Sure, the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront is a ginormous convention hotel, towering amid the other Manhattan-like skyscrapers in Harbor East. But a recent renovation has transformed the lobby restaurant into a warm, inviting area—complete with a new name—that has a ringside seat to a water view. Now called Apropoe’s, a clever nod to our favorite macabre author, Edgar Allan Poe, the restaurant, with its hues of soft brown and subtle lighting, offers a calming place to relax at the bar, nestle into one of the comfy lounge chairs planted near plasma TVs, or stake a table in the dining room. There’s a subtle flow that creates a unity wherever you sit.
It’s an easy place for hotel guests to unwind and feast on seasonal New American fare with nods to Baltimore ingredients or imbibe fancy cocktails like “The Raven” with Hendrick’s gin, Aperol, balsamic, and ginger beer. Besides artisinal drinks, there’s a reasonable wine list and a selection of draft and bottled beers.
Management clearly wants Apropoe’s to be a destination for locals, too, enticing driving diners with valet service and an $8 parking fee with a restaurant receipt.
We started at the bar, where our affable bartender juggled a mix of drinkers and nibblers. It’s worth it to go and eat at the bar, always good for travelers. The menu features options divided into snacks, small plates, and entrees. For instance, snack selections include a caramelized onion dip with house-made potato chips and hummus with pita and celery and carrots.
We chose to continue our meal in the main dining room, where we ordered the deviled Krieder Farms (PA) eggs with shaved Virginia ham and smoked paprika. The four squishy halves were picnic good, though we couldn’t detect any ham. We also delved into a terrine of pimento cheese with smoked bacon jam and grilled bread. It was a great dip, especially with the savory jam, but we would have liked more pimiento in the mix.
We’ve seen our share of beet salads this year, so we were curious about Apropoe’s version. It was a flavorful rendition with peppery upland cress, ricotta salata, almonds, sun-dried cherries, and just-enough honey-ranch dressing.
While there are sandwiches like the Poe burger and a roasted turkey BLT, there are only six entrees to tempt you, which is fine with us. The kitchen, under the guidance of executive chef Carlos Gomez, a grad of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, has a tightly scripted menu that will appeal to all appetites.
For this evening, the big plates appealed to us. Our waitress promoted the crab cakes. Uh oh, that’s a challenge for any Baltimore native.
We’re happy to report that our local delicacy—two cakes, in this case—lived up to our demands, with lots of lump crabmeat and little filler. The sides weren’t traditional, but we liked the accompanying sweet creamed corn, roasted Brussels sprouts, and smoked pepper sauce.
We weren’t familiar with the 1855 New York strip. Our helpful server shared that it’s a type of prized Black Angus beef. The steak was indeed juicy and tender. The smashed fingerling potatoes, roasted asparagus, chimichurri drizzle, and frizzled onions were appropriate complements to the hearty meat. We also enjoyed the braised Duroc pork shank with herbed spaetzle, heirloom baby carrots, and a smoked onion purée—a comfort meal, if ever there was one.
The dessert list seemed fairly standard until one of our choices was delivered to the table. First, we laughed, and then we gaped in wonder. It was simply the biggest serving of crème brûlée we’ve ever seen in a restaurant. We didn’t have a measuring tape, but the long, narrow dish was at least 12 inches in length. Count on sharing this one, flavored with the elixir Grand Marnier.
The tart was also an innovative version, with the pastry wrapped around a mélange of fruit that included apples and blueberries. And, good news, the restaurant serves hometown favorite Taharka Brothers ice cream. The vanilla bean was as sultry as its Haitian roots. A wedge of chocolate-ganache cake with Kahlua and whipped cream will satisfy any chocoholic cravings.
As we finished our meal, we were struck by the comfortable ambiance of Apropoe’s as guests mingled in various parts of the room and we gazed out to the harbor.
Given a recent visit to the excellent The French Kitchen at Lord Baltimore Hotel, we’re wondering if the days of the grand-hotel restaurant are returning—albeit with a contemporary spin. The servers at Apropoe’s wear jeans.