The four-person team behind Langermann's, the Canton restaurant and bar that opened in December 2009, always intended to expand to a second location. Someday. Then, last year, an opportunity came that seemed too good to pass up.
The tenants at 1542 Light St. in Federal Hill had tried their hands at two different projects — 1542 Gastropub and the Reserve — but decided to try a third project, Banditos, at a new location. They worked out a deal for the Langermann's team to take over their lease, and in September, Langermann's on Light was born.
"It was a 'Why not?' situation," said Langermann's partner Mark Lasker.
That off-the-cuff, work-in-progress attitude could be felt at Langermann's on Light's bar on a recent Saturday night. There was nothing glaringly wrong or stop-and-stare impressive about the bar and its program. Instead, it simply existed in a no-fuss manner, similar to its Canton counterpart.
According to Lasker, that is by design. "Food comes first," he said multiple times during our talk.
On this night, the dinner crowd supported his claim. When our group arrived at 10 p.m., there was a modest crowd of 35 patrons, and most were finishing up meals in the dining area. By 10:50, that crowd had exited, leaving our group and nine other patrons, besides the staff. With indiscernible music playing at a low level, the room took on a sleepy vibe.
The two bartenders behind the L-shaped bar were fine, but they seemed uninterested in converting our group into repeat customers. A slow night can allow bartenders to engage more with patrons, but these bartenders — along with the rest of the front-of-the-house staff — seemed to be counting the minutes to close.
A lethargic scene affects everyone, so it doesn't seem right to get down on the staff too much. (Lasker said his bartenders have worked in Federal Hill bars for years and have brought regulars over to the new Langermann's, so perhaps this was simply an off night.) The bartenders might not have been noticeably friendly, but they were efficient, never allowing empty glasses to sit too long.
Another thing Langermann's has going for it: reasonable prices. Our group ordered Heavy Seas Loose Cannon drafts ($5 each), Stoli-and-soda mixed drinks ($6 each) and a martini made with Ketel One ($7). There was no cocktail list, but Lasker said that would change this spring. The draft list isn't adventurous (Mission and Dominion brews appeared to be as exotic as it gets), but with 16 taps, it could be worse. There were also 40 bottled beers to choose from.
Despite opening "without fanfare," Lasker said business has been solid. He points out that the location can be a harder sell because of a lack of parking. Langermann's recently added a $5 valet service on Fridays and Saturdays, and Lasker said it's a priority to figure out more parking options. If he can work out easily accessible parking, it's not hard to imagine Langermann's finding more success.
The bar also has potential, and Lasker sounds committed to exploring it. ("I can put together a great bar program and we are working on that," he said.) But until then, Langermann's on Light will mainly be a place for dinner and perhaps a couple of drinks afterward. And Lasker seems OK with that.
"[It's] not going to become a Red Bull, Miller Lite, Jagerbomb place," he said. No complaints here. Federal Hill, and Baltimore in general, already already have enough of those places.
Langermann's on Light
Back story: After more than three years of operating the original Langermann's in Canton, the restaurant and bar opened its Federal Hill location this past September. Just like the Canton spot, food is the focus, but there's a sizable bar at Langermann's on Light. It's pretty basic now, but management has plans to make it more of a focal point.
Parking: Considered the location's biggest hurdle by management, parking can be difficult to find around Langermann's on Light. If you're lucky, there is metered and free parking around the area. Langermann's recently implemented a valet service ($5) on Fridays and Saturdays.
Signature drink: There's no cocktail list, and Langermann's keeps it basic with mainly mixed drinks and a decent beer list. It's hard to complain about a $5 Heavy Seas Loose Cannon draft.
Where: 1542 Light St., Federal Hill
Contact: 410-528-1200, langermanns.com
Open: The bar opens at 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. There is also Sunday brunch beginning at 10 a.m. According to management, Langermann's on Light typically closes around 11 p.m. during the week, although there is no set close time. On weekends, it normally stays open until at least midnight.