AJ’s on Hanover Opens in Former Bluegrass Space

| November 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

AJ’s on Hanover opened in the former Bluegrass Tavern space at 1500 S. Hanover St. a couple weeks ago. Bluegrass closed its doors in February after many years at the 3,400 sq. ft. South Baltimore restaurant space at the corner of S. Hanover St. and Fort Ave.

AJ’s on Hanover is a new concept from Delia Foley’s and Smaltimore owners Andrew Carter and Jesse Selke. The ‘AJ’ in the name comes from the initials of Andrew and Jesse. Carter and Selke were looking for a third restaurant and were hoping to find something in South Baltimore. 1500 S. Hanover St. is a familiar area to the duo as Delia Foley’s is just a block to the east at 1439 S. Charles St.

This new restaurant is a change of pace for Carter and Selke as Delia Foley’s and Smaltimore are more bar-focused establishments, and AJ’s will focus on “new American cuisine.”

“We are excited to tackle the food aspect of the business and diversify our portfolio,” said Carter. AJ’s motto is “Good. Mood. Food.”

AJ’s hired John Thomas Wood as its chef. Wood makes the move over to South Baltimore from Smaltimore in Canton. All of AJ’s offerings will be prepped in house.

AJ’s menu features appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and sides. Appetizers include flash-fried brussel sprouts, crispy cauliflower tots, mac n’ cheese croquettes, kielbasa meatballs, and crabby mac. Sandwiches include the Maryland crab cake sandwich, AJ’s burger which is like an “amazing Big Mac,” and the short rib grilled cheese which Carter said has already been a favorite.

Entrees include a short rib tortellini, pan-seared scallops, and a filet rockefeller with crab. Everything on the food menu is under $30.

AJ’s will be kid-friendly and offer a kid’s menu.

While AJ’s is food-focused, it also has a bar on each of its two floors where customers can have a full meal or just stay for drinks. AJ’s installed a 10-tap draft system with eight local beers. It also offers two cocktails and wine on draft. AJ’s signature cocktails include its Pineapple Express with smoky Mexcal and the Lemon Stick, which is an alcoholic version of the summer snack with a lemon and peppermint stick.

Starting on the 19th, AJ’s will have specials including $16 Maryland crab cake sandwiches on Mondays, a nod to Smaltimore on Tuesdays with sushi burritos and bowls, $11 short rib grilled cheeses on Wednesdays, and prime rib night on Thursdays.

AJ’s is open Monday to Wednesday at 4pm, Thursday and Friday at 11am, and Saturday and Sunday at 10am. The kitchen will close Sunday to Thursday at 10pm and will likely stay open until 11pm on Friday and Saturday. Carter said the bar is open until 12am every night, but that they will keep it open until 1am on weekends if there’s a crowd.

Carter and Selke undertook an extensive two-month renovation of the two-story restaurant that has a basement kitchen. Carter’s girlfriend Lauren Lucido and Selke’s wife Jen Selke led the redesign.

The design includes reclaimed wood from Baltimore rowhouses which are featured in new shelves behind the bars. The space was painted; the lighting was updated; new benches, chairs, and bar tops were added; and a new mural was installed. The outdoor patio will reopen next year when the weather gets warmer.

AJ’s currently has a temporary sign out front, but it will soon be replaced with a permanent metal sign. AJ’s is working with DUO Signage + Graphics on the signage.

AJ’s has 36 employees.

When asked about running a restaurant versus a bar, Carter said that he likes doing something different and spends much of his time going from table to table and talking to customers about their experience.

Carter expects a very local and neighborhood-focused crowd at AJ’s. “A lot of people in the neighborhood are excited have something back in this spot,” he said.

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, 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 Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.