When Dining At Duclaw, You Might Just Wanna Stick With The Beer
This location is closed
The glowing new DuClaw Brewing Co. on Fells Point’s Bond Street Wharf (901 S. Bond St., (410) 563-3400) is the fourth in a minichain that began back in Bel Air in 1996. Second and third links opened in Arundel Mills (2001) and Bowie (2003). Work buddies had told me how much they liked hanging out at the Arundel Mills DuClaw before the movies, and beer-loving pals (including some at this paper) had commended their proprietary brews, particularly the golden, hoppy Venom pale ale and the malty Misfit Red amber (which was awarded Best Beer in 2004’s Best of Baltimore).
The new location features an expanse of outdoor tables that I think is unmatched in Fells Point. And the indoors takes good advantage of the building’s warehouse dimensions—the bar, fronting on the cobblestone street, is accommodating and neighborly—but the dining area, which runs parallel to the wharf, is mall-generic.
Despite its every-warehouse atmosphere, though, I decided to push things at DuClaw, passing up a lot of pub grub—sandwiches and salads—and encouraging my friends to try things from the more complex and challenging areas of the menu. We all ended up sorry we did. I’ve seldom seen as much uneaten food left on plates.
The only reason that all but the first bite of the five-spice tuna ($12.99) wasn’t left was because we had such a good time hating it. What were the five spices—anise (it tasted of licorice)? Cardamom? Why did the spicing remind us of the smell in old-style health-food stores? And why say something will be served rare when it won’t be? Not helping matters were the drizzle of bland wasabi cream dressing and the accompanying room-temperature rice and broccoli crunch salad.
By comparison, the sesame-ginger salmon ($12.99) was a model of competent bar food—absolutely nothing to order again, too familiar, every bite exactly like the first, but it had at least been cooked properly. A much bigger snap of ginger would have helped. A prettier hunk of salmon would have, too.
I hated my Gorgonzola carbonara ($10.99), partly because the meat (prosciutto? salami?) had, instead of being shaved, apparently been clawed apart with pliers. The pasta of choice, capellini, had thoroughly clumped together, and the sauce, lacking any Gorgonzola flavor, was the sorriest example of a carbonara I’d ever tasted.
The 10-ounce hamburger ($6.99) was a bit better. The meat had been seasoned liberally (with good old salt and pepper) before grilling, and the warm roll it arrived on was fresh and soft. DuClaw lists, in addition to four variations of the basic burger, more than two dozen sandwiches and panini—pulled pork, tuna melt, a smoked club—and, if I were to come back here next spring to booze on the wharf, I’d order one of them, or an appetizer. DuClaw’s crab dip ($9.99), for instance, is excellent, piping-hot and tasting of freshly mixed-in crab, the surrounding bread boule remaining warm and pliable, and with just enough additional dipping crackers. A tower of beer-battered onion rings ($6.49) arrived stacked cleverly on the spindle of a fancy paper-towel dispenser, though I wish they’d been saltier.
Considered along with the nearby Red Star, DuClaw represents a newer Fells Point, where a premium is set on style, convenience, and comfort. In and of themselves, they’re not bad things to want—and no one will blame you for wanting to sun-booze on that lovely wharf—but at DuClaw they appear to come at the price of culinary excitement.