Sharon Gang, Featured Collaborator
When was the last time you went to a restaurant that displayed its manifesto on a wall?
Its cheerful mission statement is one way that R. House in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood sets itself apart from other eating places. R. House describes itself as more than a restaurant – it's a launch pad for ten chefs whose offerings range from Mediterranean street food to Venezuelan sandwiches to sushi burritos. There's even a dedicated pop-up space where an outside chef can try a new idea; or, one of the current chefs can experiment with a new concept. Their stalls ring a 350-seat food hall with a bar (r.bar) at the center of it.
When I visited R. House, I did not go there with the goal of changing the world. I went there to eat good food and visit with my dinner companions. They'd enticed me to Baltimore with descriptions of a variety of superb fare under one roof.
"At R. House, we believe in pushing the envelope and creating robust communities around outstanding food. We want great ideas to come from the intimate conversations at our tables, ideas that spark revolutions and change the way we understand our world."
That night, we ate…and ate…and ate. With four of us, we were able to try a little of a lot of things, which is the best way to experience R. House. The fried cauliflower from Stall 11 which touts its ability to elevate vegetables from side dishes to main dishes. It was a hit and gobbled up quickly.
Two kinds of chicken wings (Alabama white sauce and Thai with peanuts) lingered only moments on the plate before we scarfed them down. They were from BRD which specializes in two classic comfort foods – fried chicken and wings.
Arepas are a modern take on a Venezuelan comfort food. White Envelope offers these crisp cornbread pockets filled with a variety of treats. We tried the "Paint in Black," filled with beef cooked in caramel sauce, as well as, a goat cheese, and vegetables. Both were excellent, substantial, and left us wanting more even though our stomachs were full!
Eggplant fries and fried Syrian cheese from ARBA (which means "four" in Arabic) are just a sampling of the Mediterranean street food offered here. The Syrian cheese was the best thing I ate all evening. I needed more!
A "poke" bowl from Hilo which combined the flavors of Hawaii with marinated salmon, sushi-style.
Drinks! r.bar is a hive of activity at the center of R. House and offers "fresh, funky cocktails" as well as a selection of wine and beer. The photos don't lie – the drinks were creative and beautiful.
Once I'd eaten, I took a moment to walk around. R. House is made up of
"architectural moments," said Jon Constable, a partner at Seawall Development Company, the owner-developers of the place. R. House was originally an auto body shop. Seawall installed roll-up garage doors which will come in handy in warmer months when outside spaces will expand its current 350-seat capacity. Artful signage on the floor at the entrance predicts "Good Times Ahead." The sparkly light fixture overhead at the entry is nicknamed "Starry Night."
"R. House was built from the inside out. Chefs dreamed big and imagined how they could have the greatest impact in the world through food. So they created R. House – a place to bring people together. A place where they get up early and work hard to fill your bellies and make you happy."
You have a choice of seating from booths to small and large tables which allow you to meet people or dine alone. If you need a break between your arepas and your eggplant fries, there's tabletop shuffleboard and even a kids' area. On a recent Saturday night, the noise level was high bu
t infused with the energy of people meeting people and exploring a new place which is fun and inviting.
On each table, directions inform you how to order your food (at one of ten counters); or, get your drink (find a server or head to the bar). They also tell you how to bus your tray (lots of silverware and not much trash); and, validate your parking ticket (find "Arie" the parking robot on your way out), too.
"We believe in being neighbors, not guests. If you meet someone from Remington, thank them for their hospitality. This is their community, and we are fortunate they have embraced us all. Ask them what makes this hood so great."
Don't leave without using the restroom! The women's room is industrial chic enlivened with bright red walls covered with chrysanthemum stencils created by Baltimore artist, Kelly L. Walker.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, R. House is located in Remington, a neighborhood just north of Baltimore's central business district and easily accessible from Route 83. Constable describes Remington over the past eight years as "going through a renaissance." Seawall's other projects in the neighborhood include Remington Row, a large residential project with retail; and Miller's Court, apartment residences for teachers with space for nonprofit organizations.
"Our mantra at Seawall is to do a lot of listening," says Constable. "We listened to what the community wanted. After the success of our residential projects, what we heard from the community was that they wanted food and beverage services."
In fact, R. House has already made itself a part of the neighborhood, befriending the officers and staff at a nearby police station, which offers free parking to R. House patrons. A gregarious "traffic director" (kind of an outdoor concierge) at the entrance to R. House is a pastor who lives nearby. Many of the bussers and servers were hired at a neighborhood job fair.
"Spread the word and the love. This is your kitchen, your living room, your Baltimore stoop, your back patio – just like it is all of ours. This is R. House."
Sharon Gang is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. Prior to her current career, Sharon worked on Capitol Hill in a variety of capacities for several different members of Congress, and also worked as a press secretary to Washington, DC Mayor, Anthony A. Williams.