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Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group opened Monarque in the city’s Harbor East neighborhood Oct. 26. The latest addition to the Atlas portfolio (which includes Best of Award of Excellence winners Tagliata and Bygone) combines a nightlife venue with a French steak house, featuring whimsical acts alongside a serious wine list.
“[We] try to find what Baltimore is missing and try to provide it,” Monarque’s director of operations David Goodman said of the restaurant group’s mission. In this case, the team noticed the need for a place where guests could convene for after-dinner entertainment, and founder Alex Smith was particularly inspired by the style of spots he saw during visits to France. “We had that vision of the dark red curtain being pulled back, of the burlesque dancer sitting on a piano, and it built from there.”
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, Monarque features lower-key entertainment like live music during dinner service. There are similar shows on Fridays and Saturdays, but those are followed by late-night entertainment starting at 10 p.m. such as dancers, a contortionist and even a sword swallower. A 44-seat bar allows guests to stop in just for the late-night show.
The menu is a main attraction too, made up of classic steak-house cuisine with luxurious add-ons like crab Oscar and black-truffle butter, as well as French staples like beef tartare made tableside, seared foie gras and escargot. The exclusively French, 400-label wine list is meant to cater to both styles on the menu. “Whether it’s a reasonable large Beaujolais list to go with some of our hors d’oeuvres, or a reasonably well built-out Bordeaux list to handle our steak program, we wanted to find the niche of all of that,” Goodman said.
The wines-by-the-glass program is intentionally accessible and well-priced, with nearly 30 picks displayed as part of a pamphlet designed like a traditional playbill. Also showcased are the bottles themselves, in a glass-enclosed cellar adjacent to the private dining room showcasing 1,500 to 2,000 bottles.—Julie Harans
Julie Harans | Wine Spectator