Most corner bars have an air of anonymity. Dark. Slightly sticky. Smelling of suds. But not so with Lobo, which opened in June, and has nothing to hide.
For starters, the establishment's name is appealingly clear (Lobo is Spanish for wolf; the bar is on the corner of Wolfe Street), and the open kitchen provides diners with a front-row seat to chef Dave Munyon's (formerly of Jack's Bistro) cooking. Equally accessible is a menu of well-priced appetizers, meat and cheese boards, soups, sandwiches, and a variety of Maryland seafood dishes. (The priciest item is $20.)
That's not to say that this place, taken over by Jamie Hubbard and Mike Maraziti of Fells favorite One-Eyed Mike's, didn't get a major facelift. What was Pearl's for 55 years—with its neon lights, hulking pool tables, and prevalence of beer pong—is now more polished, with exposed brick, sleek woods, and a raw bar.
The drinks are surely a step up, with craft cocktails like an old fashioned with red-date vinegar and brandied cherries, red sangria with house-made simple syrup, and house-made ginger beer, as well as microbrews from Baltimore and beyond.
On the night of our visit, we sat on a barstool at the edge of the intimate kitchen. This is a place to sample, so we did—digging into a terrific ensemble of tuna tartare ($10) adorned with chanterelles and fried garlic, plus crisp wonton chips for scooping. We also lapped up the Maryland crab soup ($5), which had good heat but was thin and nothing to write home about. A hearty bowl of clams ($10) with spicy chorizo was way more deserving of praise.
The real stars of the show followed those first few plates, and included the smoked pork loin sandwich ($13). It was an excellent variation on the Italian classic with bitter broccoli rabe offset by provolone cheese and intensely flavorful pieces of pork. The airy bread was wisely sourced at nearby Bonaparte Breads.
The chef's board ($20) with salty San Daniele prosciutto, circles of sweet coppa, creamy manchego, house-made pickles, and a spicy imported cheddar made with mustard seeds and brown ale provided an interesting variety of textures and tastes and was also a menu must-have.
We should note that, while our server was excellent, most of our dishes were handed to us, straight over a partition, by the chef. Doesn't get more approachable than that.