Owner Haluk Kantar has big plans for his pizza-focused sports bar.
Last April, he opened the first HomeSlyce Pizza Bar in Federal Hill. Six months later, a second location came downtown to North Charles Street, next to Mick O'Shea's. Kantar — who also owns the Turkish restaurant Cazbar in Mount Vernon — recently said Canton and Hampden are likely the next neighborhoods to get their own HomeSlyce. After the city, he wants to expand south to Columbia, College Park and eventually D.C.
Kantar has ambitious plans for HomeSlyce, and based on a recent Saturday night at the downtown bar, it made sense why. The atmosphere was approachable and laid back, and never boring. Tables were mostly full of families and people downtown for Flowermart, all quietly enjoying pies. TVs played NBA and NHL playoff games while local cover-meets-improv quartet The Shrapnels set instruments up toward the front of the house.
No single feature of the deceptively large bar dominated the room. Instead, it all created an inviting scene, with no fuss or pretense.
Naturally, most customers are lured into HomeSlyce for the pizza, Kantar said. A couple people sat sporadically at the long bar on the right wall, but most patrons were eating late dinners at dining tables. The downtown location, in particular, has found a following with vegans since 90 percent of HomeSlyce's menu can be made or reconstructed vegan, Kantar said. Pizza is the game here, and HomeSlyce takes it seriously.
The same could not be said about the bar, which was adequate but wouldn't turn heads. There were six taps that included National Bohemian, Fat Tire, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon and Samuel Adams Seasonal. The options have some character and there was a wider selection in cans and bottles, but it would have been nice to see more taps overall. (What's pizza without the perfect beer?)
After a long day in the sun at the Kinetic Sculpture Race and Flowermart, a Shock Top Belgian White ($6) tasted refreshing. Later, a rail gin and tonic ($4) tasted stiff but drinkable. (Enjoyable? Not as much as we had hoped.)
The flashiest ornament of the restaurant is an 80-inch flat screen TV mounted to HomeSlyce's wall. (Kantar claims it's the largest on Charles Street.) But we had a much better time at the other end of the bar, playing eight-ball at HomeSlyce's purple pool table. Access to the table, which was nicely built and maintained, was free. We had clear views of multiple TVs, too, making the pool table an ideal place to congregate.
To Kantar, the bar program is fine as it is, since the food drives sales. He's more interested in raising awareness for the live music on the weekends, which is also free. On this Saturday, the Shrapnels played two sets of classic rock and funk that also explored jazz improvisation. It was an easy-to-digest mix that fit HomeSlyce's unflashy but still fun personality.
Kantar has a winner with his downtown location, even if it's not entirely perfect. The sum of its parts matters most. But if HomeSlyce wants to expand and succeed all over Maryland, ownership should consider slightly elevating the bar program, even if it simply means doubling the number of taps and filling them with more local beers. If that happens, the ceiling on HomeSlyce's success could disappear.
HomeSlyce Pizza Bar
Back story: Last year, Cazbar owner Haluk Kantar opened two HomeSlyce Pizza Bars in a span of six months. Both are succeeding, he says, and the plan is to "cover the whole city" by the end of next year. The pizza is currently HomeSlyce's biggest draw, but Kantar wants to also be known for having live bands with no cover charge.
Parking: Metered on the street.
Signature drink: At a pizza joint, a beer makes the most sense. The citrusy Shock Top Belgian White ($6 draft) works well in the warmer months.
Where: 336 N. Charles St., Downtown
Contact: 443-501-4000, slycethebar.com
Open: 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. daily