Change is hard. Especially for Baltimoreans, who are particularly reluctant to adapt. So when beloved cocktail bar Rye shuttered its Broadway doors in March, booze buffs were nervous about what the next chapter would look like.
As it turns out, very different. The bar moved down the street to the former home of Leadbetter’s (1639 Thames St., 443-438-3455), which closed in June—yet another hard pill to swallow. The aesthetics of the new space—full of rustic touches like dried flowers, a cream and teal bar, and a bronze animal head—are more ornate than the chalkboard and dark woods of the dimly lit, speakeasy-esque original.
Granted, this Rye arrives at a time when cocktail havens are the norm, whereas the first, which opened in 2011, felt more groundbreaking. Even more apparent is that the bar staff has changed. But a welcome bright spot is beverage director and partner Perez Klebahn, who has poured at Sugarvale, Ware House 518, and Mr. Rain’s Fun House.
The cocktail menu reads like Klebahn’s personal playground, with ingredients like absinthe, house caramel, and shiso. One standout concoction, Juniper & Lace, felt in keeping with the bohemian bar—bright Haymans gin, apricot-like Dimmi liqueur, Carpano Bianco vermouth, and a sprig of aromatic lavender. The beer list is well curated, too, with options like Right Proper White Bicycles and Key Brewing Co. Chesapeake lager. There is, however, noticeably no option for a can of Natty Boh, which was always a welcome and familiar choice back on Broadway.
The night we spent gathered around the front corner of the bar, door wide open to allow in a warm breeze, was quite lovely. And, more importantly, there was not one cocktail that disappointed. That said, here’s a suggestion: The owners should have started from scratch, naming the bar something new entirely, so it wouldn’t quite feel second best.