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At Lobo in Fells Point, sandwiches and snacks go upscale

The night we visited Lobo, the new Fells Point bar and restaurant that occupies the old Pearl's space on Aliceanna Street, traffic was a mess. The evening was beautiful and streets were crowded, which meant a good 30-minute search for a parking spot.

Fortunately, Lobo is a place worth a half-hour of circling. The food is simple and bar-friendly but smart and delicious. The drinks are creative, and the service is quick and wildly welcoming.

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Scene & Decor When we settled into a table, just after 7 on a Thursday evening, the crowd was a likable cross-section of people, from young hipsters to middle-aged preppies, all in good spirits.

The space, which received a major scrub following the closing of Pearl's, was warm and inviting, with plenty of glossy wood and exposed brick. The building is narrow and deep, with the bar down one long wall, in typical Fells Point fashion. Less typically, the kitchen is completely exposed, a small open square at the back of the room.

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Drinks The drinks menu offers a decent selection of local beers and a short, creative wine list. But the real beverage stars are on the cocktail menu.

The Sweet and Hot ($7) was a pretty orange and pink drink served in a martini glass — but it was no Sex and the City cosmo. A bracing combination of gin, spicy chili syrup and Creole bitters, the drink was gorgeous and grown-up.

The Autumn Shandy ($5), a mix of Natty Boh and housemade apple cider, packed less punch but was just as appealing. Served in a pint glass rimmed with a mix of sugar and fall spices, it was well-balanced and easy to drink.

Appetizers With a variety of charcuterie choices and a section devoted solely to "pickled things," Lobo's appetizer menu teeters on the edge of hipster cliche. But the kitchen does everything so well, it's impossible to be mad about that.

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A scoop of scallop ceviche ($12) was bright and nicely seasoned. Mixed with pineapple, red pepper, and sweet onion, and served on a bed of arugula, the ceviche was tropical but not over the top.

From the specials menu, a single Quahog clam, stuffed with scallop, chorizo, and Ritz crackers ($5), was rich, intense and fantastic. The buttery, salty flavor of the cracker, combined with the sausage's spice, was excellent with the lighter seafood flavors.

Entrees Sandwiches at Lobo arrive on boards, with mouth-puckering pickles and a choice of chips, slaw or pasta salad.

The smoked pork loin ($13) had obvious Italian roots, pairing the pork with a roasted garlic spread, provolone, and bitter broccoli rabe. Served on a soft sub roll, the sandwich's traditional combination was a good one, with just enough of each ingredient to keep the flavors balanced, so no one item dominated.

The same was true of the prosciutto panini ($10), which piled thin slices of prosciutto with Roma tomatoes, arugula and a roasted garlic and caramelized onion spread on a baguette. The tomatoes, plus a sprinkle of sherry vinegar, kept the saltiness of the ham and the sweet-savory garlic and onion combination from becoming too rich. The end result, served pressed and warm on the crusty bread, was a stellar example of what a sandwich could and should be.

Another special, a roast beef sandwich ($11) served on ciabatta bread with a dish of au jus for dipping, was less of a home run. Though the meat was cooked nicely and a smear of horseradish sauce had bite, the jus was on the weak side. It was the least successful dish we tried, but even so, it was better than most bar food.

Dessert Lobo's dessert list is short and simple, with options like a boozy root beer float and peaches with Greek yogurt. We enjoyed the affogato ($7), a scoop of vanilla ice cream doused with two shots of espresso. Just sweet enough, it jolted us out of our impending food coma (Lobo's sandwiches alone were quite filling).

Service Restaurants that double as bars — even those with great food — sometimes skimp in the service department, with busy bartenders trying to pull double duty. That wasn't the case at Lobo, where our table's waitress was charming, funny, and completely efficient.

Food and drinks came quickly and thanks to her banter, after dinner we stayed for an extra round of drinks (or two).

And we can't wait to go back to do it all over again.

Lobo

Back story: Jamie Hubbard and Mike Maraziti, both of One-Eyed Mike's, opened a second Fells Point spot, Lobo, in July. They hired Dave Munyon, formerly of Jack's Bistro, to helm the kitchen. Occupying the former home of Pearl's, Lobo's commitment to quality ingredients and tasty combinations extends across the menu, from house-made cocktail mixers to delicious sandwiches.

Parking: Street parking

Signature dish: The prosciutto panini is a warm and glorious stack of salty prosciutto, tomatoes and arugula, served on a baguette smeared with roasted garlic and caramelized onion spread and a dash of sherry vinegar to balance the richness of the savory flavors.

TVs: One (with plans for another in the works)

Where: 1900 Aliceanna St., Baltimore

Contact: 410-327-0303; facebook.com/LoboFellsPoint

Open: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Saturday; kitchen open until 11 p.m.

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: Not accepted

Bottom line: Extremely well-executed drinks and casual food, served with cheer

Nearby Baltimore Sun restaurant reviews: Dish Baltimore - Fells Point

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