Monday, January 2, 2012
In my twelve years in the Hampdens, I'd walked by the Aveue Diner at the corner of 36th + Elm a hundred times. Quite the non-descript, local joint. Always seemed fine, but nothing I'd really seek out.
Then last spring, the Avenue Diner became Corner BYOB. While I don't want my 'hood to become too fancy pants [I don't really do fancy pants], after visiting for dinner I was positively giddy about this change. Chef Bernard Dehaene serves up an eclectic, kinda Belgian-inspired menu like moules frites, potato leek soup, beef stew and so much more.
On my first visit, I tried the mussels bruxelles with goat cheese, bacon and leeks. Mellow, smooth and tasty. If you like a bit of a kick, try the red devil mussels with tomatoes, garlic and peppers. And, the fries - wow! Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside - and excellent dippage on the side. Also, I had the crab and corn chowder, which was ridiculously good. I'm a soup gal - I love making it - so I'm pretty picky about soup. I'd gladly have that again anytime.
On my next visit, I had the dover sole in caper butter sauce over whipped potatoes. Extreme goodness filleted tableside. My friend had the steak with potato croquettes and applewood smoked bacon sprouts. She pretty much licked her plate.
Third time was the absolute charm. I had one of the specials - I highly recommend seriously considering the specials here. This special entree was sauteed [no breading, thank you] soft crabs over fiddle heads and a fava bean aoili. Oh. My. GOSH. The soft and oh-so-slightly crisp soft crab dipped into the creamy aoili. I was done. For my friend, it was the dragon herb moules frites with tarragon and cream. We shared a lovely bottle of Muscadet and the wine was a great match for our food.
The Corner is a tiny place. Tables are close together and I find that creates a bit of comraderie with your neighbors [if you want...if not, you're fine.] On a recent visit, I sat smack dab between lovebirds holding hands between sips of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and an older group enjoying mixed drinks made from miniature bottles of Glenlivet. Most everyone's libations, of course, were purchased at the wonderful Wine Source. The Corner offers a small selection of mocktails, to which you can add your own vodka, gin or rum [or not...and just leave it mocked.]
Some friends of mine have told me they think Corner BYOB is expensive. I disagree completely! If you enjoy an alcoholic drink (I do, I do) you save right there. Yes, there are corkage fees, but you still are saving dough. I'm a big fan of hors d'oeuvres for dinner and love making a meal out of snackage. Here, you could certainly make out of the appetizers like escargot and wild mushrooms in a Zinfandel reduction over brioche, inventive salads, in-season soups, etc.
Or...dive into the entrees and you can have a really fabulous dinner for a pretty reasonable amount of money. Menu entrees run from $17 for the Resurrection Ale beef stew and fries to $26 for the dover sole...more for some of the specials. But I don't mind paying a little more for something I really wouldn't make at home. Chef Bernard and the kitchen consistently turn out fun and inventive dishes. From time to time, you'll see foodie-esque items on the menu like things topped with a quail egg, bone marrow, bear and yak. On a recent visit, I enjoyed a perfectly tender kangaroo steak! If you are particularly interested in adventurous dishes, consider joining their Gastronaut Society. Membership entitles you to prix fixe Gastronaut Society Dinners throughout the calendar year at membership prices, 10% plate discounts on special adventurous fare featured on the menu, as well as an Official Gastronaut Society knife engraved with your name, identifying you as a member. A knife with your name on it. Seriously. In Hampden.
Check out Richard Gorelick's review. When Corner BYOB first opened, they did not take resies. That's now changed [you called it, Richard!] And..even though they prefer cash, you can use a credit card with a small fee attached. this note on the menu cracked me up: "Behaved children are most welcome." Classic.
I've been to the Corner about six times now. Stalker much? Each time I've gone, the service has been good. a little odd, quirky at times - but never rude or super slow. One thing I wish they would do? Print up the specials so that you can refer back to them. Sometimes the server lists about six or seven things and you definitely lose track of the first one they mentioned.
On my most recent visit, I ran into one of Baltimore's most beloved filmmakers, perfect mustache and all.
The Corner is not your average restaurant. That's why I like it - you will, too!