It was a roaring hot day, and the dark, cozy bar and dining room inside One-Eyed Mike's was packed.
"It's an hour wait if you want to be seated inside," a bartender said. "We can seat you immediately outside."
That was fine with us — the dining area at One-Eyed Mike's is open and bright, and feels like a garden party. The atmosphere is certainly worth a trip. But it's hard to say the same for the food.
Hidden off Broadway from the rest of Fell's Point watering holes, One-Eyed Mike's serves an older crowd — despite its pirate theme. The world's first and largest Grand Marnier bar, Mike's is a shrine to all things involving the French citrus liqueur. For an initial fee of $185, they will keep a personal bottle of Grand Marnier stocked for you. After the first bottle is emptied, it's $85 for each ensuing bottle.
Grand Marnier is everywhere: on the walls, as well as on the cocktail list. Mike's play on the mojito, the Grand Marnier Smash ($10.95), was refreshingly minty and potent, thanks to a heavy-handed pour of the cognac-based Grand Marnier. The Perfect Storm ($10.95), its version of a Dark 'n' Stormy, was disappointingly sweet: a bad combination of ginger beer and Grand Marnier.
The appetizers were as uneven as the drinks. The prosciutto-wrapped asparagus ($9) was cooked nicely, the green spears still slightly crisp, wrapped in a few layers of salty prosciutto and stuffed with goat cheese. This dish could have been great if the bottoms of the asparagus weren't woody.
The scallops ($13), however, were a mess: undercooked diver scallops lay on sandy arugula covered with a syrupy mustard and maple sauce. Not even crispy applewood smoked bacon could save this plate. The Rhode Island clam chowder ($5.50 a cup) was full of clams and pleasantly briny from its seafood stock. The one appetizer we did want to try, the potato pancakes, was unavailable that night.
Unlike the appetizers, the service at Mike's was great. Curt, our server, entertained the whole backyard with his witty account of the specials and drink items on the menu. He was quick to fix mistakes and made what could have been a disastrous meal tolerable. His charisma helped while we waited 45 minutes for the entrees.
If the appetizers were uneven, the entrees were steadily unsatisfactory. The stuffed lobster ($35) was over-baked; the claw and tail meat were stringy and rubbery. Shielded from overcooking by the lobster shell, the filling of crab, shrimp, scallops and Ritz crackers was delicious. They were soft and buttery, but not good enough to account for the pricey lobster. For $30, you could order a filet to accompany the lobster. We didn't, but owing to a kitchen error, one arrived anyway. Informed of the mistake, our server apologized and gave us the filet on the house. Stuffed with prosciutto and gorgonzola cheese, it was tender and topped with a portobello mushroom and bacon sauce.
The French-cut pork chop ($24) as well as was the strip steak ($30) were both a hefty 14 ounces, yet equally dry and unforgiving. The two crab cakes ($27) were a bit of a head scratcher. At first glance, they seemed to be made of lump crab meat — until we cut into them and found only a little lump meat on top of a bread stuffing cake. The bottom section was soggy, while the tiny bit of lump meat must have dried out in the oven. It's a shame — mixed together, it might not have made for a bad crab cake. Instead, it came off as subpar and a bit disingenuous. The green beans that were served as a side were wonderful and crunchy, though.
We skipped dessert, as Mike's was serving only serving molten chocolate lava cake, which really doesn't go well with summer weather. Why it doesn't have crepes suzette on the menu (it's made with Grand Marnier) is a mystery. Add some ice cream, and you have a fun summer dessert.
While One-Eyed Mike's may be a great place to go for drinks, the food is, frankly, overpriced and poorly cooked. The excuse of the night was that the kitchen was slammed, but that doesn't make sense, given that most items were overcooked. It would be the opposite if they were rushed. With a few tweaks — and for a few bucks less — the food at One-Eyed Mike's could be remarkable. For now, when at Mike's, it might be best to stick with the Grand Marnier and let the food walk the plank.
Where: 708 S. Bond St., Baltimore
Contact: 410-327-0445, oneeyedmikes.com
Open: 11am- 2 am Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday; kitchen serves food until 10 p.m.
Brunch: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Credit Cards: Visa, American Express, MasterCard, Discover Card
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Fair or uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]