The Waterstone Bar & Grille—on West Madison Street as it makes its way from Mt. Vernon to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard—was buzzing on a recent Friday. It's one of the more diverse after-work crowds we've seen in a while: a mix of med students and hospital techs (some in scrubs), doctors (both medical and the Ph.D. sort), government office workers, and even a suit or two. A nicely dressed couple in the dining room may well be heading to the Meyerhoff or the Hippodrome.
In the bar, the happy-hour 'tinis are five bucks, tap beers are three, and all of the appetizers—including buffalo wings with blue cheese for dipping, calamari with cilantro cocktail sauce, and shrimp with a citrus marinade—are $5. The lights are low, the flat screen is tuned to ESPN, and the bar stools—tall, leather-upholstered chairs, actually—are cushy. In other words, what's not to like?
The space is divided into bar and dining areas, with dark hardwood floors, soft mango walls, and lots of exposed ductwork. Water cascading from a stone fountain in the dining room provides a soothing background away from the clatter and chatter of the bar.
At first glance, Waterstone's menu appears somewhat eclectic. The sort of something-for-everyone list—steak, pasta, salmon, a decent burger (in this case, bison)—that makes for a popular neighborhood spot or a fallback when you're looking to grab a quick bite before a show.
But a Mediterranean theme appears throughout the menu in such dishes as the linguine, which is loaded with chunks of grilled chicken coated in pesto, tossed with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil—or the lamb sliders and succulent lamb chops, both with a tangy tzatziki on the side.
A juicy and flavorful half Cornish hen, marinated with herbs and charred on the outside, is served on a bed of toothsome yellow rice. And the Greek saganaki is charming and simple: mild feta baked to a golden finish set in a pool of olive oil, the crumbles of salty cheese just right when scooped up with warm pita bread.
This influence is no surprise when you find out that owner Lisa Markiewicz, a Baltimore County schoolteacher by day, has family members who live in Greece. She visited them when she was planning her restaurant and named Waterstone for their village's pebbly shores.
Not all offerings have a Grecian pedigree. The seared salmon has a sweet and mildly smoky strawberry chipotle glaze and comes with garlic mashed potatoes laced with flecks of basil. There are a couple of steak preparations: a juicy butter-infused flat-iron and marinated slices of tenderloin with julienne vegetables. And the sweet potato fries get a boost from honey and cinnamon.
There's a short list of reasonably priced wines ($15 bottles on Saturday nights) and a display of wines for sale, either to go or to drink at your table with a $10 corkage fee.
The Waterstone Bar & Grille is a convenient spot whether you're a neighbor, nearby worker, or visitor. There's bound to be something on the menu you'll love, and the drinks keep flowing.