When Spike Gjerde’s Foodshed restaurant group took over Grand Cru in 2014, there were certainly big shoes to fill. Not only had the Belvedere Square wine bar been there for more than a decade, but the sudden death of its beloved owner, Nelson Carey, shocked the community.
Gjerde and partners Corey Polyoka and John “JC” Unitas III decided to change some things to be on brand with their other restaurants, including nixing some of the signature food items, replacing a chalkboard wall with subway tiles, renovating the bar, and reconfiguring the wine shop. In true Baltimore style, some patrons objected to the menu omissions or shiny new details.
But now Grand Cru (527 E. Belvedere Ave., 667-212-4847) is getting back to its roots, thanks to new owner Jayce Flickinger, who was a bartender there from 2008 to 2012. Fittingly, he also worked at Foodshed restaurants Shoo-Fly and Parts & Labor—so the latest iteration of Grand Cru is a happy blend of the old guard and new.
The wine shop in the back is organized more simply, and the chalkboard menu is back, too. Guests can sip wine by the bottle from the shop (with a corkage fee) or by the reasonably priced glass. The night we visited, we enjoyed the black cherry tones and dry finish of an Emerson pinot noir.
The menu also consists of affordable cocktails and lists classics such as a Rat Pack Martini or more creative concoctions like Paul Bunyan’s Breakfast—bourbon, citrus, and maple syrup—a hearty and sweet cocktail perfect for winter. Another plus: lemons and limes (banned by Foodshed because citrus couldn’t be sourced locally) are back in use.
Long-time regulars will see familiar items on the menu again, including olive assortments, cheese and charcuterie plates, and a customer favorite in the soft pretzel platter. But there are welcome additions, too, including a käsekrainer (cheese-filled sausage) from Parts & Labor served on a bun with mustard and kraut, with a bag of Utz chips on the side.
On the bitingly cold evening we popped into Grand Cru, the place was packed. Beyond the pretzels and the price points, we credit Flickinger with a more inviting and familial vibe. After all, he gets it: Years ago, he and his wife, who now live up the street in Rodgers Forge, met at this very bar.