In Fells Point, onetime fine-dining hotspot Kali's Court has been refashioned into the much more casual Fells Point Tavern, which opened in June. And talk about a makeover.
Gone is the beautiful garden terrace that diners traversed to gain entrance to Kali's, as are the restaurant's hushed, romantic atmosphere and pricey Mediterranean menu.
In their place are an open courtyard with bare wooden tables, a dark interior with handsome, handcrafted furnishings, and a food list that includes sandwiches and flatbreads.
Happy hour, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, is a big deal here. Drink specials are available, and several food items are half-price.
"We wanted a tavern for all Baltimoreans," said Anastasia Keramidas, who runs Fells Point Tavern with her brother, Alexander. "We wanted a place where everybody feels comfortable."
They chose the name because "it is strong, simple and to the point," Alexander Keramidas said.
In keeping with a Fells Point party vibe, the tavern offers live music four days a week with plans to eventually extend the playing time to seven nights.
The upstairs mezzanine, which was still being refurbished a few weeks ago, will serve as a space for those who don't want to be next to the band.
"It's being turned into a lounge area," Anastasia Keramidas said. "It will have a relaxed feel."
Scene & Decor: The former posh Kali's Court has been transformed into a laid-back, sophisticated bar and restaurant. It keeps the architectural interest of its predecessor with the old brick arches, dark woods and the beautiful bar, but now has a modern-industrial sensibility with a concrete floor, reclaimed wooden furniture and communal tables. There is a cozy seating area with a sofa and window-side tables with pillows. The lively outdoor patio is a draw.
Appetizers: Gerardo's nachos ($7) were a delicious mound of multicolored chips smothered with jalapenos, guacamole, black beans and cheddar Jack. The ale-steamed mussels ($10) were plump and plentiful in a savory broth made with roasted garlic, Dijon mustard and Belgian ale. The toasted bread was great for dipping.
Entrees: We really enjoyed the pear and Gorgonzola flatbread ($11), with bacon and candied pecans added to the mix. The swashbuckler sandwich ($13.95) — a thick swordfish fillet slathered with guacamole on a brioche roll — was a success. The accompanying Old Bay fries were average.
Drinks: The menu features an assortment of locally crafted, domestic and imported beers. There are a half-dozen wines, but prices weren't listed. Our waitress said they were between $9 and $10 a glass with petite sirah being $12.
Service: Our bubbly waitress seemed distracted, forgetting to tell us about happy-hour specials and hanging out at the end of the bar for long periods. We're going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was in training.
Dessert: The desserts, made by Fells Point Tavern's sister restaurant Mezze next door, were scrumptious. The creamy kataifi made with shredded phyllo pastry and pistachios ($7.95) and the two triangles of baklava ($7.95) were indulgent reminders of Kali's Court.
Fells Point Tavern
Backstory: The formerly upscale Kali's Court has been transformed into Fells Point Tavern. Vasilios Keramidas, a principal of the Kali's Restaurant Group, which oversees Mezze and Fells Point Tavern, brought in his daughter, Anastasia, and son, Alexander, to run the tavern.
Signature dish: The pear and Gorgonzola flatbread
Where: 1606 Thames St., Fells Point
Contact: 410-276-4700, fellspointtavern.com
Open: 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. (brunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) Saturday and Sunday
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Accepts reservations
Bottom line: The food choices at Fells Point Tavern are more casual than the dining options at Kali's Court, but the caliber of ingredients and creativity of the dishes are on par with the previous kitchen.