Waterstone Bar and Grille has been serving Mediterranean fare for more than a year and a half in the spot that formerly housed Coconuts Cafe. That has, you'd think, given the management plenty of time to work out the kinks.
But on two recent visits, a combination of mixed service, up-and-down food and odd decoration choices all prove that Waterstone has a ways to go.
After we were seated in the middle of the handsome dining room, the noise was the first thing we noticed. It was louder than we expected, given that the restaurant was barely half-full. The culprit was a water fountain in the middle of the dining room wall. We were forced to talk over the gurgling fountain, which sprayed water on the floor. Thankfully, we weren't sitting close enough to get wet. The fountain spoiled the setting, which was otherwise charming. While petite, the dining room had enough space for diners to eat comfortably.
To say the service is unpredictable would be an understatement: The two times we went, the service couldn't have been more different. The first time around, we were waited on by a bartender in flip-flops, who told us that the vodka in our cocktail was "terrible" and asked if we needed it topped off. Our appetizers took 30 minutes to arrive. The server on our second visit was accommodating, fast with our food, and kindly suggested a few really good drinks.
Waterstone's appetizers were also inconsistent. The Crispy Calamari ($9.50) didn't live up to its name. Served hot, it would have gone well with its side of cilantro cocktail sauce. Instead, it was cold and falling apart, as though it had sat too long in the kitchen. The Stoned Grilled Shrimp ($9.50) nicely complemented the yogurt sauce and pita points they came on.
The half-order of the Gourmet Mediterranean Dipping Duo ($8) was fickle but good. The dish was a mixture of olives, roasted red peppers, falafel, tzatziki, hummus, pita points and a large chunk of feta. The tzatziki, a garlicky cucumber yogurt, was thick and wonderfully sour while the hummus was lemony and intense. Both dips were great with the warm pita. The falafel, in contrast, was deep-fried, as black and as appetizing as a hockey puck. This half-order could have easily fed four. I ordered a Mythos beer ($5.50), a lager that harmonized well with this Greek sampler. The lightness of the beer went well with the brightness of the dips.
Waterstone's take on white sangria ($8.00) was refreshing and crisp. Adorned with apple and orange chunks, this generous pour was well worth the price.
Waterstone sells wine to take home, and all of the bottles are listed at retail price, which can be confusing for diners. If you order a bottle for your table, a $10 corkage fee is added to the price. For example, an $18 bottle of Gotham Shiraz becomes $28 if you drink it in-house.
Though there were exceptions, the entrees were, on the whole, less idiosyncratic than the appetizers. The Angus Beef Flat Iron Steak ($18.50) was flavorful and cooked to a precise medium rare. The cut, taken from the top blade roast, is known for its tenderness. This piece didn't disappoint but was overgarnished with a heap of herb-compound butter.
The Lamb Sliders ($12.50) were uneven — literally. Thick on one side and thin on the other, these doorstop-shaped patties were overcooked with a couple of them topped with a little tzatziki and others gobbed with it. The choice to serve them on pita points seemed a bit forced, as if to emphasize their Greek-ness.
The best dish we tried was the Grecian Style Cornish Game Hen ($16.50). Advertised as half a game hen, it was served whole. It was juicy and delicious with just enough spice to give it a Greek flair. The cucumber and tomato salad that was the accompaniment was unknowingly replaced with a flavorful julienned vegetable medley.
A slice of Decadent Peanut Butter Pie ($6.50) rounded out our meal. Peanut butter was topped by a rich chocolate strata and served on a salted graham cracker crust. It was good, but we wanted more Mediterranean options.
After a year and a half, Waterstone Bar and Grille is a restaurant that still feels as if it's finding its feet. Mount Vernon has more than its share of competent restaurants, and in order to compete, Waterstone has some issues to address if it wants to be taken seriously.
Waterstone Bar and Grille
Back story: Formerly Coconuts Cafe, Waterstone Bar and Grille is trying to make a name for itself in Mount Vernon's competitive restaurant scene.
Parking: Street parking in Mt. Vernon is always an adventure. Waterstone is across from Maryland General Hospital, so you'll have to compete with its overflow as well.
Our favorite dish: Juicy and delicious, the Cornish Game Hen ($16.50) had just enough spice to give it a Greek flair.
Where: 311 W. Madison St., Baltimore
Contact: 410-225-7475, waterstonebarandGrille.com
Open: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday; 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard
Food: ✭✭1/2 `
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; good: ✭✭✭; fair or uneven: ✭✭; poor: ✭]Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun