13.5% Wine Bar in Hamden

Hamden, Hon!  Home of Cafe Hon, Golden West Cafe, Red Tree, In Watermelon Sugar and many other favorite shopping boutiques!  It is an area that has been blooming and blossoming into a little hub of creative activity!  It is a bit reminiscent of the hipster Williamsburg area in Brooklyn, NY.  I have to say, Hamden gives me just a little hope, that Baltimore can emerge to be a fun city with some true personality!  Ok, enough said.

My husband and I were approached about a year ago, about opening a wine bar.  We racked our brains trying to figure out where in the Maryland area a wine bar would thrive.  The only place we landed on, was Hamden.  Fast forward a couple of months later, word on the street was that a new wine bar would be opening next to Golden West Cafe!  (We called it!)

Last night, I headed down to see if 13.5% Wine Bar would be all I was hoping and praying it would be.  You see, I’m not a business owner in Hampden, but knowing the shops that are down there, and the traffic those shops are starting to attract…I thought that a bit of an upscale, unique menu, type wine bar would be a welcome addition.  Now, I had heard from a little birdie, that the renovations that went into 13.5% Wine Bar were quite remarkable.  With a reported $25,000 going into the bar design alone.  I didn’t want to set my expectations too high, but I had my fingers crossed!

I met a good friend for a much needed (okay, third one this week) girl’s night out!  The place was busy.  The bar was full as were all the tables inside.  I found the manager, who was also the hostess and she asked if we’d like to sit outside.  We hopped up into these cool, retro, orange stools, only to discover they were on the verge of tipping if you moved the slightest way, left of center.  I really didn’t want to spend my entire evening in a balancing act, so we headed inside.  A table had just opened up and we slid into solidly grounded chairs!

We were quickly greeted by our kind server.  He brought us drinks and took our wine order.  We ordered a bottle of  Clos la Coutale 2006 Malbec, Merlot from France.  I was leaning towards ordering a flight, as the prices were so reasonable, but I thought I’d save that experience for a night out with Devon!  We began to pour over the menu.  There were a number of salads and starters.  The cheese tray brought table side, looked appealing…but, again, better with Devon and a flight of wine!  They had a long list of paninis and a number of entrees, one of which caught my eye!  Honey, garlic hen with fresh peach compote and arugula.  Can I just tell you, the balance of ingredients and the way they are put together, are right up my alley!  This is how my husband cooks!  I didn’t order this entree (I will go back).  I ordered my server’s recommendation instead.  He said The Scooch was his personal favorite!  It was a panini with natural capricollo, spicy sopressata and prima donna cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red peppers and wilted baby greens.  My friend, Laura ordered the Spicy Napolean stack.  This was a layered medley of marinated eggplant, zucchini, roasted red pepper, and sriracha whipped potatoes.

The food was beautiful!  The flavor combinations blended nicely.  The food perfectly seasoned.  The execution, not pretentious.  I really enjoyed my sandwich and it went well with the Malbec.  I would’ve given this a total thumbs up, if my sandwich had been hot.  It was just shy of lukewarm.  Because I ordered a panini, I fully anticipated a warm sandwich.  Laura, was not as impressed with her stack.  She said, “It was okay…not a wow.”  Looking at her plate, it was beautiful.  I personally thought it could be rounded out with just a little side of a micro or baby green salad…just my opinion.  There were two things that impressed me with the 13.5% menu…one, the prices are reasonable!  All the menu items were under $10.  Two, the menu is interesting and diverse.  Some wine bars get into these small plates of cheese, fruit and pates, but sometimes a girl wants just a bit more to choose from.

The atmosphere was urban chic.  I loved the flag stone wall that was flanked by the wire shelves of bottles of wine.  The round club chairs looked comfy and orange always stimulates appetite!

The service was top notch!  I’m sorry to say, I did not get our server’s name, but I will say, whatever training the management of 13.5% Wine Bar did to prepare their servers, it paid off!  Our server has been at 13.5% Wine Bar since it opened in July.  He was attentive and thoughtful.  He kept our glasses full without interrupting our conversation and carefully made inquiries when we paused.  I did not feel rushed, at all!  In fact, I think we lingered for close to four hours.

It is a new gem of a find in my Baltimore Black Book.  I will definitely been setting a date with my husband!

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