The Charles Opens at the Former Mad River in Federal Hill

| October 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

Mad River Bar & Grille at 1110 S. Charles St. in Federal Hill has reopened as The Charles. Last week The Charles had its soft opening and tonight it will host its grand opening. Mad River closed this past May for a renovation and rebranding.

The original owners of Mad River – River Partners, LLC based in New York City – launched the bar and restaurant in 2004. David Yike and Andrew Wheeler joined on as operating partners last August. Yike relocated to Baltimore from Philadelphia after working with Kimpton Hotels and Wheeler worked at Mad River for more than six years before becoming a partner.

“We started working on ideas about a year ago,” Wheeler told in May. “It’s been a great 13 years, but it’s time to move forward and focus on something new so we can make it another 13 years.”

Wheeler noted that the decision was not based on a lack of business, but rather a chance to bring a new vision to the space.

Wheeler and Yike told this week that they are encouraged by all the investment in the area and are looking to capture the crowd from many of the new luxury apartment buildings. “It seems the neighborhood is moving away from the college crowd and attracting a more mature crowd,” said Wheeler.

The 5,100 sq. ft. building, which was formerly a bank constructed in 1900, has undergone a total renovation in the last few months. The first floor bar has been relocated from the northern wall to the southern wall. The bar is now open to the mezzanine level and booth seating has been added underneath the mezzanine. Wheeler and Yike told that this change gives diners more privacy and allows patrons on the mezzanine to watch the bartenders. The new bar has two stories of shelving positioned against a new exposed brick wall that has been painted white. The first floor also has high-top tables.

The Charles replaced the hardwood floors on the main level with polished original concrete floors. A new steel staircase connects the first floor with the mezzanine and the second floor. The original hardwood floors upstairs were refinished and a wall separating the mezzanine level and the back bar room has been opened up creating a new U-shaped bar. The upstairs features booths and will soon have communal seating. Both bars have concrete countertops.

The large kitchen at The Charles has been renovated. The hallways and bathrooms have been renovated with floor-to-ceiling tiles. The original ceiling tiles have been repainted and a new black and white tile centerpiece has been added to the ceiling.

The Charles worked with multiple contractors, including Mcduffee Case & Cabinetry and Arrow Design, on the renovation.

The Charles hired Chef Cory Pastor, who previously worked at The Nickel Taphouse, to lead the kitchen. The menu features plates ranging from $8 to $28, as well as salads, soups, and desserts. Menu items include Nashville Hot Avocado, Cuban Stuffed Pretzel, Scallops & Grits, Burger & Fries, Steak Oscar, and Parsnip Steak Bibimbap.

The bar menu includes seven signature cocktails, along with sangria, white and red wines, bottled beers, and six beers on tap. The bar also has a large selection of premium liquors.

Wheeler and Yike told that the goal is to have a more mature setting at night at The Charles, comparing it to some of the higher-end bars in Fell’s Point. Friday and Saturday nights will have a DJ playing a variety of music from a new sound system. The team noted that there will likely be some dancing, but also a lot of people at booths and standing around tables enjoying conversation.

Sports will play on the many televisions at The Charles and DJs will be brought in for commercial music and fight songs during Penn State football and Ravens games. The Charles will also be bringing back trivia.

Though The Charles will have higher-end offerings, Wheeler and Yike also want it to be laid back and approachable.

The Charles has 60-plus employees, more than double that of Mad River. It will be open every day for dinner and will open at 10am on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.