The Arthouse, which dubs itself a “pizza bar and gallery,” is just different enough in just enough ways to have carved a niche for itself in hype-competitive Hampden. Owner Joan Dolina added food and drink to an existing art gallery in 2013, and the result is a welcoming, slightly funky bar that’s neither as fancy as some of its newer neighbors nor as divey as some of its older ones. Creativity is paramount here. During one of our recent visits, I ordered a pickle-topped pizza and was rewarded with a crunchy, tangy pie unlike anything else I’ve tried.
The focal point of the first floor is the long wooden bar, where couples sip wine, friends throw back beers, and solo drinkers enjoying a post-work cocktail. On my visits, the two TVs were turned off while bands like Gang of Four and Devo played on the sound system. Paintings by local artists hang on the yellow walls of the narrow dining room. We particularly admired one of a woman with a Dalmatian by Mattye Hamilton that’s selling for $1,500.
Luckily, happy hour deals at The Arthouse, 1115 West 36th Street, 443-438-7700, are considerably more economical. For every $12 cocktail like the Bitters and Smoke I imbibed——a combination of tequila, mezcal Cynar (an artichoke-based bittersweet liqueur), and fernet that packs a serious punch—there are several $6 craft beers. Drafts are $2 off from 4-7, and Natty Boh and Miller High Life are always $3.
Plenty of them are downed on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights when late-night revelers pass the hours in the second-story lounge with a pool table, dartboard, and bagatelle table (a centuries-old tabletop game involving balls, pins, and pegs) and devour pizza until the kitchen closes at 1 a.m.
About those pies. They emerge from the brick oven in the back (split logs rest in a bin just beside it) with perfectly charred crusts. Artsy combinations like spicy blueberry and brie—blueberry and chili compote, mozzarella, brie, chives, and balsamic reduction—dot the menu. After eating one slice too many, a few sips of the Bitters and Smoke remained in my glass. “It’s very spirit-forward,” said the bartender, Nick, who’s always happy to whip up something new for a customer. “It’s a sipper. An end-of-the-night drink.”
He was right. After finishing it my evening was over, but I plan on ending many future nights at The Arthouse.