If you’ve ever been seduced by the Gothic works of Edgar Allan Poe, then The Baltimore House is the place for you. Tucked around the corner from Jackson Square it functions as a café by day and a lounge/bar by night.
The café room boasts ample natural light, and old church pews act as benches around the larger communal tables. But it’s the bar/parlour room that draws all the attention. Decked out with antique furniture, cabinets of curio and old books, and what I soon find out are absinthe fountains, it’s like stepping into the sitting area of an eccentric Victorian aristocrat. You get the feeling Sherlock Holmes would be very comfortable here.
The absinthe fountains hold my attention, mostly because at first I have no idea what they are. As it turns out, The Baltimore House plans to serve absinthe once they have suppliers and legalities sorted out. Absinthe, with its dark history and romantic mythology, will fit naturally into the atmosphere that owner, Grant Winestock, has already created. In the meantime, they specialize in cocktails developed circa 1890–1930, such as the Gimlet, the Rob Roy, and the Old Fashioned.
Since it’s two in the afternoon, my mom and I settle for tea and coffee with our sandwiches, whose names are derived from Poe’s works. The Raven is tempting if only because the poem is so iconic. But it’s their name for a Reuben and, not being fond of sauerkraut, I order the Eleonora instead. It consists of avocado and cream cheese on rye with tomatoes, sprouts, and a balsamic drizzle. It’s also one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while. My mom orders the Ulalume, a havarti grilled cheese sandwich with pear and caramelized onions, and it’s equally mouth watering. This is some seriously good food. And the tea and coffee hold their own.
We’re there for about an hour and the other patrons in the lounge, already there when we arrive, are still there when we leave, so it’s definitely the kind of place you can hunker down for a while. And that’s the beauty of it—ambiance aside, it really is like someone’s parlour, where you can nestle in for hours, sipping on your afternoon tea or your Sidecar, reading a book and sharing the latest society gossip. Maybe even telling a ghost story or two.
The Baltimore House is located at 43 King William Street, in Hamilton, ON, L8R 1H1. 289.396.4830.