Restaurant review

Patterson Public House, in former Bistro Rx space, shows off character and finesse

The Baltimore Sun

When Tanya Gralto and Scott Lanphear bought Bistro Rx early this year (Gralto used to be a manager there), they clearly found the right prescription to transform that pub into an inviting new place called Patterson Public House.

Located across from Patterson Park, this corner tavern exudes a mix of sophistication and relaxation in both decor and service. There may be nothing revolutionary about the food or drink, but there’s nothing blase, either.

A weeknight meal proved both relaxing and invigorating. Helping with the relaxation was the expert server, who provided all the information we needed, paced everything well and even indulged our pitiful attempts at bon mots.

We started with the simplest of items — fries, which we ordered as a pre-appetizer. They arrived grease-free and meaty, with a subtle (perhaps too subtle) enhancement from a sprinkling of herbs. And for something a little different on the side, there was a robust beef-fat mayo for dipping (good old-fashioned ketchup was provided, too).

Our appetizers included a particularly appealing stone fruit toast — an assortment of plums (roasted and fresh), greens, crispy ham and whipped mozzarella lightly coated in a violet mustard vinaigrette, all resting on a ciabatta. A real charmer.

Mussels in a smoked squash broth revealed hearty character, aided by fennel, shallots, pickled chili peppers and a blue crab butter. The house-cured salmon enjoyed elegant support from deviled eggs topped with trout roe, pickled onion and dill.

The pub food portion of the menu includes the expected burger and wings, along with the best fish sandwich I’ve had in ages. A bolillo roll was filled with flaky, lightly fried black bass. The fish would have impressed on its own, but popped with additional flavor from a nicely balanced assemblage of cabbage, pea shoots, charred onion remoulade and pickled chilis.

The compact entree list held just three options (meat, fowl, vegetarian), a wise approach, it seems to me, for a new tavern, allowing the kitchen to keep the focus tight.

The pan-roasted airline chicken breast, moist and flavorful, picked up pizzazz from garlic grits, grilled onions, sauteed greens and a sharp, smoky shishito-olive tapenade that divided opinions at our table.

Finding total favor was the coulotte steak, which revealed abundant flavor and a good deal of tenderness. Nearly stealing the spotlight from the beef were the roasted fingerling potatoes, with crispy exteriors and flavorful insides. Wilted mustard greens completed this very classy bistro dish.

The desserts — a crunchy, cookie-like “chocolate bar” and chocolate chip bread pudding — fulfilled their part of the meal ably.

As for the libations, the wine list held some enticing, mostly under-$45 options; we settled on a very agreeable Spanish red.

Like most specialty cocktails these days, the ones at Patterson Public House tend toward the sugary and flowery. But we liked the Manhattan variation, with its maple-syrupy, yet not overly sweet, finish.

The bar handled traditional martinis firmly, though the one ordered with a twist of lemon should not have had olives added. That’s the second time in as many weeks I’ve encountered such an aberration in town. If this is a new trend, I hope someone will nip it in the bud.

Patterson Public House: 3.5 stars

2901 E. Baltimore St.

443-388-9887, pattersonpublichouse.com

Cuisine: New American

Prices: Appetizers $10 to $14; entrees $21 to $28

Ambience: The sleekly designed space, with the bar on one level and dining on another, has a friendly, down-to-earth mood; when busy, count on some noise.

Service: Polished, yet relaxed; attentive, yet unobtrusive.

Reservations: Accepted.

Parking: Street. (During peak hours, allow for a few drives around the block.)

Special diets: They can be accommodated.

Wheelchair accessible: Yes.

tim.smith@baltsun.com

twitter.com/clefnotes

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