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Exterior of Carlos O'Charlies on Eastern Avenue on Friday, Aug. 21, 2009.
Exterior of Carlos O'Charlies on Eastern Avenue on Friday, Aug. 21, 2009. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

After spending nearly a decade-and-a-half turning Carlos O’Charlies into a Highlandtown staple, with its mix of traditional sports bar fare and Salvadoran cuisine, owner Carlos Cruz will open a new restaurant in Fells Point this summer.

In a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday morning, Cruz confirmed that he will open Chilango’s Tequila Bar & Grill in the former site of Modern Cook Shop, on the Union Wharf Apartments’ ground floor. He said he will run the back of the house while Carlos Cruz II, his son who has worked in Carlos O’Charlies, will run the front of the house.

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“The space [has] a lot of iron, a lot of wood, so it looks very, very, very Mexican,” he said. “So we added more wood and give it some Mexican designs. We’re going to put some Mexican art, [bright] colors in, and I think the space is going to look beautiful.”

The past year brought a slew of changes to Baltimore’s food landscape. That meant welcoming a crop of new upstarts while bidding adieu to some familiar faces.

Cruz is Salvadoran but has tremendous experience with Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes, including several served at Carlos O’Charlies. He said that Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine share several crucial components.

“Mexican food is a little more spicy, but basically, we have the same bases: rice, beans, tortillas,” he said.

The menu for Chilango’ includes “enchiladas, burritos, fajitas” and other staples, as well as “a variety of margaritas” — all prepared with fresh ingredients, he said.

“We want to produce fresh, high-end Mexican food that I think the area is [waiting] for,” he said.

The restaurant takes its name from a slang term for residents of Mexico City, Mexico’s capital and one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. The second part of the name points to both the aforementioned food and the variety of tequilas the restaurant will serve, in cocktails and by itself.

Just as Carlos O’Charlies grew into a Highlandtown fixture, Cruz wants to integrate Chilango’s into the existing fabric of Fells Point.

“I’m a neighborhood guy, I work with different associations, communities, schools — that’s what really, really makes me [most] happy, to get into that community, be a part of it and work with it.

For those worried about parking on Fells Point’s crowded streets, Cruz said that Chilango’s will also offer valet parking.

Pending a liquor board hearing , he plans to open Chilango’s to the public on July 8 — soon after Carlos O’Charlie’s 15th anniversary.

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