The hotel bar is always a bit of a wild card.
Sometimes it’s just a bastion of convenience; a ready place to get a late-night drink after a day of traveling. More rarely, it’s a watering hole with a life and character of its own.
Bloom’s, the new lounge inside the freshly opened Hotel Ulysses, is a hotel bar in the latter vein. Climb the stairs at the boutique hotel’s entrance, hang a right, pass through a set of red curtains, and you’ll find a low-lit, velvet-clad, mirrors-everywhere bar that could definitely stand on its own.
The lounge, open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight, fits in with the Ulysses’ eclectic style. The 116-room Mt. Vernon hotel, which opened Sept. 21 in the historic Latrobe Building, features design references that span “Art Deco movie palaces, the oeuvre of Baltimore icon John Waters and so much more,” per the hotel’s developer, the New York-based Ash design firm.
The mirrored bar, walls and ceilings create a theatrical, slightly dizzying effect, while warm pink petal lamps, floral arrangements and plush purple velvet bar stools and curvy banquettes keep things cozy and romantic. The décor calls to mind retro Las Vegas spots like the Peppermill Lounge, where glamour mixes with camp.
To drink, there are classic cocktails like gimlets, Midori sours and a $22 French Martini, featuring vodka, crème de framboise, pineapple and Champagne. There’s also a customizable Old Fashioned menu, with choices of bourbon and gin as well as add-in cordials in flavors like passion fruit, tart cherry and banana. I tried an Old Fashioned with Barr Hill’s barrel-aged Tom Cat gin and blackberry cordial, a smooth combination with a hint of sweetness.
Bloom’s has a small snack selection of house-roasted almonds, marinated olives and rosemary chips, but you can find a more expansive menu in the hotel’s in-house cafe and restaurant, Ash Bar. It’s on my list to try next.
Take me to Church
Chelsea Gregoire has helped launch bar programs at restaurants around the city and was named Esquire’s 2019 Beverage Director of the Year. But before entering the hospitality business, Gregoire was a theology student.
Church, a new bar opening Wednesday at 2219 Maryland Ave. in Old Goucher, pulls some inspiration from those theological roots. With partners Marisa Dobson and Martha Lucius, Gregoire aims to create a secular gathering space that encourages community-building and engagement.
At Church — tagline “filled with the spirits” — guests can commune over a curated list of 10 cocktails, ranging in price from $10 to $15, including “The Host,” a mega-martini that serves four to five people, and the “St. Vincent,” a brandy and concord grape drink topped with mint foam. For those who don’t drink alcohol, there are five spirit-free options.
The bar’s food menu will be designed by a rotating array of chefs participating in Church’s Chef Residency program, which will bring on a new local or touring chef on a quarterly basis. First in the lineup is Cajou Creamery co-founder Dwight Campbell, who brings 15 years of experience to the role, including work at Stephen Starr’s Steak 954 in Ft. Lauderdale and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Future resident chefs include Melanie Kerr, a former “Chopped” contestant who has also served as the executive chef at the nonprofit Moveable Feast, and Chef Anna Kent, the owner of Tom Cat’s Kitchen and vice president of the Baltimore Bartender’s Guild.
A separate room called “The Fellowship Hall” will function as a community meeting space for hosting skill-sharing classes on banking, Narcan use and more, as well as hospitality training for Church’s staff.
Cross Street Market searches for its last vendor
And then there was one.
For the first time in years, Cross Street Market is almost fully leased, and the Federal Hill food hall’s operators are launching a contest to find their final vendor.
Caves Valley Partners, which led the market’s $8.4 million renovation, and the Atlas Restaurant Group, which recently took on a marketing and operations role there, will offer $50,000 to subsidize the costs of construction and startup fees for the winning applicant.
Caves Valley partner Arsh Mirmiran said the remaining 300-square-foot space, across from the market’s bar, “is the most central food stall in the entire market.”
“It’s a save-the-best-for-last situation,” he said. The selected vendor will join other new merchants including The Chicken Lab, DMV Empanadas, Indian spot Krishna Aunty, Italian restaurant Velleggia’s and the soon-to-open HK A Seafood Joint. Mirmiran said the market is in talks to lease space to a brisket vendor, as well.
Cross Street Market operators are looking for vendors specializing in cuisine that can’t already be found in the market; possibilities, according to Mirmiran, include Mediterranean, Vietnamese and Chinese food, as well as a bakery or salad spot.
Applications for the stall contest are available at crossstmarket.com.
America’s Got Tacos update
Back in August, we reported on McCormick & Co.’s “America’s Got Tacos” competition, which offered up $50,000 for a theme song for the Hunt Valley-based spice maker’s Original Taco Seasoning.
Now we have a winner: Chesapeake, Virginia resident Reggie Lewis Halsey Jr. Actress Keke Palmer called the 38-year-old father of three last week to break the news that his song, inspired by his family’s affinity for Taco Tuesdays, is the new taco-seasoning jingle. Halsey, who used writing and performing music as a form of therapy after he was paralyzed in a car accident, said he plans to use his winnings to pay for college for his oldest daughter.
You can check out his “soul rock with a country twist” theme song below.