Nancy Hart Mola and Jerry Trice have brought their rich New York and D.C. experience to Baltimore with Gunther & Co.—in what was once the boiler plant for the eponymous Canton brewing company. The expansive restaurant, with its panoply of options for seating—from an informal bar room to an enclosed dining room for 12—is situated in the shadow of the 150-unit Gunther Apartment building, within a block or two of 1,000 more new apartments. The couple, partners in life and in business, anticipate a clientele with a range of expectations. “Some we will enlighten,” says Trice. “Some we will merely feed.”
Owners. Trice opened Yin Yankee in Annapolis in 2005. The Asian-fusion spot was briefly replicated in Bethesda, and both were shuttered when Trice started his Chef Driven D.C. food truck in 2012. Pikesville native Mola rode Restaurant Associates’ white jacket-tails to Manhattan—to work at Lincoln Center—and later managed Maury Rubin’s City Bakery and Eli Zabar’s Vinegar Factory. She opened 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring in 2011.
Décor. The oyster shucker stationed at the apex of the polished concrete bar might lead you to assume that this front “barroom” is your final destination—it’s not. Follow a line of suspended teardrop lights into the main dining room, with its 37-foot ceiling and open kitchen buzzing with a half-dozen chefs and a wood-burning oven. Ferns and ivy cascade from a 16-by-10-foot living wall overlooking banquettes in soothing earth tones. Climb the stairs to a mezzanine with more seating, clerestory windows and a private dining room with a glass-paned wall reminiscent of a Soho loft. Feel free to enter the outdoor patio space directly from the street, especially if you’re here for a plein air after-work cocktail. Trice and Mola have buttressed the distressed interior with found objects: an abacus-like section of an old conveyor track adorns the reclaimed beadboard-and-steel host stand, a clock-faced gauge from a decommissioned Pepco plant is prominently placed on the wall greenery. Remnants of ancient paint, rusty patinas and cracked masonry are left alone, even carefully mimicked in some of the new construction.
Drink. The beer, says Trice, will “pay homage to local brewers past and present.” Three of the 14 draft lines are reserved for seasonal kegged cocktails. Look for gin- and tequila-based drinks in the summer, dressed up by housemade shrubs and bitters by “libations liaison” Shaun Stewart (formerly of Bar Liquorice). The 100-bottle wine list (most under $75) reflects Trice’s taste. “I’m highly opinionated,” he admits, preferring “wines that represent the region and varietal” to those with “vintner intervention, some UC Davis expert who comes out of school and jacks up the alcohol content and hints of vanilla.”
World Food. The menu ranges the globe, from Thai seafood hot pot to tea-smoked duck to shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage. Graze on cheese, oysters and beef tartare, dine on entrées like rockfish and roasted chicken, or wolf down a burger or pizza while watching the game. Trice, an avid hunter, likes to put “big pieces of protein”—legs of lamb and the like—into the wood-burning oven. It’s all about the ingredients, say the owners. “My job is to find good stuff and try not to ruin it or over-season it,” says the chef.
Dessert. Aja Cage, the former pastry chef for Salt, cleaves to the global theme, with matcha glaze on the carrot cake, kumquat syrup on the panna cotta and Szechuan peppercorn ice cream.
Verdict. This diverse, repurposed brewery has something for everyone—a go-to for cocktails and brunch in the ’hood; destination dining for the rest of us.
From top: The living wall at Gunther & Co. was made by Greenstreet Greenwalls; the main dining room was once the brewery’s bioler room; “Libations Liaison’ Shaun Stewart shakes things up; buttermilk panna cotta with kumquat syrup and house-made sesasme granola.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of STYLE.