Julia and Vanna Belton have seen the light. The couple has turned the former home of the Midtown Yacht Club (and more recently, Midtown BBQ and Brew) into Flavor, a restaurant, bar, and lounge that reflects the diversity—culinary and otherwise—of Mount Vernon. When we first walked in, we were struck by the bright lighting, a big change from the dark, downscale atmosphere of the previous tenants. The clean white color scheme and artwork also provide a stark contrast to the space’s more dive-y past. And there was nary a peanut shell on the floor.
Flavor specializes in small plates and big cocktails. The liquid menu is extensive, and on multiple visits we enjoyed some terrific drinks. Both the bourbon pomegranate-ginger Mojito and grand margarita, made with Patrón tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon and lime juices, and cane syrup, were dangerously refreshing. There also are nine coffee-based cocktails that would be perfect on a cool afternoon or as after-dinner treats.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Julia Belton worked at the critically hailed Eleven Madison Park in New York City before opening Flavor with her wife last October. Her menu, divided into snacks, salads and flat breads, and hot plates, is creative and, more often than not, achieves solid results. We started with assemble-your-own grilled bourbon chicken lettuce wraps and Buffalo-roasted cauliflower, a novel idea made even more innovative by the crumbled Gorgonzola cheese that graces it. Both were large enough to share with several people and a fun, out-of-the-ordinary way to begin a meal.
We loved both the concept and execution of the mushroom-topped steak, served pre-cut into shareable pieces over polenta and red-wine sauce. Calamari fettuccine was among the heartiest dishes we tried, and its puttanesca sauce packed just the right amount of richness and spiciness. Beef sliders, served with cheddar cheese and garlic aïoli on potato buns, lived up to the restaurant's namesake. Our only misses were the vegetarian flat bread, which was not crispy enough and was overpowered by its reduced balsamic drizzle, and the pesto-seared sea scallops, which didn’t mesh well with the zucchini and carrot noodles and white-wine sauce they were served with.
The Beltons hope Flavor provides a venue for Baltimore’s lesbian community to feel at home. The upstairs lounge hosts a ladies’ night on Fridays and Saturdays where “gay women and their allies have a devoted space to relax,” according to the website. On one of our visits, a candidate for city council hosted a drag-queen-show fundraiser upstairs while downstairs, a diverse clientele enjoyed food and drink in a tamer atmosphere. The staff ensured that everyone had fun, an enlightening attitude that makes Flavor a great addition to the scene.
FLAVOR 15 E. Centre St., 443-563-2279.
HOURS Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 3-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 3 p.m.-2 a.m., closed Mondays. CUISINE New American.
PRICES Snacks: $8-11; salads and flat breads: $7-12; hot plates: $11-18.