Meet 27 combines elements of a classic corner bar, arty cafe and university town health-food restaurant. Depending on your outlook, Meet 27 is either a category-buster chimera or just plain incoherent. If for now I've decided to gaze upon it with awe and kindness, it's because that Meet 27 exists at all is an astonishment.
Meet 27 opened a few weeks back in the Remington space where Two Sisters Grille came and went. It's right next door to Sweet Sin, the gluten-free bakery owned by Richard D'Souza, who is one of the partners in the new bistro.
The menu at Meet 127 carries forth the bakery's concern for healthful eating, and there were times when the food reminded me of Moosewood-era vegetarian cooking, except much prettier — and with meat. If that sounds incongruous, that's part of the Meet 27 package.
You can get a burger made with dry-aged beef, and your vegetarian friend can get a marvelously savory aloo tikki burger (a potato croquette, really, served on a homemade focaccia and accompanied by a refreshing salad of spiced chickpeas). If you wanted to, you could go vegan all the way at Meet 27 (or entirely without gluten or soy), but know that we had a pork dish prepared with a blazingly hot vindaloo and a sumptuous peppercorn beef dish fattened up with a coconut milk and mushroom sauce. The vindaloo and the peppercorn beef dishes turned out to be curries, delicious ones, assertively spiced with round, enveloping flavors. We weren't expecting curries, though, and the menu could be much clearer about this. That's part of the Meet 27 package, too.
This space housed a German rathskeller in the 1930s and has had myriad identities and owners since, many of whom have manhandled the space. The new owners' contributions have been subtle, thoughtful and mostly effective, but some awkwardness abides. The main dining room is still platformed a goofy half-level up from the entrance bar, and the room's dimensions defy a sensible table configuration, but no matter. Everyone will be looking at the walls anyway. Meet 27 commissioned a team of artists associated with the Maryland Institute College of Art to produce a series of murals for the space. The largest portrays an assemblage of Baltimore figures that includes Edgar Allan Poe, Thurgood Marshall and Michael Phelps — brought together in a joyful restaurant that looks just like Meet 27.
They must have ordered the vindaloo. I recommend it and the peppercorn beef dish, but not the Chili Chicken, a red sea of barbecue chicken served over mushroom polenta. This dish had the monotonous look of hippie-style health food, and the Asian barbecue sauce tasted strongly of tamarind, which is a flavor I'd like to know about beforehand.
But I enjoyed an appetizer of pretty chickpea-battered fritters formed from eggplant, cauliflower, potato and spinach, served with homemade mint and tamarind sauces. A pretty terrine of salmon tartare and cucumber, plated with a vivid and zippy mint-basil oil, has D'Souza working, very confidently, in the aesthetic of an upscale bistro. Thai-style mussels, however, steamed in coconut milk and sauteed with onions, garlic and pico de gallo, were a nonstarter. We ate them dutifully.
Meet 27 had a rough time opening in Remington. Even before the typical construction and shipping delays, the restaurant was put through the wringers of two hypervigilant neighborhood associations whose territories converge at Howard and 27th streets. When they were through, Meet 27 had agreed to close every night by 10 p.m. And thanks to the efforts of yet another neighborhood organization, Meet 27 still lacks a liquor license, and there's no telling when it will get one. Until it does, Meet 27 is operating as a BYOB.
Simply showing up at Meet 27 would be a show of solidarity against bullying, but it would be worth your going anyway, because it's a good cafe — any neighborhood in the world would be happy to have it. The menu is interesting, and the food is good. The service we had was thoughtful, if a little off its pace, as you'd expect from a place without a steady clientele.
Where: 127 W. 27th St., Remington
Contact: 410-366-5777, http://www.meet27.com
Hours: Open for dinner daily
Prices: Appetizers, $6-$9; entrees, $14-$18
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good:✭✭✭; Fair or Uneven:✭✭; Poor:✭]