In Good Taste

The Elephant Celebrates Grand Opening Tomorrow Night

Storied special occasion spot re-opens with contemporary flair in Mt. Vernon.

“Everyone has a story about this place,” said Steven Rivelis, sitting at the bar of his restaurant, The Elephant, last night. He should know, since he and wife (and restaurant co-owner), Linda, were married there 30 years ago.

The space that was beloved by Baltimoreans for more than 30 years as The Brass Elephant will open its doors to the public tomorrow night as its newest iteration, The Elephant.

“We know this place means a lot of things to a lot of people” Steven said. “We were conscious of that, but also wanted to make it our own.”

The owners, who come from professional backgrounds in consulting and fundraising, bought the bottom two floors of the famed 19th-century mansion in January 2015. Throughout the 18-month renovation process, the couple made maintaining the building’s historic charm a top priority.

Long-time patrons will recognize the stained glass, intricate teak wood work, dangling crystal, and golden chandeliers displayed throughout the restaurant, which boasts seven different dining and lounge areas.

But, although classic touches have been preserved, a lot of integral back-of-house and maintenance elements have been updated. The building required new HVAC and electric systems, renovated bathrooms, and a revamped kitchen. Aside from infrastructure changes, the décor has been enhanced with contemporary colors, and the fondly remembered Tusk Lounge has been renamed the Marble Oyster Bar & Lounge.

The Elephant’s new team includes executive chef Andy Thomas, bar manager Matt Murphy, and general manager Mallory Staley.

“The best piece of advice I got was that you need to know and trust three people: your chef, your front-of-house person, and the person that does your books,” Steven said. “We now have those people.”

Thomas, who has previously headed up kitchens at Spike Gjerde’s restaurants, showcases a menu full of globally-inspired small plates, seafood, noodles, and wood-fired entrees. Featured dishes include zucchini fritters with dill mustard sauce, Singapore rice noodles, seared scallops with a corn polenta, and ratatouille flatbread with eggplant and fennel.

The beverage program is equally expansive, with an array of liqueurs, spirits, wines, and local beers. Murphy, formerly of La Cuchara, will also be mixing up specialty cocktails like the Arrabers Delight (bourbon, honey, ginger, lemon, and angostura bitters), as well as non-alcoholic refreshers made with locally sourced Gundalow juices.

Though the menu feels modern, diners will also receive a timeline of the building’s history, which dates back to the early 1800s. The elephant theme was derived in the ‘20s when then-owners George Knapp and Sara Gilfry embellished their home with Indian-inspired sculpted marble and wood carvings. The concept was preserved throughout The Brass Elephant’s run, and, though upgrades have been implemented, the new owners are excited to continue the grand dame’s legacy.

Linda and Steven have been toying with the idea of opening a restaurant since they first got together. Once the Brass Elephant went up for sale, they knew it was kismet. “When the universe speaks to you, you listen,” Steven said.

Starting tomorrow, The Elephant will be open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and reservations are strongly encouraged.

Additional reporting by digital editor Jess Mayhugh.