Locust Point has long been dominated by neighborhood bars, corner watering holes and colorful dives.
The bars that dot Fort Avenue — and other venerable hangouts like Down the Hatch and J. Patrick's — embody the neighborhood's profile: modest, self-effacing, pure Baltimore.
Like other working-class neighborhoods in the city, Locust Point has seen a surge of development recently, and high-rises such as Silo Point now occupy spaces that were grain elevators.
Tucked away on the first floor of Silo Point is Silo.5, a wine bar that opened this fall. It is a fine lounge — formal and good looking. But is it worth driving to? I'm not convinced. It seems best suited for the building's residents and those who love nearby who want something a step above the Sly Fox Pub.
Silo.5's most distinguishing characteristic is how it stands out from the rest of the neighborhood.
First, let's talk wine. The bar's wine list is smart and regionally diverse — 14 whites, 13 reds, and some dessert and sparkling wines. The service, though, could be smarter about the bar's choices.
On a recent Thursday night, I ordered an appetizer of olives and veggies — radishes, peppers, cauliflowers marinated with lemon thyme and served with crostinis ($6). The food menu is geared toward light dining. There are a handful of entrees — sea bass, New York strip — but it's far heavier on starters, pizzas and small plates. In terms of drinks, the bar also serves a handful of cocktails and has six beers on tap, including La Fin du Monde (a Belgian) and a Wurzburger Hofbrau (a heavy German pilsener).
I asked one of the bartenders to suggest a pairing for my olives, and he came up with a California viognier ($7 a glass). He could not have been more gracious. When I asked him to explain why he picked that wine, he simply poured me a sample. The suggestion was not uninspired — he was likely looking out for me by picking a wine that would balance the olives' flavor, and a viognier is indeed sweet, perhaps too fruity.
But there are better choices on Silo.5's menu. He should have selected something to complement the olives, not wash them out. The general rule of thumb with pairings, as your most annoying wine-snob friends will tell you, is to match acids with acids.
A crisp French sauvignon blanc, like Silo.5's Domaine Bellevue, would have been better suited here. Something as full-bodied as a viognier is better paired with a richer meal, like the creamy pappardelle ($19).
Chances are, the bartender simply liked the viognier, and you can't fault anyone for earnestness. At least he didn't try to sell me the priciest thing on the wine list. But really, wine bars should educate people who are only casual, everything-tastes-nice wine drinkers, especially in a city that has as few wine bars as Baltimore.
This much I can say about Silo.5: It's a handsome place. The central bar is lit from underneath with absinthe-green lights. Behind it, hundreds of wine bottles drape the walls. Black leather banquettes, clever-looking armchairs and forgiving lighting make for an intimate atmosphere. The bar's all-glass exterior nicely frames the harbor.
Still, the bar could be more inviting, especially to those who live in the neighborhood. Located all the way up Silo Point's steep driveway, far away even from the condos in the immediate vicinity, there is an impression that Silo.5 is open only to residents of the building. And the parking spots in front of the bar don't make it clear that outsiders can park there as well.
This is a missed opportunity because, really, there isn't anything like it in the area. For neighbors looking for a change of scenery from Down the Hatch (which is excellent, in its own way), this place fills a void.
When I visited, the bar was surprisingly busy, despite the night being one of the first seriously cold ones of the season. Some couples noshed on appetizers and drank beer near the front, and a few single guys nursed their wine glasses. On the bar's far end, a bachelorette party was getting its second wind.
While the buzz of activity was engaging, it would have been comforting to have seen a bunch of people who didn't uniformly look as if they had just come down for a quick nightcap.
Of course, the tackiness of the bar's name - technically, Silo.5% - must not go unmentioned. Even if you like Ke$ha, bar owners, stay away from special punctuation.
Back story: Silo.5, a sister bar of the Hampden wine bar 13.5%, opened in September on the bottom floor of Silo Point, the 200-plus-unit high-rise built around an industrial grain elevator.
Parking: Available in front of Silo Point and on nearby neighborhood streets.
Signature drink: Silo.5 has 200 bottles of wine and 30 wines by the glass; try the Domaine Bellevue sauvignon blanc. There are also six beers on draft and 13 cocktails.
Where: 1200 Steuart St. Unit 2, Baltimore
Contact: 443-438-4044, silo.5winebar.com
Open: 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Sundays
Price range: Food and wines by the glass are $6-$30; there is also a special of three glasses of selected pinots for $20.