Despite sweet success, Jason Ambrose was feeling a little tired…. Well, maybe tired isn’t the right word, says the 43-year-old, who opened the innovative Salt Tavern on an unlikely block of East Pratt Street nearly a decade ago. “I wanted to do something else. Nine years of any job, you get restless.” Besides, he says, “Salt had evolved into a place my friends couldn’t afford to go to.”
So Ambrose, with the help of Hencken & Gaines construction, converted the 700-square-foot ground floor of a corner rowhouse (at one time a bar called Down the Hatch) in Locust Point into 1157 Bar and Kitchen.
Like Salt, the place is a revelation. So much more than the tiny room (five two-tops, a table for eight and a dozen bar stools) would suggest. Ambrose, who still owns Salt, can be seen in his new miniature kitchen—with barely more than a six-burner Vulcan and Hoshizaki fridge only inches larger than a home Frigidaire—busily arranging his elevated take on bar food on smooth walnut boards (made by a friend), while two bartender-servers take care of things up front.
Location. The Haubert Street spot is pretty much across the street from Under Armour with its 3,000-plus mostly young, unfettered employees. Ambrose has been seeing plenty of young professionals amble in after work (happy hour starts at 4). Well-heeled empty nesters from Silo Point walk over on weekends. More low-key than Silo.5 and the Wine Market, more nuanced than nearby Hull Street Blues Cafe, 1157 won’t have any trouble finding a local audience. Too bad for the rest of us. Hoofing it out there to take our chances on one of the 30 seats might require a backup plan.
Food. “When my wife and I lived in the city,” says Ambrose, who has since moved to the Essex waterside, “we’d find ourselves walking into restaurants and sitting at the bar.” He says he started “getting a little obsessed with eating and drinking at bars.” The menu is heavy on small plates and sandwiches, with only two or three entrées (seared sea scallops and wild boar ragout in fresh pappardelle on an early visit). Chicken wings twice-fried in rice flour and smothered in Korean chili paste and sweet soy glaze, beef tartare dressed up with chimichurri and served with a pickled quail egg, crispy octopus with a swirl of tart orange dipping sauce—these treats are not your average bar food. Sandwiches like duck confit and gruyère on a crispy baguette with sour cherry relish and braised short-rib melt will no doubt make way for lighter combos with the arrival of spring. “March,” says the chef, “means ramps and morels and fun stuff like that.”
Drinks. A few sturdy shelves behind the bar proffer a preponderance of brown liquors, many small-batch domestics. “It’s the way I like to drink,” admits Ambrose. The eight taps crank out a rotating selection of brews and ciders—hailing from Belgium to Monkton to Hershey, Pa. The Bloody Mule is tongue-tingling ginger beer and vodka pierced with blood orange syrup, and the pre-mixed Negroni has a mellow, smoky flavor. There’s also a short but thoughtful selection of wines by the glass.
Desserts. Tangy Meyer lemon sorbet—made in-house at Salt—is fresh and palate-cleansing, while a banana-chocolate tart, drizzled with caramel, is sweet and creamy. The adult milkshake—
mezcal with spicy Mexican chocolate—is worth the calories (as long as someone else is driving).
Final Verdict. Jason Ambrose, who wowed us with Salt, has recently decided to simplify. Somebody please tell him 1157 is anything but simple. On the other hand, don’t.
1157 Bar and kitchen
1157 Haubert St.