Formerly Mad River, the Charles bar and restaurant to open in Federal Hill this month

The Federal Hill bar formerly known as Mad River will reopen as the Charles this month, aiming to shift its focus to food instead of a weekend party scene.

Operating manager David Yike and his partners closed Mad River in May for a rebranding, and Mad River regulars should immediately notice significant changes inside the South Charles Street space, Yike said. The first-floor bar is now located on the opposite wall, stairs leading to the second floor have been moved and the second-floor wall separating the two bar areas has been removed.

“There’s nothing you’re going to recognize from the old space, which was our intention all along,” Yike said.

Yike declined to give a specific opening date but said it would be before October. The space, which Yike describes as “rustic industrial,” will seat between 100 and 120.

While Mad River was known as a popular spot where the fresh-out-of-college crowd would dance to Top 40 music, the Charles would rather be known for its food, Yike said.

(Perhaps more curious than the tonal shift is the rebranded space’s name, which could confuse local cinephiles used to calling the Charles Theatre by its first name. Yike said no concerns had been raised to him. “We haven’t heard anything,” he said.)

Yike described the Charles’ approach to food as “American-style share plates with a lot of different fusions,” such as a lobster roll rangoon.

Chef Cory Pastor (formerly of the Nickel Taphouse) designed the menu, which will focus on sharable items and won’t offer traditional entrees, Yike said.

“It’s kind of seeing where the trend is,” Yike said. “Unless it’s date night, you’re going out with a group of friends, and everybody just wants to sort of pick and try everything on the menu.”

The bar program will offer cocktails that were designed to be made quickly, he said, along with a limited wine menu. Draft and bottled beer options will include macros (Miller Lite, Heineken, Coors Light) and familiar craft beer (The Brewer’s Art’s Resurrection, Flying Dog Brewery’s Bloodline and Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA).

The Charles’ deliberate shift from weekend party spot to a food-focused restaurant reflects a changing dynamic in Federal Hill, Yike said.

“We see the need for a more mature approach to going out and to food,” he said. “We’re just trying to get ahead of the game, and give people a reason to stay in Federal Hill instead of going over to Fells Point or over to Harbor East.”

The Charles is located at 1110 S. Charles St., Federal Hill. For more information, go to


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