First Look: Maryland House by Brennan's in the Central West End of St. Louis
Maryland House, the latest venue from the team behind Brennan’s, will have a soft opening (reservations only) April 20 to 22 at 44 Maryland Plaza in the Central West End. The bar and rooftop patio is located in the space that formerly housed Mandarin Lounge, which closed in early 2019.
Before we go any further, make sure you’re coming to the right place. Longtime Brennan’s patrons will know that Maryland House revives the name of the late-night bar located on the upper level of the old Brennan’s at 4695 Maryland Ave. – this new iteration of Maryland House is located a few hundred yards west from that site. To find the entrance to Maryland House, take the alleyway between Edera Italian Eatery and Suit Supply. Follow the path until you see the entrance lobby on your left at number 44, where you’ll be greeted at the reception area.
You’ll take the elevator up, then step out into the bar’s elegant, modern space. Toby Frisch takes much of the credit for building the space out, and his labor has paid off. Maryland House replaces Mandarin Lounge’s clubbier atmosphere with cocktail bar sophistication, a place to come for food and drink rather than dancing. “I’m excited to see where that goes, and also hoping to send people back and forth to [Brennan’s] if one place is busy and the other place isn’t,” owner Kevin Brennan said.
The interior of the bar has space for 165 guests, stretching across three distinct spaces: the main bar; a library area with sofas for lounging; and a gallery that features rotating digital art pieces, a small private room, banquette seating, and a long table in the center of the room. Customers can perch on stools at the bar, or sit at wooden tables and use lazy susans to pass food around. If you remember the old Maryland House, keep your eyes open for the collage that used to hang behind the bar.
Maryland House’s rooftop patio, which can accommodate 100 guests, is the cherry on top of the cake. The view toward the Central West End homes across Maryland Plaza is part of the appeal, but the patio itself has a lot to recommend it, with stylish furniture and planters adding greenery to the space. Brennan said the plan is to add a pizza oven in the corner, as well as a couple of tables fitted with fire pits and some more plant life. Expect this to be a very popular spot for early evening drinks this spring and summer.
Brennan said Maryland House’s versatility is intentional, and he expects that to be among the venue’s strengths. “We're trying to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “People will like it for a daytime group event for 30 people for a luncheon, or we've got parties over the next couple of weeks where they seem to like it, they're excited about it and they get their own space.” The bar will have DJs playing every Thursday and potentially on weekends, though the idea is to set the mood rather than create a party atmosphere.
The food menu takes inspiration from a broad range of cuisines, incorporating flavors that nod to European inspirations, Southeast Asian and Japanese traditions and across the Pacific to South America. Some of those items include a hummus plate served with preserved lemon, pickled onion and sumac dusted naan; steak tataki, with calamansi ginger sauce, green onions and shallots; and the salmon rice crunch, a bite-sized dish that packs in ponzu, toasted sesame and aji sauce.
The cocktail list offers classics as well as a curated selection of signature drinks created by Eric Weis. Among the highlights are the Back to Kyoto, which Weis described as a “Japanese Manhattan” – Japanese whisky, sake vermouth, yuzu bitters, toasted nori and a sake infused Luxardo cherry – and It’s About Thyme, with green Chartreuse, crème de violette, thyme-infused simple syrup, egg whites and lemon juice, topped with club soda and finished with a sprig of charred thyme. “It’s like a classic, really nice, stiff headed, no ice gin flip,” said Weis.
Reservations are highly recommended for Maryland House, although walk-in customers will be accomodated if space allows. “We want to be crowded, but we don’t necessarily want to be a four-deep-at-the-bar type place,” Brennan said. Reservations are available at Toast.
Maryland House is also offering a variety of membership packages. If you’re a member, you’ll have access to perks including food and drink credits, the ability to bring a guest in with you, and guaranteed access even at peak times. “This will guarantee you access into the space, so if you show up at nine o’ clock on a Saturday, you’re getting in,” Brennan said.
Brennan said that he’s already welcomed some Central West End residents – people who hadn’t necessarily been to Mandarin House – from across Maryland Plaza to take a look at what Maryland House is bringing to the neighborhood. “They were like, ‘This is amazing;’ they had never even been up here,” he said. The next step is pulling back the curtain and letting everyone else see what Brennan and the Maryland House team have been working so hard on. “I'm really excited to see what people think,” Brennan said.
Hours will be 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday with Sunday hours to be added at a later date.
Editor's Note: This story was edited on April 26, 2023, to update the information regarding reservations at Maryland House.