"But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee."
Last weekend, after our wonderful July 4th celebration, I went over to Xani's new house, Clementine (we're trying that name out for now), to help her unpack and put up artwork and figure out where everything goes in that big house of hers. After a long day of unpacking and sweating (she's having some A/C issues), we realized how late it had gotten. It wasn't the clanging of The Bells that told us, but the growling of our stomachs! We thought about just walking somewhere in Federal Hill, like Don't Know Tavern or Ledos Pizza or the little Salvadoran joint called Elvis (don't ask me what Elvis has to do with El Salvador), but then we thought, this is the perfect opportunity to go somewhere on our list! We consulted the list and decided to go to a new-ish bar and restaurant in the Canton/Highlandtown area called Annabel Lee Tavern. We had heard great things about Annabel Lee, and we were eager to try it out for ourselves.
Annabel Lee is the name of a sad love poem written by the great poet Edgar Allen Poe. Poe is one of Baltimore's most famous figures, having died here, and he is buried outside of Westminster Hall, which is connected to the University of Maryland School of Law (where the entire BCD family has attended law school). Creepy, but cool! Annabel Lee Tavern, in essence, is centered around Poe and Baltimore and the connection between the two. Since I have always loved Poe, and I certainly love Baltimore, I was really looking forward to checking it out.
When we walked up to the bar, we went through a heavy door with a lion's head knocker on the front (so we then quoted the scene in Young Frankenstein: "What knockers!" "Why zhank you, doctor."). Without any rapping or tapping on this chamber door we walked in and found... darkness there, and nothing more. Actually, we found it to be a cozy and comfortable space. Xani and I took a seat at the bar and had a look around. The walls are dark but it's not too gloomy, and there are Poe quotes painted on the purple walls, along with a large portrait of Poe himself, who seems to watch over the restaurant. We took a look at the menus and the specials written up on the chalkboard.
But first, we looked at the drinks menu! One great thing about Annabel Lee is that the owner is the former general manager of The Brewer's Art, one of our favorite bars in the city and certainly the best place to get a beer. Annabel Lee carries several of the Brewer's beers and we were looking forward to trying one called the Amontillado--- I mean, Le Canard. Unfortunately, they were all out of that, so the owner (we think) recommended that we order a beer called Southampton Saison. This was a great choice. The beer was really flavorful without being too severe (remember, I am a beer wimp) and the bonus: it came in a great big bottle! Xani and I shared it throughout the evening (so technically we each only had half a beer, if you're counting).
Then it was onto the food! We ordered the
raven duck fat fries to start. Though they were not as good as the ones Xani makes at home, they were far better than any others we've had at a restaurant. They were crispy and definitely had the duck fat flavor to them, although they were a bit salty and a tad greasy in the end. Still, very delicious and served piping hot!
For our mains, we ordered the Greek Salad and the Lamburger Sliders. Both dishes were excellent! The greek salad had delicious fresh greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, a wonderful Israeli sheep's milk feta cheese (much softer than regular feta, like a French feta), a couple dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), and a nice vinaigrette.
The lamburger sliders were also wonderful. Unlike other lamburger sliders we've had, these were served with bacon and cheddar -- what could be bad?? They were perfectly cooked and very substantial for sliders.
The sliders were served with a little cup of very decent blue cheese cole slaw. But my favorite thing on the plate was the sweet potato fries, fried up and tossed with cajun spices and brown sugar. YUM! These were probably the best sweet potato fries I've ever had. I feel like restaurants make sweet potato fries and then they stop there - no seasoning, no "ta-da!" I'm supposed to be impressed because you cut up a sweet potato and fried it? But here, oh no, they really jazzed them up, and it was totally worth it! Just awesome. I want them RIGHT NOW.
Did we have dessert? Nevermore. Well, not this time at least, but we did linger for a while at the bar and chatted with the staff and some other patrons. It was a really homey place with excellent food, and I only wish it were closer to my house! As we were leaving the restaurant and walking down the street to our car, the man we had been chatting with behind the bar (the owner, we believe-- we should have gotten his name!) called after us and said "tear up the planks! --here, here! --it is the beating of his hideous heart!'" No, actually he just waved and thanked us for coming. But how nice! This is what I'm talking about when I say Baltimore really is Charm City.
We highly recommend Annabel Lee Tavern for a wonderfully cozy time and a delicious meal. We'll be back!