Barracudas has a dual personality that works well for its Locust Point location: It's both a sports bar and a family-friendly restaurant.
On the first floor, diners can sit at the front bar or in the small back dining room with 24 seats to enjoy chef-owner Billy Hughes' seasonal American menu. Those with (or without) children can head upstairs to a more quiet dining area. A kids' menu is available upon request.
Hughes has been involved in the space as a consultant since it became Luca's Cafe in 2008. He took over the business when Luca's closed in 2010, renaming it Barracudas because "it's the best-tasting fish and is cool-looking."
Chef Felix Ortiz runs the kitchen on a day-to-day basis, turning out dishes like basil crab dip, a Key West salad with grilled shrimp, a porketta sandwich, and entrees that include a fresh-market fish and a "from the butcher" dish featuring different cuts of meat.
You'll also find a Baltimore coddie on the menu — the old-fashioned local specialty that historically includes a deep-fried potato-and-salt-cod cake. Hughes, a Highlandtown native, remembers when the coddies could be found everywhere in town. He used to help a friend's grandmother prepare them.
"We'd make 200 to 300 coddies at a time," he said.
Hughes' love of Baltimore is also evident in the black-and-white historic photos of the city that are hanging in the restaurant.
"It's unassuming," he said of Barracudas. "It's still a neighborhood tavern."
Scene & Decor Barracudas is a typical Baltimore tavern with the bar up front and tables in the back for dining. It's friendly and cozy with old Baltimore photos on the walls, like the one taken after the devastating fire of 1904. There's an upstairs dining room, too. We sat at a table on the first floor, where the noise level can jump when the bar fills up, but it's a fun vibe.
Appetizers The roasted corn and crab bisque ($8), a special on the evening we visited, was soothing and rich. It comes with a choice of saltines or oyster crackers to add some crunch. You don't see coddies ($4 each) on many menus these days, so it's a treat when you find them. At Barracudas, they are made with fresh cod and potatoes. The fried cakes (we ordered two) were served on squiggles of mustard, and were delicious.
Entrees The braised wild boar shank ($29) was a praiseworthy hunk of meat, accompanied by homey caramelized vegetables and rosemary-garlic roasted red potatoes. The oysters in the oyster po'boy ($15) weren't as fresh tasting as I would have liked. The fried bivalves were tucked into a hoagie roll with mixed greens and an excellent Cajun remoulade. The fries looked ordinary, but the hot, salty potatoes tasted a cut above others.
Drinks There is a selection of wines, beers and cocktails, including a Barracuda rum punch — a restaurant specialty.
Service Our cheerful waiter was attentive and helpful.
Dessert It doesn't get much better than three giant, warm chocolate chip cookies with whipped cream ($8).
Backstory: The building has been a tavern for a while. In the '90s, it was Bottoms Up, then became Truman's in 2002. Luca's Cafe opened in the space in 2008 and closed in 2010 when Billy Hughes took it over, renaming it Barracudas.
Signature dish: Braised wild boar shank
TVs: Eight TVs
Where: 1230 E. Fort Ave., Locust Point
Contact: 410-685-2832, barracudalpt.com
Open: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Accepts reservations.
Bottom line: Whether you want to drink the night away with good food or take the family to dinner, Barracudas meets your needs.