The Blue Sage Cafe and Wine Bar in Mount Washington had an inauspicious opening June 1, during a bad storm.
But it wasn't as bad as the rare derecho storm that blew through the region June 29. Fortunately, most customers had cleared out of the 80-seat restaurant at 1604 Kelly Ave., when the derecho hit late that night.
Up to that point, owner Matt Lallo had enjoyed a first month of good neighborhood buzz about a new eatery that replaced The Falls, an ambitious restaurant that closed in September, 2011, after only two years in business.
But the derecho broke his momentum.
"We lost power for three days," said Lallo, of Cross Keys. "We lost a lot of food."
But Lallo didn't lose faith, and as he sat by a window in the spacious eatery in Mount Washington on July 20, he said the restaurant and wine bar is off to a good start at the corner of Kelly and Falls Road, which he considers a choice location.
"To me it always seemed like a chic New York corner. It just needed a nice place."
Blue Sage is open for lunch and dinner and "we're backing into breakfast," Lallo said. A sign in the window touts its "Eurobreakfast."
It's varied "global" menu features everything from salmon cured in orange vodka, a Rosetta Farms grass-fed beef burger and a fried oyster Po' Boy to a crispy Asian Quail dinner salad, a pulled barbecued chicken pizza and linguine with "authentic Old World meatballs."
Blue Sage's predecessor, The Falls, known for its huge beer list and neighborhood vibe, closed in September 2011 after about two years. Lallo, a transplanted Philadelphian, said he doesn't know why The Falls closed and "I don't want to know."
All he knows is that after selling his last restaurant, Purple Sage in Philadelphia, and moving to Baltimore to be close to his three children, one of them in Roland Park, and two grandchildren, he found out that The Falls space was for lease.
But when Lallo first called, the landlord said he was already in negotiations with another potential tenant.
Lallo was persistent and said that by the fourth tie he called, the landlord was "really annoyed."
When he called a fifth time, the landlord said, "It's funny you should call. My deal fell through."
Lallo and floor manager Ricky Johnson, formerly of The Falls, have kept what Lallo called "the beer program," with 200 bottled beers to choose from and 10 rotating beers on tap. Lallo also wants to sell wine for a reasonable price, rather than marking it up a lot as many restaurants do, so that people will come more often. He has also started a happy hour with offerings like cucumber sangria, a wine and beer of the week and a draft beer sampler.
With a staff of six full-timers, including three chefs, and 12 part-timers, Lallo is targeting families and young professionals, as well as shoppers in the Mount Washington Village commercial and restaurant district and customers of the area's seven salons. He also offers carryout and is only accepting reservations for parties of five or more.
"We don't have any lofty ambitions," he said — except for one.
"I'd like to be known as the best wine bar in the city," he said. "Our wine is going to be a bargain."