Walk down 36th Street in Hampden and you could easily miss it. Even a stroll down the less busy Elm Avenue, where the inconspicuous entrance is located, could lead to a missed opportunity.
But while the Other Corner Charcuterie Bar, an adjoining bar-meets-cafe companion to the adventurous Corner BYOB restaurant (which opened in March 2011), may exist quietly in the shadows, it was well worth uncovering last Tuesday night.
The space charms you from the first step inside. Behind the bar, aged meats hang from the ceiling on oversized hooks, as if Ron Swanson had decorated a Christmas tree. A tattoo-style mural of a two-headed monkey — one face looking wired and the other tired, takes up a wall by the bathroom. The low lighting and abundance of dark wood add to a setting that is both sleek and surreal.
It's a small area, seating approximately 30, which adds to the sense you're in on a secret. The bar has a dozen seats, but they were all full around dinnertime, so we took a seat in the dining area. Tables are set up very closely, which was good in our case (the table next to ours recommended that day's food special) but could turn off customers in search of relative privacy. Either way, sitting in the Other Corner Charcuterie Bar is an intimate experience.
Our server quickly handed over a menu, and wasted little time to sell me on the warm cocktail special. It felt like November outside, so her offer, which lacked a name, came as a welcomed antidote. The drink ($6), which consisted of Pikesville Rye, clove syrup and cinnamon and was garnished with an orange peel, was small in size but powerful in punch. The spice burned my nose as pleasantly as such as a thing can. The Corpse Reviver No. 2 ($9), a classic with a wonderful name, delivered a powerful-but-still-balanced mixture of gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau triple sec, Kubler Absinthe and lemon juice. Another standard, a Negroni ($8), was appropriately bitter without overdoing it.
The most attractive aspect of the Other Corner Charcuterie Bar is its confidence. This is a bar that knows the type of product it wants to serve (handcrafted, local, idiosyncratic), and what kind of bar it wants to avoid being.
At the top of the drinks menu are rules that either all bars should follow ("If the bartender slows down or halts your consumptions, there are no questions asked") or rules that fit the bar's aesthetic ("Inside voices please"). There is even a rule that smartly covers the bar if service gets behind ("Our drinks are made with love, please allow time for them to be prepared correctly"). Not every bar needs guidelines, but in this case, they effectively help a new business establish itself.
Food is typically not something addressed in a Midnight Sun bar review, but once again, the Other Corner Charcuterie is a different case. The food and drink menu feel interconnected here, and choosing between one and the other seems foolish, especially given the prices of the small plates (ranging from $6.50 to $9). The fondue was smoky and the escargots were tender, but it was the frog legs, delicately prepared and falling off the bone, which tasted best. Owner and chef Bernard Dehaene, who also owns and runs the kitchen for Corner BYOB, has brought the same thoughtfulness to his restaurant's new pal.
But really, it was the sum of the Other Corner Charcuterie Bar's parts that certified it a winner. When we left, the discussion did not center on a single aspect (although the frog legs and warm cocktail both could have warranted it), but the entire experience as a whole. As Baltimore's bar scene continues to grow — and this space is just another recent example that we're headed in many exciting directions — expectations and standards will rise as well. The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar is more than ready for the challenge, and the reason comes back to confidence.
The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar
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Back story: Bernard Dehaene, owner and chef of Corner BYOB, expanded his vision in late September by adding a small, adjoining bar next door. The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar specializes in craft cocktails and small plates of food meant for sharing. Naturally, charcuterie is practiced and celebrated here.
Parking: Free and metered along the streets
Signature drink: The sweet Corpse Reviver No. 2 ($9) will grab your attention but won't give you a toothache. The bar focuses on cocktails but also has three drafts, including an $8 draft of Delerium Tremens. Because it's Baltimore, you can order a bottle of National Bohemian for $2.50.
Where: 850B W. 36th St., Hampden
Contact: 443-869-5075 (this is the Corner BYOB number)