Restaurant Deconstructed: Le Garage

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In the Bordeaux region of France, garagistes shook up the red wine world in the 1990s with their nontraditional blends. Named in part for that movement, Le Garage opened in Hampden in April with its own take on French and Belgian beer-with-food. Chris Spann, founder-owner of The Wine Market, stands in the background as “partner-consultant” while Brendan Kirlin, who trained as a beer buyer for Spann’s Locust Point bistro, mans the front of the house and stocks the bar. The kitchen is commandeered by Sarah Acconcia, whose credentials include helming 13.5% Wine Bar and the defunct Kettle Hill as well as working as sous chef at Maggie’s Farm.

Menu. While the menu is inspired by flavors French and Belgian, Acconcia dabbles in Southeast Asian flavors, possibly influenced by her previous gig with Andrew Weinzirl at Maggie’s Farm.

Specials include a Maryland rockfish, bouillabaisse with lobster, mallard duck breast and ribeye steak frites. Acconcia is most jazzed about the chef’s blind tasting menu, five courses of inspiration, du moment.

Frites & burgers. Le Garage’s Frites shop, in the entry vestibule on the Avenue is a first for Baltimore. Thick-cut fried potatoes, creamy inside, crispy out, come in cones with a choice of 18 dipping sauces—ranging from a sharp red chili gochujang aioli to Old Bay ketchup to sweet pea and ginger— though missing is classic Belgian mayo. Try them all. The restaurant menu boasts a delicious burger, a Roseda dry age topped with cheddar, arugula and fois gras.

Bar. Kirlin has stocked the taps with a mix of Belgian, French and local craft suds, designed to complement the beer-friendly food, and available for transport in Le Garage-branded growlers. There’s a cocktail list with classic drinks featuring local spirits, and familiar French elixirs—think Lillet and Chartreuse—in new concoctions. Wine drinkers can turn to what Spann calls “the smart, efficient little all-French wine list.”

Décor. The former Dogwood has been divided into discrete bar and dining sections by open shelves stocked with empty growlers, vintage cookbooks and assorted bric-a-brac. The basement space has a garage-y feel; SM+P partner Charles Patterson (who also designed the nearby Food Market and Mt. Washington Tavern) chose dark hues and industrial chic touches—like a window with arty tinted panes looking into the private dining room—to create an informal vibe. 911 W. 36th St., 410-243-6300. legaragebaltmore.com
—Martha Thomas

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