Aqua Grill: Still Hot for Happy Hour
But Creating Great Buzz for Its Food
We all know that Aqua Grill along Baltimore Avenue is a fabulous venue for drinks, happy hours, meeting up with friends, and great music. But I’m telling you that it has boosted its reputation in the restaurant department—way up. And the apps and entrees (not to mention house-made desserts) I had there recently rival the best kitchens in town.
Our table of four started with crazy good appetizers like crunchy Brussels sprouts, fresh, never-frozen Chicken Tenders, and Warm Artichoke-Spinach Dip with pita and veggies.
We all think of chicken tenders as a go-to kids’ meal, but let me tell you, these deliciously crusted, lightly fried morsels of chicken were yummy and tender without being anything like the tenders you find everywhere else.
And cheers for the Brussels sprouts, glazed with siracha-soy sauce and served hot and crispy. Rounding out the quartet of appetizers was house-breaded Crispy Calamari, served with tartar, marinara, and lemon sauces.
Of course, our cocktails—for me, a perfectly balanced Rose Kennedy (vodka-cran-soda) and for Bonnie, a Rob Roy (a Scotch Manhattan)—complemented it all.
I’m going back this weekend to check out the Aqua Loaded Fries—I saw them on an adjoining table and lusted. They were waffle fries with melted beer cheese, smokey bbq ranch, bacon, pickled jalapeños, and scallions. That’s a lunch waiting to happen.
Perfectly suited to the huge happy hour crowd at Aqua, their list of delicious appetizers is endless. Also available are Aqua Nachos with melted beer cheese, black beans, corn, pickled jalapenos, shredded lettuce, sour cream, salsa, cilantro, tomatoes and pickled onions. More choices include Seasonal Hummus, Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls, and more.
As if we needed entrees after that appetizer feast, our dinner selections arrived hot and hearty. The table, sporting its beautifully plated Crab Cakes, Soft-shell Crab, Shrimp Tacos, and Tuna Bowl, was more seafood fine dining than happy-hour hangout. Actually, it’s both, which is great news for everybody. I loved the Honey Cajun Shrimp Tacos with pineapple pico, Cajun aioli, and cilantro in a flour tortilla—rice and beans on the side. The tacos were sizable and the shrimp was a knockout.
Bonnie’s favorite was the Tuna Poke Bowl with ahi tuna, pickled ginger, edamame, carrot, cucumber, seaweed salad, wasabi, avocado, sesame glaze, and sushi rice. But while we were at it, we also got to taste the special Aqua jumbo lump crab cakes, made in-house daily—very Baltimore-like, the way they should be!
The soft-shell crab sandwich we all shared was also exceptional. If you are gonna go for crab, go for it at a place that gives you a great meal for your money, and that’s Aqua.
And of course, along with the great food and conversation at our table, we got to see all manner of folks we knew stroll by, stopping to chat, including CAMP Board President Wes Combs and Board Member Mike DeFlavia. For a Monday evening, the place was hopping with an extremely diverse crowd. I loved it.
Dessert, you ask? Well, we had our arms twisted and were thrilled we did. The Key Lime Pie was a lovely treat, but it was the cheesecake that got me. I took one bite and announced “Okay, this is a real New York Cheesecake. A New Yorker made this.” Yup, Patti Small, from Long Island, New York, created the fabulous cheesecake in-house at Aqua. Patti was cooking on the night of our visit, in the Aqua Grill kitchen run by chef Kevin Burns—who clearly has done a grand job with the menu, presentation, quality, and preparation of the food.
Sure, keep going to Aqua for cocktail hour and all the fun. But treat yourself to the delicious food as well—brunch, lunch, or dinner. You’ll be happy you did. ▼