Of Love & Regret in Baltimore, Maryland

Barkeep by | May 2016 | Issue #112
Photo by Justin Tsucalas

Back in 2010, Leigh Philipkosky and Ryan Travers hosted Maine’s first Stillwater Artisanal Ales tap takeover at legendary Brunswick pub The Lion’s Pride. Stillwater owner and Baltimore native Brian Strumke was in the house that night and, well, the rest was history.

“Brian saw our overall devotion to Stillwater and what we were pursuing in the craft beer world,” Philipkosky remembers. “We became good friends. [He] approached us with an idea in December 2011; we moved down to Baltimore a month later and never looked back.”

That idea was Of Love & Regret (OLAR), Stillwater’s Baltimore gallery and tasting room. Since opening in 2012, the concept has evolved into an acclaimed bar, restaurant and bottle shop displaying art by Stillwater label designer and tattoo artist Lee Verzosa.

The husband-and-wife team spent six months designing, demolishing and reconstructing the space’s long, wooden bar by hand. Philipkosky describes the outside aesthetic as “Baltimore corner bar” and the inside as “rustic urban-farmhouse,” which creates an unexpected juxtaposition upon entering. The layout encourages conversation, with most patrons sitting at communal high-top tables or the long bar, and Philipkosky says they pride themselves on having no televisions despite existing in a neighborhood with more than its fair share of sports bars.

“The company has always been gregarious and interesting, and communal tables create a wonderful atmosphere for making new friends,” says regular Brian Jefferson. Some of his most memorable nights include family-style dinners where the OLAR team “can show off rare finds and weave together a deeper story around food and drink,” he says.

Of Love & Regret’s menu has evolved from mostly burgers (which the Baltimore Sun called “some of the best in town”) to a classic New American feel that borders on fine dining and includes grilled lamb chops, speck-wrapped dates and soy-marinated flash-fried oyster mushrooms.

The bar’s 27 taps pour as many as a dozen Stillwater selections at a time, alongside hard-to-find collabs, a series of ciders (Shacksbury, Eric Bordelet, ÆppelTreow), and a wine and spirits stable. When it comes to the beverage program, Travers says he looks “toward Old World, unique, independent, natural producers that push the boundaries.”

“OLAR [has] figured out how to be both a great neighborhood bar and a special event place,” Jefferson says. “Don’t let the knowledge of product and fine-dining service fool you—this is still a place where the bartenders make you feel right at home.”

Continuous innovation is part of OLAR’s plan to keep pushing boundaries in the future. And at only four years old, they’ve got a lot of time ahead of them to build a legacy. Which is good, because they’re eyeing that, too.

“Our goal is to never stop evolving, and to one day become an institution in the city,” Travers says. “We pride ourselves in being extremely progressive purveyors. We also understand that education is paramount when attempting to push boundaries. We are just doing our best to push things forward.”