Two clubs raise a toast to celebrate bad news


There's a certain "proverb" about making chicken salad out of a particular chicken byproduct. You know the one. Well, you might say the folks at Club Charles and Zodiac have become mighty good "chicken salad makers" when it comes to any sort of bad rap that comes Baltimore's direction.

"Each time the city gets negative press, we make a cocktail out of it," says Joy Martin, owner of the two North Charles Street hangouts. Right now, there are three new drinks hot off the press. In honor of Baltimore being named one of America's fattest burgs: the Fat City Cocktail, a "really decadent" concoction of Godiva liqueur, cream and vodka with chocolate sprinkles on top.

Then, we have Charm City getting nailed recently for its polluting environs. Hence, the Toxic City Cocktail: raspberry liqueur, vodka, a little bit of sour mix and grenadine sitting on the bottom of the glass, "so it looks like it has toxic waste."

Finally, the newest intoxicant to hit Club Charles and Zodiac, one that needs no other explanation. The Cicadatini. Pineapple vodka and Midori to give it a buggy green color. And two Maraschino cherries in reference to the color of the insects' eyes. Now there's our kind of consumable cicada!

New on Charles

Speaking of eating and new arrivals, a new restaurant opened yesterday on North Charles in the old Buddy's spot. It's called Copra, after the part of the coconut plant that is used as fuel. And the fuel you'll find inside is "comfort food with a kick," according to Beverly Dunn, one of the restaurant's managers.

The menu features brick oven pizzas ($9 and up), several chilis, burgers and sandwiches, including smoked beef brisket and provolone melt ($9) and spiced Virginia baked ham, grilled pineapple and Havarti cheese ($7.50). Entrees include Mama Scott's meatloaf with tomato marmalade and roasted garlic mashed potatoes ($9), Eastern Shore rockfish casserole with tomato, thyme, corn, chorizo and crab ($18), and curried shrimp kabob with spiced fruit chutney over jasmine rice ($16).

The dining room is on the first floor. Downstairs is a lounge, complete with clusters of tables and chairs. The decor is a funky mix of old and new with warm, neutral colors. The full menu is served in both areas.

Copra is at 313 N. Charles St. Hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The bar is open one hour past those closing times. Beverly also says Copra has arranged discounted parking at a nearby garage. Call 410-727-6080 for details.

Center Stage gala

A hurricane hit Center Stage last weekend. A human hurricane, that is. Saying that Jennifer Holliday, this year's performer at Center Stage's annual gala, blew folks away is a major understatement. What a voice!

"I knew she'd blow the roof off," says Center Stage's managing director, Michael Ross. "But, I think right now our roof is somewhere in Timonium!"

Backed by a 12-piece band and back-up singers, Holliday belted out standards from the '60s and '70s. She ended the performance with the showstopping number she sang 22 years ago in Broadway's Dreamgirls - "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" - leaving no doubt why she won Tony and Grammy awards that year.

And that wasn't a bad warm-up act, either, as party chairwoman Cheryl Hudgins Williams and hubby chairman Alonzo Williams started the show with a warm, entertaining welcome to the sold-out crowd.

The audience wasn't the only thing blown away that night. So was the previous record of funds raised by the gala. This year, the bash pulled in more than $300,000 for Center Stage.

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