You could call 2016 the year of rebranding for many Baltimore bars and restaurants, with several places changing names and menus in recent months. Among them is Saute in Canton — now called Lee's Pint and Shell.
The new iteration features a seafood-laden menu and a raw bar. Owner Dave Carey named the restaurant after his father, Lee, a fisherman and seafood lover who died a few years ago.
The "Pint and Shell" part comes, un surprisingly, from an emphasis on beer and oysters at the new place, which opened in mid-October.
To remodel the tavern, Carey closed for six weeks for a makeover. The redo included incorporating reclaimed barn wood into the decor, building a new bar, adorning the walls with vintage oyster posters, painting a mural and adding high-top tables. Garage-door windows were installed to allow access to the outdoors, weather permitting.
Even with a new menu being turned out by chef Mark Suliga (who was also the chef at Saute), Carey knew he couldn't eliminate favorite foods like the buffalo chicken pizza and duck nachos. After tasting the nachos recently, we can understand the uproar their deletion from the menu might have caused.
This snack is a decadent, addictive pile of chips tossed with tender pieces of confit duck and coated with a silky white-cheddar cheese sauce. We were smitten at first bite.
The rest of the tailored menu is exciting, too. It's mostly sandwiches with several grilled pizzas and an excellent fish and chips entree.
One thing that hasn't changed is the hospitable, neighborhood spirit of the restaurant. You don't have to be a regular visitor to be treated like one. We felt like we belonged from the minute we stepped through the door.
Scene & Decor The pub has a warm atmosphere with its use of recycled wood, kitschy posters and a wall painted with familiar Maryland iconography, including the Baltimore Colts and Natty Boh. High-top tables encircle a central bar in an open room that generates camaraderie. Our only issue was with the backless stools, which can be uncomfortable after you've been sitting for a while.
Appetizers On our visit, local oysters included Orchard Points and Buddy Harrisons for $2 each; you can get them for 50 cents a piece from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. But we passed on that deal so we could try the Mediterranean roasted oysters ($12), which were plump and meaty. Large lumps of crabmeat complemented the gently browned bivalves. Unfortunately, too much feta cheese overpowered the ingredients. The pulled duck nachos ($15) were a welcome treat. In addition to the succulent confit duck and cheese sauce, the corn tortillas were topped with delicious house-pickled poblano pepper rings and a scattering of scallions.
Entrees The fish and chips ($16) were an excellent dish. Two fresh-tasting cod fillets were beer-battered and fried, then served with house-pickled poblanos and the restaurant's hand-cut fries, which are sprinkled with truffle salt and black pepper. (The fries are also offered as munchies on the menu with toppings like braised lamb or a chipotle vinaigrette with shaved manchego cheese.) Our other main dish, a crab cake "sammie" ($15), was a great rendition of the Maryland favorite. The rotund patty was studded with lump crab and had little filler. It was served simply with shredded lettuce and a slice of tomato in a toasted potato roll, with house fries on the side.
Drinks Bourbon is well-represented on the menu, as is beer, including many on draft. Other beverage choices include wine, craft cocktails and — no surprise given the restaurant's name — several oyster shooters.
Service Our server was easygoing and helpful.
Dessert Two were offered on our visit: pumpkin cheesecake and molten chocolate cake ($6), which we ordered. For a time, this warm cake with the gooey chocolate center was all the rage. You don't see it as much now, but it's still a chocolate lover's dream.
Backstory: Owner Dave Carey, who also runs Lee's Landing Dock Bar in Port Deposit, opened Saute in Canton in 2008. He decided to infuse new energy into the restaurant with a fresh name, decor and menu. He closed the restaurant on Aug. 1 and reopened it on mid-October as Lee's Pint & Shell.
Signature dish: Pulled duck nachos
TVs: 10 TVs
Where: 2844 Hudson St., Canton
Contact: 410-327-2883, leespintandshell.com
Open: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Does not accept reservations
Bottom line: The reimagined restaurant with casual fare, specializing in seafood and oysters, is definitely worth checking out.