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Bar review: At The Americana, it's the thought that counts

Inviting new corner bar replaces Clutch in Canton

By Erik Maza, The Baltimore Sun

9:55 AM EDT, October 25, 2011

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When the Canton bar Clutch closed this spring, few mourned its passing. Some neighbors had complained the bar had been to rowdy for the area, but mainly, the news seemed to have been greeted with a shrug.

The bar, which confidently called itself "Baltimore's premier sports bar," was replaced three months ago by The Americana, which I'm happy to report has less swagger than its predecessor and is all the better for it.

The two-story bar has an inviting, All-American facade, marked by a peppy new logo and a warm, versatile interior that doubles as bar and brunch destination. Its staff is friendly and handy with drinks. And the beer, while limited on draft, is comprehensive by the bottle.

A visit will leave you wanting to come back, if not for a beer, then at least for some eggs benedict on Sunday morning.

On a recent Wednesday night, the Americana was lightly crowded. There was a guy in his late 20s sipping beer by himself and watching the World Series. A couple and a friend gossiped behind me. Sarah, a bartender, greeted me with a beer menu, which helpfully lists all the beers on draft and by the bottle and includes alcohol content and — like at Denny's — pictures of all the brands. Summer, a manager, was at the end of the bar poring over the books. Sarah told me crowds are much bigger on game nights.

They wore similar uniforms: Clean-cut, black tops over jeans that gave the impression that they cared not just about their presentation, but the bar's as well. That preppy disposition carries over to the bar's look — soothing red walls, varnished wood surfaces and carefully laid out high-tops and stools on the first floor. Upstairs is a comfortable dining room with tables set with black linens on both sides of an anchor bar. The upstairs had enough windows that it looked like it would be brightly lit in the morning.

Also upstairs is a snug, enclosed terrace that holds about four tables and is used for brunch on Sundays. During the winter, it's outfitted with heaters. On game nights, both the upstairs and patio are open; the bar has about five flat-screens on the first floor.

Though a friend had described its look as resembling a grandmother's basement, that was not the impression I got. While there are a few tchotchkes stashed into nondescript corners and old magazine covers — Saturday Evening Posts, in particular — framed on the walls, there were too few of them to really make an aesthetic impact. If that's what the owners are going for, they should kick it up a notch with kooky granny hand-me-downs.

The bar struck me as going for a classic American look, a traditional diner as done by an on-the-budget Ralph Lauren. The interior is pared-down, without being barren; efficient while exuding warmth. At night, The Americana looks like a mature, put-together bar, a neighborhood hangout that isn't a dive. I suspect in the mornings it looks just as polished. This versatility is not just good business, but very welcome by patrons like myself. In many ways, it reminded me of Fells Point's Waterfront Hotel.

I've yet to try the food, but the menu is Maryland-influenced brunch fare, with prices in the $9.99 (Belgian waffles) to $14.95 range (Maryland crab and eggs benedict).

By the bottle, the bar has 29 brands — sorry guys, Smirnoff Ice doesn't count — that includes a Flying Dog, Harpoon IPA and Leinenkugel's popular Summer Shandy, as well as the usual domestics. Draft beers is an area where the Americana could improve: it carries only six brands, including Yuengling and Natty Boh. My Brewer's Art Resurrection, at $5, was canned.

Toward the end of my night, Sarah checked in with me and the other remaining customer and then started talking with Summer. They weren't gossiping as I've seen happen elsewhere so often, but plotting a cocktail menu.

Sarah proposed including an old-fashioned cocktail, a Boilermaker, put together by dropping a shot of whiskey in a glass of beer. It sounded delicious to both, but the big question hanging over the talk was: would it get you too messed up? They left the decision for another time. At least they were already thinking of ways to improve their game.

erik.maza@baltsun.com

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If you go



Back story: The Americana opened three months ago, replacing Clutch, which closed earlier this year after two years in business. It is a low-key change from Clutch, which billed itself an upscale sports lounge and never seemed to settle into the neighborhood.

Parking: Like much of Canton, parking is metered and available on a limited basis on the street.

Drinks: The Americana has six beers on draft — Yuengling, Sam Adams Seasonal, Blue Moon, Stella, Guinness and Natty Boh. There are also 29 brands by the bottle and the can, including regional fare, like Brewer's Art Resurrection, The Raven and Heavy Seas Loose Cannon and Flying Dog beer.

Where: 900 Kenwood Ave., Baltimore

Contact: 443-708-8466, americanacanton.com

Open: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

Price range: Beers are less than $7. Food is in the $9.99 to $14.95 range. During happy hour, Stellas and Sam Adams are $3 and Natty Bohs are $2.