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In Ridgely's Delight, a small restaurant with a strong following

Corner Bistro & Wine Bar has been open more than three years, long enough to earn itself a place of honor in the hearts and stomachs of the residents of Ridgely's Delight, a triangular-shaped neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore within shouting distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The small 30-seat restaurant was crowded on a recent Thursday night. Corner Bistro, which does in fact sit on a street corner, reminded me of those restaurants in romantic New York movies where the main characters are forced to shout out their neuroses, and where the waiters have to perform pirouettes just to move through the dining room. It's cute, and very loud.

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Corner Bistro is owned by brothers Wesley D. and Derrick E. Vaughan. Before opening Corner Bistro in 2011, Wesley, 42, the chef, worked primarily in the private sector, while Derrick, 44, the general manager, was a popular front-of-house presence at such restaurants as Sotto Sopra.

Corner Bistro is cozy and friendly and a little eccentric. The menu's format is odd enough to be off-putting. One side lists appetizers and sandwiches; the reverse lists the "Bar Menu" and dinner specials. But the "appetizers" are mostly soups and salads, and the Bar Menu, which is available both at the bar and in the dining room, is a listing of things that most other restaurant would call appetizers — a cheese plate, wings and different kinds of sliders.

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It will take some menu flipping and forehead wrinkling, but stick with it. The food, especially early on, is impressive.

We had a very good salad of chopped iceberg lettuce tossed with spinach, hard-boiled egg, bacon and tomato in a rich ranch dressing. Absolutely order the pork drumsticks, one of Wesley Vaughan's signature dishes. The drumsticks, actually ribs, are slow-cooked, slathered with sauce — the recommended one is chipotle — and served with blue cheese or ranch dressing. The smoky meat was luxuriously tender. It actually did fall off the bone. The menu lists one permanent soup — corn chowder — and a soup of the day, which, when we visited, was a superb, robust duck soup filled with shredded duck breast.

Another menu oddity: The five dinner specials are the only entrees available. One is a crab cake dinner; another is a changing surf-and-turf. The other three are the pasta, steak and fish of the day. These change every few days.

When we visited, the steak was a New York strip, and the fish was a butter-poached halibut fillet in a shrimp broth, and the pasta was linguine in tomato sauce with meatballs and cured meats in a tomato sauce. Each had its pluses and minuses. The pasta's best quality was its assertively seasoned tomato sauce, which clung to the long stands of pasta and the generous portions of sliced pepperoni and Italian ham. But the noodles were overcooked, almost mushy.

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The halibut entree's best quality was its lovely and aromatic shrimp broth, which the chef makes from the shells of fresh shrimp. But the halibut itself was overcooked, nearly dry. What we liked best about the steak was how well it was seasoned and cooked — a perfect medium rare. But the steak didn't have the rich steak flavor your taste buds go looking for in a New York strip.

Good side dishes helped. Asparagus spears were crisp, seasoned confidently with coarse pepper and salt; potatoes Lyonnaise were crisp-edged and hot from pan-frying; a twice-baked potato was intensely rich and buttery.

Dessert consists of three items, two of which, a chocolate cake and sweet potato cheesecake, are from an outside vendor. The third, a lemon pound cake, is made in-house. None of them really grabs you, though.

Know that Corner Bistro only serves beer and wine. The beer selection is pedestrian, but Derrick Vaughan has put together an easygoing wine list on which the top price for the dozen wines by the glass is $10 and most of the bottle prices are in the $30s. The master stroke — half-price wine by the bottle and glass on Saturday night.

We got the impression that Corner Bistro is patronized mostly by regulars who know a good thing when they find it.

We wondered as much aloud, and our server told us that most of the diners in the room were regulars, mostly residents of Ridgely's Delight.

Even when it isn't in our own neighborhood, we all love a charming little neighborhood joint, and Ridgely's Delight, now that baseball season is over, is more accessible than you might think.

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