Last night I attended the soft opening of Johnny Rad's, a new bar and pizzeria in the former Kelly's location on Eastern Avenue. For a soft opening, the place was doing great business. Something tells me their grand opening (on Friday, August 13) will be even more successful.
From the outset, it's obvious that the owners of Johnny Rad's are big Black Flag fans—the bar's sign uses the band's logo. Once you walk in, the edgy vibe continues, as the place is decked out with show fliers and skateboarding memorabilia (posters and boards line the wall, skate videos are on the TV, and skateboarding wheels act as doorknobs).
It's also quite apparent that the owners put a lot of work into the place, making the once shabby Kelly's a much more polished space. The long bar is a shiny, vibrant red. There's mod-style furniture in the back. There's even an arcade game and a jukebox that plays 7" records (and can also, apparently, be connected to an iPod). Also the staff plans to maintain the karaoke nights that Kelly's was known for.
Last night the staff was a little bit overwhelmed, but still remained extremely friendly and laid back. Our waiter kindly informed us that they had $3 drafts during happy hour. The draft selection was impressive: Oliver's Blonde Ale, Victory Prima Pils, Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat, Guinness, and others. They also had a nice selection of canned beer, including Natty Boh, Dale's Pale Ale, Goslings Ginger Beer, and Negro Modelo. Considering the heat, I also tried their version of an orange crush, made with grapefruit vodka and, it seemed like, a splash of pineapple juice. Delicious!
The menu was just as thoughtful, with bar munchies like hush puppies, a foot-long corn dog, edamame, and pitas with hummus. Of course, there's also the pizza, which comes in 11" or 15" sizes and features fresh ingredients, as well as vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. We also had a fresh salad with phenomenal horseradish dressing.
For a space that's come about quickly (the owners just took over in April), Johnny Rad's is quite put-together already. With its alt-style and thoughtful food and drink menu, Johnny Rad's is on pace to become the Joe Squared of Southeast Baltimore. Can't wait to see how it evolves.