It seems like wherever you go these days, restaurants and bars are discovering the joys of outdoor seating. Cafe tables are claiming a lot of sidewalk space in Little Italy, along Charles Street's restaurant row, and even in concrete spots downtown where crab grass had been the closest thing to salad fixings.
Among the latest is Ashley's, the renamed and revamped restaurant located in the downtown Days Inn, which recently added seating to a back patio. On Friday evenings through the summer, Ashley's is holding a Tropical Surf Party out here. It features an extended happy hour from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with half-price drinks and an outside grill with burgers for a dollar and hot dogs for 50 cents. Frozen drink concoctions are among the semitropical touches.
Sounds nice, huh? Too bad the surf's barely up at this event. Although the adjacent hotel pool and a small patio fountain are cooling influences, they aren't nearly enough to make you forget that you're boxed in by the hotel parking garage on one side and the Baltimore Arena parking garage across the street. Also, the low brick wall separating the patio from Lombard Street isn't enough to muffle the traffic rumbling by. Add in the cacophonous sounds of the light rail construction nearby on Howard Street and you sure ain't in Tahiti.
A low surfer turnout on a recent Friday didn't help matters any. For every plastic lei around a neck, many went unclaimed. In an attempt to get more bodies out here, management placed a hand-lettered signboard at the restaurant's Hopkins Place entrance. A good idea, but the injunction to "Bring a Freind" (sic) reminds us that the city that reads still needs to work on its spelling.
Things may perk up on Ashley's patio as more people on the happy-hour circuit learn about it, and also as the restaurant implements a more casual menu that should appeal to the sandwich-and-brew crew. Live music is under consideration too, which could lead to a battle of the bands between a calypso
combo on the patio and a jackhammer quartet up the street.
Where: Days Inn, Lombard Street and Hopkins Place.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to midnight daily.
Menu: Sandwiches, steamed shrimp, steak, veal.
Credit cards: All major cards accepted.