Friday, March 19, 2010

Fab and Fun at Mr. Rain's Fun House

by Xani

We recently dined at one of South Baltimore's newest and most unique restaurants: Mr. Rain's Funhouse. Mr. Rain's is located at the top of the American Visionary Art Museum (arguably one of the best museums in our fair city), where the much-missed Joy America Cafe used to be. But Mr. Rain's is so funky, cool, and delicious, it makes us almost able to forget the Joy that was tableside guacamole.

But let's not dwell on the past. Mr. Rain's is (pretty much) about the now, from it's Tim Burton-esque decor (which marries perfectly with the overall tenor of the museum) and it's outrageous cocktail menu, to the menu's focus on world cuisine and sustainable sourcing.

During our recent visit we settled into a spacious table, overlooking the harbor (er, the condos in front of the harbor) and got started with cocktails. Mr. Rain's boasts a very unique bar menu, featuring concoctions with such unusual ingredients as thai basil, artichoke bitters, and cayenne sea salt. We tried the The Orchard (Old Forrester Bourbon, Lillet Blanc, Apple Cider, Cinnamon Syrup) which was slightly sweet with a strong bourbon flavor, and The Art E. Choke Flip (Henderick’s Gin, Cynar Artichoke Bitters, Lemongrass Syrup, Egg White) which we deemed the tastiest cocktail we'd had in recent memory! Anyone out there who likes adventurous cocktails, especially those more savory than sweet, should try the Flip! Turns out Flips are a type of pre-Prohibition cocktail, and you know we love anything retro....

The Flip! Notice the foam on top, from the egg white

The Orchard

Then, onto the food. Mr. Rain's originality doesn't end at the drink menu. The dinner options included several several starters, salads, and soups, along with a drool-inducing list of entrees, both carnivorous and vegetarian. We shared a Roasted Garlic & Radish Soup (with shaved idiazabal cheese) to start-- it was creamy, sharp and delicious-- then moved on to main courses.

Oh, and who could forget the lovely pretzel bites they serve with spicy mustard, instead of the predictable bread and butter!

For mains, we went with meat: Duck 3 Ways (seared ~ sausage ~ confit), and a weekly market special, Hog Roast Platter (tasso cured ham, hunter sausage, head cheese, woodfire barbecue). That's 7 kinds of meat!! Each preparation was well-executed and tasty. Even the headcheese, which we were a bit nervous about, had a mild flavor and complex texture. Grilled beets, saurkraut, sauteed spinach, and other delicious little garnishes were nestled amongst the platters, each complimenting one of the seven preparations of protein nicely.

Ze duck! You can see the seared in the middle of the plate, and the confit on the right

Pig 4 ways! Plus it came with fries on top and an amazing BBQ sauce on the side

While we couldn't even finish the massive servings of meat, we just had to indulge in a bit of dessert. While a nearby table opted for a fantastical Baked Alaska (with cotton candy!), we chose the decadent peanut butter cheesecake, served along with a chocolate-marshmallow popcorn ball. Divine! The in-house prepared desserts are just as whimsical and well thought out as the cocktails and the savory dishes.

Overall, we were wowed by Mr. Rain's! The food, drinks, and service were outstanding, and we're so excited to have this funky new establishment in the neighborhood. We can't wait to see how the changing seasons (yay spring) influence the menus. Asparagus mojito, anyone?

Happy Tim Burton-esque dining,
X & EP

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chaps BBQ: Good Food and...Adult Entertainment?

by Erin

Recently I joined a group of friends from work in a trip to Chaps Charcoal Restaurant, a Baltimore landmark, for lunch. Chaps has been featured on "No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel and "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" with Guy Fieri (the episode also featured Chef Duff from "Ace of Cakes") on the Food Network and is known for one thing: pit beef. Pit beef is a Maryland thing (apparently - I only found this out when the out-of-towners had no idea what I was talking about), typically made from top round beef that is cooked over charcoal and then sliced super-thin, served on a kaiser roll with raw onions and horseradish sauce (lovingly referred to as "Tiger Sauce" when it comes to pit beef).

Ever since being featured on TV, Chaps has been on my radar. I grew up eating pit beef with the BCD family (traditionally served with awesome, boardwalk-style fries) and since Chaps got so much press, we were eager to drive across the city to give it a try.

Chaps is located on Pulaski Highway near the County line and there are a good handful of adult book and video stores in the area. Chaps happens to be located in the parking lot of a strip club. One stop shopping if you were so inclined!

Gentleman's Gold Club + sandwiches

Anyway, the group arrived at Chaps right around noon and miraculously we missed the gigantic line that formed after we got there and at one point stretched out the door.

Mostly male clientele at Chaps; I felt a little out of place (a) being dressed in business attire, and (b) being female, but everyone was super-friendly nonetheless :)

I was first in line and I knew exactly what I wanted: pit beef sandwich, medium rare, fries, drink. YUM. Some of my friends got some other side items with their sandwiches, like baked beans, cheese fries, or cole slaw, but I needed to investigate the fries - official blog research, of course!


Cheese fries - I heard they were good

The verdict? The pit beef was moist, tender, and well-cooked (it was more medium than medium rare but that's okay), the roll was fresh, and the tiger sauce was rich, creamy, and SO strong your sinuses were cleared with each bite. Delish!

The fries were good but they were a little cold and needed some salt -- perhaps I got the bottom of the batch? BTW, fries + tiger sauce = amazing. I've been to pit beef places (at the farmers' market under the JFX, for instance) where they add bits of charred beef to the sandwich to add some contrast in texture, which would have been nice to have here but certainly did not detract from the sandwich experience.


Most of the folks I came with got pit beef, but a few friends got the "Triple D," featured on (created on?) "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" which consisted of pit beef, corned beef, and sausage all on one sandwich. Wow. It got great reviews, perhaps I'll try it next time?

Triple D sandwich

It was a great lunch adventure and I was glad I could share the Baltimore tradition of pit beef with my friends! My next goal is to go back to The Canopy on Route 40 in Catonsville, where BCD Dad used to take me for pit beef after lacrosse games, so I can compare to Chaps. Any excuse to eat pit beef and fries, right?

The lunch gang!

Happy local fare eating,

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