Brightly beckoning from the corner of Baltimore and Linwood streets, Bistro Rx is a welcome oasis in what seems to be a relative desert of restaurant choices in this increasingly gentrified pocket of Baltimore City at the Northeast corner of Patterson Park.
Reminiscent of the majority of the living rooms of the neighborhood’s renovated homes, exposed brick walls and gleaming hardwood floors greet diners as they slip through the front door directly into one of the dining areas. Wide storefront style windows give a panoramic view of bustling Baltimore Street and the park; a prime people watching establishment, this certainly is.
On the night of my visit, a particularly frigid Friday evening, my uncharacteristic earliness meant I was solo for a bit until the rest of my party arrived. Looking to warm up with a seasonal beverage, I was pleased to be able to find a seat at the bar which was nearly full when I approached.
Cocktails on the regular cocktail menu are pleasantly inventive, utilizing a variety of liquors as well as sweet and savory ingredients. While the list was impressive, the bartender’s description of one of the two seasonal cocktails was too enticing to ignore. A ginger caramel infused apple cider with Maker’s Mark, garnished with ginger slices and presented in a short martini style glass, arrived moments later and surely did not disappoint.
The cocktail menu is just the start, at Bistro Rx, though. The remainder of the drink list offers a relatively large number of wine choices by the glass in addition to many bottles as well. The beer list is equally impressive with many craft beers and a good number of local brews represented.
As the rest of the party started to arrive, the hostess pleasantly approached and offered us a table. Our reserved table was already available, and though our party was not complete, our friendly hostess was more than happy to seat us.
Because of the brick walls, hardwood floors, and expansive glass windows, Bistro Rx has the potential to have that cavernous echo that some restaurants possess that makes it impossible to fully focus on your dining companions and conversation. However, Bistro Rx has managed this potential challenge expertly by creating nooks and walled off areas to create what feels like a small semi-private room for some tables. Our party of six was seated in a nook that housed just our table. Surrounded by local artwork on the walls and candles on the table, the ambiance is far beyond what one would expect from a restaurant at such a reasonable price point. (Note: Bistro Rx was named 2013 Winner of “Best Deals” by Baltimore Magazine.)
Our enthusiastic server, Alberto, approached immediately and handled all of our questions regarding the food and wine with the professionalism and knowledge that one could expect at an upscale four star restaurant. If there is a contest for best server in Baltimore anytime soon, my nomination will certainly be for Alberto! From start to finish, our experience was elevated by the quick and kind service, and high level of knowledge (from cocktails to wine to beer to food!) this server has.
The menu at Bistro Rx focuses on affordable flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads. The appetizers list is long and ranges from the pub grub style staples like wings and sliders and nachos to more upscale choices like crab bruschetta, blackened ahi tuna or jalapeno and bacon cornbread with welsh rarebit.
Additionally, each night there is a fairly substantial list of several more appetizers and five or more entrees as specials. This list also includes the impressive fresh cheese and meat selections available for their “Cheeses and Accoutrements” or “Ploughman’s Plank” plates.
Prices were particularly reasonable, with many appetizers hovering around the $7 – $11 range, most entrees in the middle-teens, salads of a very reasonable size are $7, and flatbreads range from $10-$12. The majority of our table chose to mix one or two appetizers for a meal or an appetizer with a salad. The prices and portions are perfect for this kind of mix and match approach.
The dishes ordered at our table came out prepared as described, in a timely manner, and plated prettily. The Lobster Macaroni and Cheese ($8) was a popular choice. A sauce of perfectly creamy consistency coated noodles of the perfect toothsomeness and were mixed with chunks of lobster, all topped with a generous amount of bacon pieces and a sprinkle of herbs and diced tomatoes. Honestly, while I will never turn down lobster, this dish was definitely delicious enough on its own to not require any seafood additions.
The Mushroom Torte, an appetizer selection for $9, was served in a shallow ramekin. A hearty portion of locally grown mushrooms in a garlic wine sauce, with parmesan cheese filled the pastry crust. The savory filling was satisfying and the size of the appetizer was perfect for pairing with another appetizer or salad on the menu to make a meal.
The Mussels and Chorizo appetizer ($14) was a combination of huge mussels in a seafood broth with chorizo sausage and bread. The dish was so pretty it could have been featured on a magazine cover. The same could be said for the Hummus Plate ($6) with its toasted flatbread piled high, or the Grilled Caesar Salad ($7 before addition of steak) with its perfectly medium rare steak sliced on top.
Satisfied by our drinks and dinner choices, no one in the group ordered dessert. However, Bistro Rx does have an enticing dessert menu with a Baked Chocolate Banana that I may just have to save room for next time.
Overall, Bistro Rx would certainly be my prescription for a cure for the common restaurant. The incredible service, the cozy ambiance and the very reasonable prices will make you want to step over to this often overlooked part of Charm City.
Tip: In the warmer months, outside tables are available, too, for your Patterson Park watching pleasure!
2901 E Baltimore St, Baltimore, MD