Wet Your Whistle

Josh Sullivan garnishes a Carmen Miranda—rum, cantaloupe, lime, macadamia orgeat and egg white—with a sprig of mint.
Josh Sullivan garnishes a Carmen Miranda—rum, cantaloupe, lime, macadamia orgeat and egg white—with a sprig of mint.

The Sullivan brothers have been talking about opening a restaurant for years. P.J., 38, runs a graphic design company, Hardly Square, that creates training videos for Rubbermaid and designed the logo for the Senator Theatre. Josh, 34, a bar manager (notably for years at the Maryland Club), runs the Post Prohibition blog. The Glens Falls, N.Y., natives (who grew up around the country as their father managed General Electric plants) opened Wet City in July. The name refers to Baltimore’s status in the 1920s as belonging to a state that refused to conform to federal Prohibition regulations.

Brothers Josh (left) and  P. J. Sullivan, Wet City  owners.
Brothers Josh (left) and P. J. Sullivan, Wet City owners.

Bar. Initially, the brothers thought they’d open a 30-seat cocktail lounge named Post Prohibition after Josh’s blog, and even messed around in 2008 with a monthly pop-up called Libation Lounge at the late Gin Mill in Canton. Meantime, Josh learned to make beer, so they expanded the concept. He has a contract license to brew elsewhere, but they hope to bring a small operation in-house—if they can jump the regulation hurdles. At moment, they’ve got 20 taps with a handful of local suds and plenty from Europe. “I’m really into Scandinavian beer right now,” P.J. says. The cocktail menu is a mix of seasonal and classics—like the Brooklyn, made with Pikesville rye, Amaro and dry vermouth—that live up to Josh’s insider blog persona. His concoction Manly Deeds Womanly Words, with Old Grand-Dad, rum, lemon and honey with a splash of I.P.A., was picked up by Food & Wine Magazine. Its name is also the Maryland state motto. (Who knew?)

Décor. P.J., weary of ubiquitous everything-repurposed-dimly-lit-by-Edison-bulb décor, turned instead to the spare and bright interiors of places like Copenhagen’s Mikkeller Bar, which he and his wife, Nicole Fisher, visited in 2015. Geometric floating Cyprus shelves hold bottles above the bar. The place is stark white and lit by LED lights, a bright atmosphere that isn’t likely to change much.

Pork belly fried rice.
Pork belly fried rice.

Food. Chef Chuck Allen, who ran the evening kitchen at Sascha’s 527 before it closed to the public, found the Sullivan brothers on Facebook. “I’ve always wanted to do a place like this. They’re taking the drinks to the next level; I wanted to make food to match.” Allen has embraced the Scandinavian vibe with pickled things—fried pickles with beets and carrots as well as cukes, or pickled berries drizzled on the evening’s short ribs. His crab “pops” are laced with lemongrass and rest in a dollop of tangy-sweet yuzu marmalade. “We don’t like to handcuff ourselves to local,” adds the chef. “In August, I love Maryland tomatoes. In June, they suck.”

Final Verdict. With a name reminiscent of a period when Baltimore took a historic stand, Wet City, influenced by trend-setting Scandinavia, is defiantly modern.

Wet City. 223 W. Chase St. 443-873-6699. wetcitybrewing.com

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