Say Queso

A new mezcal bar serves up authentic Mexican fare.

By Jess Mayhugh - August 2015

Review: Clavel

A new mezcal bar serves up authentic Mexican fare.

By Jess Mayhugh - August 2015

A sizzling skillet of queso fundido -Photography by Christopher Myers

Though Lane Harlan’s new Remington bar Clavel is only a block away from her first one, W.C. Harlan, the two couldn’t be more different. Where speakeasy-style W.C. Harlan boasts a dark, candlelit interior, her new mezcaleria and taqueria (whose name means “carnation”) is pastel peach with bright green cacti perched on the windowsills, an exposed kitchen, and an airy dining room. And though the cocktails are a draw at both bars, even if you don’t drink, the food is the main draw at Clavel.

Clavel was first inspired by a trip Harlan and her husband, co-owner Matthew Pierce, made to Oaxaca, Mexico, years ago. The duo has returned many times to the region to research mezcal production and pursue an authenticity apparent everywhere—from a list of more than 30 mezcals (a smoky cousin of tequila made from agave plants) and totopos (corn masa chips) to hand-woven tortilla baskets. Harlan and Pierce even recruited chef Carlos Raba, who grew up in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa.

Clavel is one of the buzziest bars to open in recent months, and we were eager to see what the fuss was about. On our visit, we started with the queso fundido ($12), a cast-iron skillet of bubbling Chihuahua cheese topped with spicy chorizo and bolstered by a side of chunky guacamole and frijoles puercos (blended beans and pork). To cool things down, we also opted for ceviche sinaloense, ($6) a refreshing take on a traditional Sinaloa dish, this version consisting of lime- and chili-cured shrimp, tomato, and serrano peppers atop a crunchy tostada.

But the real stars here are the seven varieties of tacos, like the pescado ($5) with pan-seared mahi mahi, tomatoes, onions, and beet-red pickled cabbage from local shop HEX Ferments or the earthy cochinita pibil ($3) with slow-roasted pork marinated in bitter oranges and achiote.

We must praise the handmade flour tortillas, all remarkably sturdy and never tearing, despite their thinness, under the weight of hefty ingredients. There’s little to no fire in most of Clavel’s dishes, so heat seekers should consider dousing their dishes with the complimentary table salsa. Beyond tacos, the micro-sized menu also features an impeccable pork sandwich, or “torta,” and a quesadilla for the less adventurous.

But between the native soundtrack on the stereo (we found ourselves shimmying our shoulders throughout the meal) and genuine Mexican flavors, Clavel is the place to visit when you’re in the mood to travel south of the border without leaving Baltimore.





You May Also Like


In Good Taste

Open & Shut: Water for Chocolate; With Love Company; Entré Amigos

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.

On The Town

Shark Week Specials Swimming Our Way in Baltimore

From themed food to aquatic events, sharks are lurking at local bars and restaurants.

In Good Taste

Open & Shut: The Charmery; Coelum; Ono Poke

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.



Food & Drink

Local Flavor Live Podcast: No Farms, No Beer

Plus, The Charmery in Federal Hill, a fond farewell to digital editor Jess Mayhugh, and best bites.

Food & Drink

A-Z Guide to Crabs

The ultimate hardshell Bible.

A sizzling skillet of queso fundido -Photography by Christopher Myers

Connect With Us

Most Read


Relics of Baltimore's Forgotten Punk Scene Showcased in New Metro Gallery Exhibit: Celebrated Summer Records owner Tony Pence curates fliers, photos, and music from 1977 to 1989.

What is the Likelihood of President Trump Coming to Baltimore?: With a House Republican conference and an invitation from Elijah Cummings, a presidential visit might be imminent.

Oletha DeVane Showcases Sculptural Works in 'Traces of Spirit' at the BMA: Local multidisciplinary artist explores religion, nature, and humanity in exhibit on view through October 20.

Greektown’s Yard 56 Mixed-Use Development to Open by 2020: Project on former Pemco industrial site will be anchored by Streets Market & Cafe and LA Fitness.

Decades Night Club Documents Baltimore Club Music History at the Peale Center: We speak with curator Mia Loving about her latest exhibit, on view through this week.