The beauty of a good neighborhood bar usually lies in its simplicity. Serve some interesting drinks in a low-key, approachable atmosphere, and patrons will have a hard time finding reasons to complain.
Frederick's on Fleet — which opened in late August on the corner of South Duncan and, appropriately, Fleet streets in Canton — followed this formula on a recent Friday night. It's a solid addition to an area that cherishes comfort — Kisling's and Johnny Rad's are within walking distance — over stuffiness.
The modest space, which includes a back dining area, felt full with about 35 people seated at the long bar and at high tables. An important Orioles game (aren't they all at this point?) played on two muted flat-screen TVs in the bar's corners, but few people seemed interested. Most were engrossed in their conversations, another welcome sign for a neighborhood bar.
The bar's design lacks flash (the bold, red front doors are the most eye-catching detail), but not personality. There are framed black-and-white photos throughout Frederick's, including rows of vintage boxing glamour shots. Our server told us they were former fighters from Baltimore, a nice touch.
While Frederick's looks attractive, it also knows that that's not enough to win regular customers, especially in Baltimore. Frederick's has clearly put thought and care into its cocktail list and beer selection. Neither is perfect, but the choices are varied enough and reasonably priced.
On the menu, the cocktails list is split between "vintage" and "modern." Working chronologically, a friend and I began with the Aviation and the Pegu Club (all cocktails are $8.50), both served in martini glasses. The former was refreshingly bright, thanks to a well-balanced mixture of Bluecoat gin, lemon, Maraschino liquor and simple syrup. The Pegu Club — made of Tanqueray gin, orange curacao, lime and bitters — was more intense. The orange flavor fought for attention, but the gin overpowered it.
It wasn't a bad first round, but our "modern" cocktails were noticeably more nuanced and enjoyable. The limencello and Bulldog Gin-based Louis De Palma (a reference that might explain the clientele Frederick's hopes to attract) tasted almost too sweet at first, but its intensity leveled off with each sip.
The best cocktail of the night was the Summertime Smash, a pleasant concoction of Tanqueray 10 Gin, cucumber, thyme, white cranberry juice, lime and simple syrup. That's a lot of flavors in one small glass, but it worked. The cucumber added a soothing dimension.
Despite a disappointing draft selection (seven kinds, all $5.50, with the Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale from Frederick's Flying Dog Brewery leading the pack), Frederick's has enough choices to satisfy most customers.
By the bottle, there are local (Heavy Seas) and foreign (San Miguel from the Philippines) picks, and even a gluten-free option (Bard's Tale from Buffalo, N.Y.). Perhaps best of all, beer-wise: National Bohemian, National Premium and Pabst Blue Ribbon are $2.50 all of the time.
Alcohol aside, Frederick's gets the little things right, too. Our server and bartender were very attentive and even persuasive. (I didn't plan on getting the cheesecake-wrapped-in-fried-dough "Dessert of the Day," but for only $4, there was no reason to turn it away.)
This bar also has a sense of humor. According to the menu, the China White cocktail is "more addictive than its name" and the Kama Sutra — a pomegranate vodka-based drink finished with champagne — is the "perfect pregame for a nooner." There's nothing zany or over the top about Frederick's, but it's nice to know it doesn't take itself too seriously either.
With astute service and a sleekly vintage design, Frederick's will likely never have to rely on cheap laughs at its own expense. Instead, the instantly comfortable bar should thrive on its cocktails and staff, a simple combination any neighborhood can embrace.
Frederick's on Fleet
Back story: After some delays over the summer, the unassuming corner bar opened in late August in the space that used to house Tyson's Tavern.
Signature drink: The Summertime Smash ($8.50) proves a cocktail can remind you of summer without tasting like pineapple or Malibu rum. Although fall is just about to begin, Frederick's will continue serving it for the foreseeable future.
Parking: Metered, on the street.
Where: 2112 Fleet St., Canton
Contact: 443-438-4572, fredericksonfleet.com
Open: 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. daily