Thursday, October 26, 2006


So busy I am this week! No time to write anything, but oh there was stuff to write about! I went to see a movie at the Charles this Friday past - Marie Antoinette, a fun and fascinating film - and diverted myself from the eve-crowded Tapas Teatro (about which I have written) to another popular spot across the street. This restaurant, Zodiac, is attached to the Club Charles, and has a mix of standard dishes with interesting, sometimes vegan twists. No vegan am I, but they have lots of interesting things to satisfy the carnivore who steps in. Once I had a barbecue duck sandwich. Very fatty (as duck usually is), kind of small (even for me) and not something I'd order again.

The Zodiac, and the Club Charles next door, are also supposed to be haunted! Both ghosts, of course, have a direct tie to their establishments. The Club Charles' ghost, "Frenchie," was an old man from France who was a waiter until 1979, who died of alcoholism. Apparently, they like the new people to find out about him on their own. The ghost at the Zodiac is supposed to be sinister, unlike Frenchie. The City Paper lays out the story:

When Joy Martin opened the Zodiac Restaurant next-door to the Frenchie-infested Club Charles about four years ago, she quickly discovered that her latest venture appeared haunted as well. Many employees have reported seeing a man in an old-style white linen suit sitting at Table 3, sometimes accompanied by a small white dog. Waiters have even turned around to get the man a menu, only to find the table empty when they return. McLane-Cook saw him there herself, "sitting with a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other."

But if Frenchie's spirit seems friendly, the opposite is true of the Zodiac's linen-clad visitor. His vibe is sinister, some even say evil. Employees report that they often feel like they're being watched, and sometimes find themselves spontaneously overcome with a sense of dread. Many fears center on a flight of rickety stairs that leads to a cluttered third-floor storage room; many workers are afraid to go up there. When the local group the Ghost Hunters of Baltimore visited the Zodiac, one of them said an unseen hand tried to push her across the room and out the door. People also claim to have heard a mysterious voice at the restaurant saying, "Get out!" And not just at closing time.

Recently, Martin got a clue as to who the Zodiac's sourpuss spirit might be. She spoke with an elderly local resident who said that, during Prohibition, the restaurant was a speakeasy run by a man named McKim. He is said to have hanged himself in the basement when his wife left him.

"Maybe [McKim] was really murdered," McLane-Cook speculates. "Maybe he's trying to tell us something." (Article by Tom Chalkley, Charles Cohen and Brenen Jensen)

I don't know which one is Table 3, but I don't want to sit there.

Back to food. The night I went there most recently - missing Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica (the people at Sci Fi would be sad) - I got seated relatively quickly, but waited a while for service. That's not good for a movie crowd, but I did let the maitre d' know that I needed to be out at a set time, and she did make sure my food got to me in enough time for that to happen. So what am I comlaining about then!?

This time I ordered something a bit less "odd" to the American palate - a hamburger. Yes, easy and safe (not like their make-your-own-pizza dish - I got fontina cheese, mushrooms and anchovies on mine when I ordered it once). But this time I was just in the mood for a burger. I did get creative with the toppings, as they offered a choice of cheeses, including mozzerella, both plain and smoked. I've never even had mozzerella on a burger, so I had to try that. I also got raw onions (the only ones they offered; next time I will ask for fried). Accompanied with fries, it is a filling meal. It was also pretty tasty. Who would have thought - mozzerrella on a burger! Yum.

With that I ordered two Guinnesses, on tap, for about $3.50 each. Because the burger was only $11, I wound up paying only $18 for my dinner, before tax and tip. Do leave a tip, or who knows if you will take the next tumble down the stairs!