An American institution in "casual dining" has finally made it to Baltimore. After 34 years in business in other cities across the United States, Houlihan's has just opened in the Power Plant building where the Pier 4 Kitchen + Bar restaurant used to be. So, what does this eatery bring to the Inner Harbor?
"We like to think we invented and designed casual dining," says assistant general manager Megan Schneebaum, pointing to the chain's beginnings in 1972.
Schneebaum says the company has completely renovated and restyled the place. She describes the new look as "warm utilitarian." She says you'll find warm wood walls, exposed metalwork and touches of brushed stainless steel.
The open kitchen is at one end of the large space, with a large rectangular bar in the center of the room. Some high-top tables are situated between the bar and the front window. Dining tables and booth seating fill the rest of the room.
Schneebaum says folks who have enjoyed Houlihan's in other cities will find the menu offers some familiar friends, such as the chain's jumbo mushroom caps stuffed with herb-and-garlic cheese, coated in bread crumbs, fried crisp and served with a creamy horseradish dip ($8.50) and an entree of chicken breasts stuffed with garlic-herb cream cheese, breaded, baked and served with veggies and red-bliss mashers ($14.75).
There are entrees such as seven huge shrimp, battered and fried ($14.95), pot roast ($11.95) and New York strip ($18.95). Each comes with a vegetable and potato.
Houlihan's, 443-872-0058, is at 621 E. Pratt St., #100F. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Sofi's Crepes expands
A local North Charles Street favorite has just added a little wiggle room. You'll actually be able to sit down and enjoy your order at Sofi's Crepes.
Owner/chef Ann Costlow says she's expanded the creperie to include a small area for seating. The 20-foot-by-8-foot area - previously storage space for the Everyman Theatre next door - offers a window-front view of Charles Street. Costlow describes it as "very New York." There is a sparkly sylestone counter along the window, with about eight stools. A banquette sits just behind, which can seat another 10 folks.
Adding more sparkle to the space are a glittery vinyl floor and a rotating exhibit of artwork that will come courtesy of the Schuler School of Fine Arts at Maryland Institute College of Art and the Creative Alliance.
Costlow says one thing that hasn't changed is the menu. It still offers sweet and savory crepes - about a dozen of each - in prices that range from $4 to $8.
To celebrate the "new and improved" Sofi's, Costlow is throwing a grand-opening celebration at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Baltimore zydeco band the Crawdaddies will perform.
Otherwise, you'll find Sofi's Crepes open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Sofi's, 410-727-7732, is at 1723 N. Charles St.
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