Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sic transit barrus

The Charles Street building formerly occupied by the Brass Elephant is going up for auction next week. The restaurant, a Mount Vernon mainstay for three decades, was forced to close last year after coming up short on its mortgage.

I don't feel any particular nostalgia about the Brass Elephant. The closest I ever came to eating there was when I stopped into the Tusk Lounge above the main dining room for a drink a couple of years ago. The food was overpriced and widely considered to be of inconsistent quality. Despite its iconic status in the region, I don't recall hearing anyone speak with special fondness about the place.

A decade and a half and several jobs ago, I would walk past the restaurant's expansive windows and see the split-level dining room crowded with fashionably dressed couples tucking into tournedos rossini. But in recent years, the restaurant's stern, straight-backed chairs and empty tables with stiffly starched linens reminded me of that scene in 'Brideshead Revisited' (the 1980's BBC adaptation) when Charles returns to the stately mansion during the war and finds its furniture covered in funereal shrouds.

Even when it opened, the Brass Elephant must have been something of a throwback. Its ornate chandeliers, its cut crystal elegance, its rococo flourishes seemed meant to evoke an earlier era of fine dining - fin de siecle Delmonico's, perhaps. With the advent in Baltimore of such upscale locavore establishments as the Woodberry Kitchen, restaurants like the Brass Elephant have become even more of an anachronism.

Still, there is a certain melancholy in the Brass Elephant's passing, if only because it withstood the vagaries and vogues of the restaurant industry for 29 years. Like Mount Vernon itself, the restaurant was an echo of Baltimore's past.


  1. My friends and I used to go to the Tusk Lounge for happy hour, get hammered on whiskey sours, and steal the silverware. Good times!

  2. Kev,
    More posts! Your blog is one of the -- perhaps THE -- most literate I've ever come across.