The Baltimore House
We weren't sure what to expect when we first heard about Baltimore House. A cafe-lounge-wine bar-art venue-social club seemed a bit ambitious to us, however we loved the concept. We're about to get all Midnight in Paris on you, but we often feel nostalgic and romanticize the Golden Age. Forget bottle service and fist pumping. Give us a place with style, character and some authenticity. A place to read, write, enjoy an espresso and have smart conversation by day. A place that transitions into a cool social spot at night. When we stopped by at the grand opening, we saw just how well executed the vision was. We could picture a dapper gentleman crooning at the piano, and guests seated in church pews at the oversized dining tables for dinner parties. The owners, Grant Winestock and Jimmy Skembaris attribute many of the concepts to the social happenings in Europe right now and wanted to bring that style of thinking about space, intellectualism and culture to Hamilton. We're certain the new venture will be a hub for Hamilton's evergrowing literary, artistic and musically inclined crowd. And with the revitalization of James Street North, the Baltimore House may bring that same allure to King William.
Grant and Jimmy first met two years ago while acting in the same campus play at McMaster. "I pitched the idea for this project to him last winter because I felt like he was the most honest, down-to-earth and trustworthy person I had ever known," says Grant, "Everything about us seemed to jive from our beliefs about what a place should be to our beliefs about the way people should treat one another." With Baltimore House as their first business, the two are learning as they go. "We're both very lucky to have great family and friends who have been invaluable to us with their support and advice. We certainly could not have done this all on our own," Grant tells us.
With a Parisian and Victorian influence, the space is grand, the decor thoughtful, the concept genuine. Night clubs often feel contrived with their style of decor. Baltimore House is so far from that. All the furniture you see is antique, sourced from as far as Keswick to Niagara Falls with the help of Grant's mum Katy. "We got the place in June and it feels like we have been doing renovations ever since," says Grant. The previous club owners left behind black walls, mirrored walls (the horror!) and a cherry red bar they have been working to strip down to it's original glory. But the biggest addition was the archway that connects the two sides of Baltimore House. "Our carpenter Jeremy Weerdenberg is incredible and played a huge part in helping make what we envisioned in our heads a reality," enthuses Grant.
Right now only the Maryland Room is open, and here you'll find books strewn on the tables including the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The influence of Poe will really shine through when The Parlour opens in the new year. Behind those velvet curtains is a stunning space. "The general concept behind it is to walk that same line that Poe did in his work," explains Grant, "Harnessing that strange sort of beauty that always touched on the macabre without having to be strictly classified as such." We should note that Grant studied English and theatre at McMaster, and his interest in literature really comes across. He goes on to explain, "Poe created some of the most extraordinary American works of literature without being labeled strictly as a "Halloween" writer. We want to The Baltimore House to always feel like that too."
The cafe menu is simple, consisting of an assortment of sandwiches cleverly named after Poe's poetry. Our favourites were Ulalume, a grilled cheese with pear and caramelized onions, and the Raven, a grilled reuben sandwich with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. They were absolutely delicious, so we'd love to see more offerings on their menu. Partly because we feel there's a lot of potential, but mostly because we vision having grand dinner parties here. Some soups and sides would be a nice accompaniment. As for coffee, you'll find espresso, cappuccinos and lattes served on beautiful silver platters. Nothing too fussy or fancy. Cinnamon, cocoa and nutmeg are on hand if you want to add a hint of flavour. They also offer an assortment of loose leaf teas. With the growing coffee-house culture in Hamilton, we hope to see them expand their drink selection. Perhaps some house-made iced drinks, or speciality lattes.
"The Baltimore House is an ongoing project," says Grant, "We want to eventually become a cultural epicentre for Hamilton in a lot of ways and be able to provide that late night European coffee house/wine bar experience as well as a fresh and original way of presenting live music and social nights." We look forward to their acoustic music nights, film screenings and to see what deejay nights they have planned for the weekends.
Above, antique rocking horse in The Parlor. Below, Baltimore House wax seal from Vienna
43 King William Street