when you walk into Shoo-Fly?
Once through the entrance you're at the host stand on the main floor. The bar, which runs the length of this room, sits opposite the building's distinctive glass. There is a row of booth seating on this level, separated from the bar itself by a high partition. You have a nice view from here of the freshly landscaped plaza, where there is outdoor seating at tables.
From the main floor, you either go up an open staircase to the dining floor or down the stairs, where there is service at two U-shaped counters adjacent to the kitchen.
Young diners can choose to slide down to the lower level. A sliding board from the old Hess Shoes, sits alongside the staircase.
Where should we sit?
Do you have children with you? They'll love sitting at the counter, where they can keep an eye on the kitchen. There's even a playroom a few steps away. It’s equipped with games, puzzles and a vintage pinball machine.
The bar level is handsome and big-shouldered and looks like a great place to meet up with some friends. The upper level feels like a work-in-progress. It looks comfortable up here but a little disconnected, aesthetically anyway, from the rugged rest of Shoo-Fly.
What is there to eat?
The menu is full of variations on vintage oyster po'boys, Buffalo oysters, disco fries and something called the Scrappledelphia, a sandwich with apples, griddled onions, scrapple, cheddar and mustard.
There are large plates like meat loaf, cast-iron catfish and a soup-y version of chicken pot pie with Pennsylvania Dutch noodles.
And you can get breakfast all day long. Think hearty stuff like sausage and gravy, Hangtown Fry, a Bay Area dish of oysters, eggs and bacon.
What do they have to drink?
It's a cheeky bar menu.
There’s fun stuff like a Slush Cocktail with bourbon, pear cider and house bitters and another in the form of soft-serve salty caramel ice cream. You can concoct your own highball or have your favorite spirit produced as a "sling" -- a retro alcoholic beverage served on a single hunk of ice.
There are also Baltimore-centric draft beers from Union Craft Brewing and the Raven and reasonably priced wines by the glass.
On the soft side, there's chocolate milk, root beer on tap, alcohol-free slushes and shakes and a homemade version of V8.
How are the prices?
If you resist the urge to pile on snacks, sides, slushy drinks, you can get in an out of Shoo-Fly for $20 a person. But if you're tempted to try more, at least on a first visit, figure $40.
Can I look at the menu on their website?
No, not yet anyway.
Should we go now, or should I wait until they work out the kinks?
Shoo-Fly seem ready to me. But avoid prime-time. We went on 5 p.m. on Sunday night, which turned out to be a smart move. There was a good crowd there, but nothing like on Friday and Saturday when lines were 90-minutes long.
How about those fussy friends of ours I told you about, the ones who make a sport out of going to new restaurants just so they can find something to complain about? Should we arrange to meet them at Shoo-Fly?
Yes, but give them the wrong date on purpose.
Good idea. Wait a minute, how about parking?
We had no trouble on a Sunday finding a space on Belvedere Square’s surface lot, but on a weekend you should just pay $5 for the valet parking and be done with it.
And what if we want to see a movie at the Senator Theatre? Can they get us in and out on time?
Don't go when it's crowded, don't dither about your order and don't order your hamburger well-done. Any time you're late to the movie it's probably your own fault.
Sorry, but that drives me crazy.
Shoo-Fly opens for dinner daily at 4 p.m. The bar stays open daily until 1 a.m.
The restaurant is at 510 E. Belvedere Ave. in Chinquapin Park. For information call 410-464-9222 or visit their website at shooflydiner.com.