Hamilton Tavern like walking into a Dorothea Lange photo, only everyone’s skinny because they’re Lauraville hipsters instead of starving Dust Bowlers. The walls are strewn with artfully arranged saws and farm equipment that allude to the tavern’s commitment to locally sourced and seasonal foods. You won’t find tomatoes on the burgers, because tomatoes in May are worthless. You won’t find stout on tap until autumn, because the summer is better suited to Resurrection and IPAs. While the Ham Tav is a haul from my hood, it’s a carefully designed restaurant with a clear idea behind it, one that I can respect and admire. It’s a nice marriage a modern concept with an antiqued decor.
Hamilton Tavern has a limited menu — about eight appetizers and six sandwiches. The kitchen has wisely limited itself to things it does well. This week’s dip of the week was spicy black bean; I do wish I’d had the chance to try the smoked salmon dip from some weeks past. Mmm, smoked salmon. (Note: if anyone has any local smoked salmon dishes to recommend, please put them in the comments!)
Genny and I ordered fried pickles, which were the best I’ve ever had, although I think fried pickles are a contradiction in terms. While I love pickles and I love fried things, pickles are just too soggy to really achieve the crispness that defines fried food. (I feel the same way about Black Velvets. I adore champagne and Guinness, but can’t imagine them mingling.) Hamilton Tavern’s goat cheese side sauce is a tasty addition to the fried cukes. I still preferred the buffalo tofu — the creamy dullness of the tofu compliments the spicy of the buffalo sauce well.
In any case, Genny was pleased with the vegetarian options. There were some meatier things that I would have tried if we’d been there for a full-on dinner (namely the pulled duck BBQ sandwich, since I’ve had duck on the brain lately). Service was serviceable, but not special. Kudos goes to the designer, though. The farm equipment, pressed tin ceiling and fairy lights on the railing give an unearned patina to a very new restaurant. The ladies room is neatly papered in torn pages from authors like Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin. As an affirmed bookworm, I WILL do this to my powder room some day, even though I often come home from work so exhausted by words I want revert to pictograms and smoke signals.l
Restaurant owners would likely weep on a review that ends with a praise of the bathroom decor, and the Hamilton Tavern deserves better than that. I’ll have to go back sometime soon, and try that duck sandwich and check out the intriguing but as-yet-neglected-by-me wine list.
Incidentally, the people have spoken in regard to the Hamilton Tavern — it edged Heninger’s for AAH honors. Apparently no one has any love for Hull Street Blues in Locust Point. I have my I spot (iSpot?) all picked out, but start thinking about J places. Thanks.