Baltimore Banner reader Sujata Massey says she loves finding classy, “grown-up” bars and gastropubs to rendezvous with friends. One of her favorites is Hex Superette on York Road, which she loves for its “fancy food, craft cocktails, and indoor and outdoor patio seating.”

Massey is looking for places similar to Hex Superette with a “subdued atmosphere, bar or table seating, special food and drinks, absolutely no TVs, and maybe even parking.” In other words, something that isn’t crowded with a “rowdy ‘singles’ vibe.”

In my series, Ask Charm City Table, I am sharing dining recommendations in the Baltimore area and visiting local restaurants based on your suggestions.

Here are six grown-up bars and gastropubs with both cocktails and mocktails I enjoy in Baltimore City.

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A drink from the Cocktail Gallery in Union Collective. (Simone Phillips)

The Cocktail Gallery

1700 W. 41st St.

Located at Union Collective in the Medfield neighborhood, this bar doubles as a rotating art gallery. The intimate space by Baltimore Spirits Co. has many colorful and unique details, from the artwork to the seating to the light sculpture by artist Greg St. Pierre that illuminates the space in shades of purple and pink.

You can take a whiskey blending class or order drinks and snacks (snacks are made by the Wine Collective across the hall) from the bar. The cocktail menu is rotating, so there is often something new to taste. Because this is a Baltimore Spirits Co. bar, the staff is knowledgeable about the spirits the distiller makes and which flavor profiles to pair. It makes each visit a fun learning experience.

I recommend ordering pintxos and Spanish tapas, trying a classic cocktail such as an old-fashioned or a daiquiri, and then ordering something from the bar’s menu.

Baltimore Cocktail Gallery has a parking lot and plenty of bar and table seating.

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A cocktail from CookHouse in Bolton Hill. (Simone Phillips)

CookHouse

1501 Bolton St.

CookHouse continues to be at the top of my list for its elegant, cozy atmosphere. The back-lit, mirrored bar area takes up an entire side of the restaurant. The dining area is decorated with teal, velvety booths and café-style wooden chairs. Watermarked wallpaper, high ceilings and low lights set the atmosphere for this elevated English-inspired pub.

The execution of the drinks and dishes is what sets CookHouse apart. I have visited at least a dozen times and suggest trying anything new on the menu. The staples, such as the pub burger and steak frites, are excellent choices, too. Because the space is so intimate, the chatter can get a bit noisy at times, but it is never rowdy or uncomfortably crowded.

For a more low-key vibe, I recommended attending the After Hour Cocktails event hosted on Saturdays from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. The bartender Gabe makes some of the most interesting craft cocktails in Baltimore.

A cocktail from Bloom's in Hotel Ulysses. (Simone Phillips)

Bloom’s and Ash Bar at Hotel Ulysses

2 E. Read St.

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Hotel Ulysses opened late last year with two aesthetically show-stopping bars inside. Ash Bar is the hotel’s all-day dining room and bar. With its low-lit vintage décor, the space is inspired by Baltimore’s own John Waters. If you are a fan of the legendary filmmaker (like me), this is a fun space where you can find his influences, such as the hand-painted pink flamingo plates.

Bloom’s, just down the hall, is a more playful setting with a mirrored ceiling, walls and bar; velvet seating and extra boozy cocktails.

At Ash Bar, I recommend planning for a multicourse meal. Start with the shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad or oysters, then have the chicken tortellini or steak au poivre for an entree, and orange cheesecake or banana sundae for dessert. At Bloom’s, the Midori sour balances sweet and tart well.

Drinks by candlelight at W.C. Harlan. (Simone Phillips)

W.C. Harlan

400 W. 23rd St.

Speakeasies in the Baltimore area seem to be popping up everywhere, but none captures the 1920s theme quite like W.C. Harlan.

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The unmarked entrance into a dimly lit space sets the tone for the bar’s energy. Then there’s the drippy, melted candles; cryptic, empty bottles carefully placed around the space; and dried flowers and plants that make you feel as if you have been transported to the Prohibition era.

As far as “subdued atmospheres” go, W.C. Harlan is ideal. It does not have a food menu, but I recommend starting your evening at its sister restaurant, Clavel, and ending the night with cocktails and mocktails at the speakeasy. W.C. Harlan’s Pisco sour is fantastic, and the mocktails are just as dynamic as the cocktails.

The espresso martini at Cindy Lou's Fish House. (Simone Phillips)

Cindy Lou’s Fish House

1215 Wills St.

Drinks on the waterfront is one of the best ways to enjoy Baltimore. The bar area of Cindy Lou’s Fish House is sleek and modern with a beautiful view of the Patapsco River and the famous neon Domino Sugars sign. Drinks and dinner on the patio is also an option while the weather is warm.

If you like a boozy and bold classic cocktail, I recommend the espresso martini. I also liked A Nice Pear, with reposado tequila, spicy pear liqueur, lime, ginger and lime syrup. It is fruity, a little spicy and delightful.

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For food, Cindy Lou’s is a full-service restaurant. My favorite dishes are oysters, maple-glazed wild Atlantic salmon and cornmeal-fried Maryland blue catfish.

Honorable Mentions: A few other classy bars and gastropubs I have visited: Dutch Courage, a gin-centric cocktail bar; Sugarvale, an intimate bar setting just below street level; The Bluebird Cocktail Room, a literary-themed bar and lounge; and Of Love & Regret, a rustic whiskey bar serving craft cocktails.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in the Baltimore area, or are you looking for dining suggestions? Email simone.phillips@thebaltimorebanner.com with recommendations and questions.

Simone Phillips is part of The Baltimore Banner's Creatives in Residence program, which amplifies the work of artists and writers from the Baltimore region. 

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