Ever since its opening in 2004, Portside Tavern has been a mecca for drinking and dancing until the wee hours. When the building next door was up for sale, Portside owner Steve Roop opted to evolve rather than expand—opening the new space Cask & Grain Kitchen in January.
As its hipster-formulaic name suggests, Cask & Grain (2823 O’Donnell St., 443-948-5576) uses regional ingredients whenever possible. The stunning interior design reflects that rustic thinking with whitewashed wood beams, brass lights, and farmhouse knickknacks lining the walls. The beautiful bar is replete with a teal and cream accent wall that gave us decorator’s envy.
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On our visit, bartender Alex Hawkey was shaking spring-friendly, cleverly named cocktails like Lawyers, Guns & Money with mezcal, honey-pineapple syrup, pineapple and lime juices, and hellfire bitters—an explosive take on a margarita. To test out a classic, we sipped on the pisco sour with bright BarSol Pisco, balanced house-made sour mix, egg white, and nutmeg zest.
The drink list also included affordable bottles of Côtes du Rhône and Sauvignon Blanc ($30 and $32, respectively), and brews from local standouts Diamondback and Milkhouse. Don’t miss the tribute to a traditional Maryland cocktail, the Frozen Rye, and the bar’s Oysters & Bubbles special—$30 gets you a dozen oysters and a bottle of cava on Wednesdays this summer.
And speaking of snacks, chef Paul Hajewski’s menu should not be overlooked. Even if you come for the cocktails, try the generously portioned cheese plate or, our standout dish of the night, a sous-vide pork collar with charred Brussels sprouts and cheddar grits. Suffice it to say, there was not a dab of mustard-cider jus left on the plate.
We also couldn’t help but notice the impeccable soundtrack that played throughout our stay—ranging from blues to country to indie rock. The space’s music is a huge priority for owner Roop, who clearly leaves no detail to chance.