Despite the allure of trendy cocktail bars, locals can’t seem to resist the reliable spots down the street. And come 2017, Federal Hill will see the return of one of its most beloved corner bars.
It’s been two years since Porter’s Pub shuttered its doors on the corner of East Cross Street and Riverside Avenue, and, after months of murmurs of a possible revitalization, South Baltimore residents Chris Frisone and Seunng Cho have officially vowed to reopen the space.
The new owners are rebranding the restaurant as The Outpost American Tavern—a destination for beer, cocktails, and elevated New American cuisine, which will be cooked by Top Chef alum Jesse Sandlin formerly of Nacho Mama’s and Oliver Speck’s.
“People loved the place,” Sandlin says. “It’s not on the main drag of Cross and Light streets, it’s in the actual neighborhood. You knew what to expect and that it was going to be good no matter what. That’s one thing that’s really missing in Federal Hill.”
Sandlin was approached about the opportunity by Blue Agave co-owners Brian Acquavella and Matthew Lasinski, who have been consulting on The Outpost during its planning stages. Sandlin worked with the duo briefly when Lasinski bought Jokers N’ Thieves (now Southern Provisions) in Canton Square, where she was previously the executive chef.
Though the menu has yet to be finalized, it will focus primarily on “simple dishes done well” including burgers, sandwiches, salads, pastas, steak, roasted chicken, and other heartier entrees. Sandlin says that daily specials, which will make use of more sophisticated ingredients like sweetbreads, will also be emphasized.
“The regular menu is going to be simple and thoughtful, but not anything terribly adventurous,” she says. “We hope to have neighborhood clientele that comes in a few times per week.”
Despite a few cosmetic alterations (including a fresh coat of paint, reupholstered furniture, and restored dark woods), locals will recognize the layout of the 60-seat space, which features a 12-seat bar up front and a main dining room with mostly booth seating.
The beverage program will highlight 10 local beers on tap, a selection of international wines, and a menu of signature cocktails. Adds Sandlin: “We’re not going to be the bar with 400 whiskies, but there will be some good, simple, quality stuff.”
Though she wasn’t a Porter’s regular in its heyday, Sandlin is enthusiastic about recreating its inviting atmosphere for the community, comparing it to other intimate neighborhood mainstays like Peter’s Inn and Jack’s Bistro.
“It’s the kind of place you can’t just stumble upon,” she says. “You have to know it’s there.”