At the start of 2010, Waterstone Bar & Grille replaced Coconuts, a popular lesbian bar. The location, three blocks west of the Washington Monument and at the back of Maryland General Hospital, isn’t the most photogenic (but free on-street parking is welcome these days!). Entering the door near the handsome bar, the casual yet stylish and upscale feel of the interior blew us away. We felt more like we had entered a Mediterranean taverna than a former corner bar on the edge of Mt. Vernon. The friendly staff made us feel genuinely welcomed and sat us at a polished stone top table in a pleasant dining space with exposed brick walls, contemporary pendant lighting, large windows, a gurgling water fountain, and flickering candles in wall niches.

The menu has Greek/Mediterranean aspects; there are a dozen starters ($4-12 including falafel, saganaki, and dolmades), six sandwiches ($10-13), personal pizzas ($8-9), and ten entrees ($10-19). There are also a surprising number of interesting vegetarian options.

Marty decided to start with a beet salad while John opted for saganaki. The salad arrived on a large plate full of diced beets, cucumbers, and onion with a sweet, spicy dressing which Marty enjoyed. The saganaki, in an oval chafing dish with a creamy feta baked with sautéed onions, slices of tomato, and wedges of pita, was a hit with John. Our friends, Paul and Tom, easily shared the “Mediterranean Dipping Duo” ($12) with dolmades, falafel, hummus, olives, feta, roasted red pepper, tzatziki, and pita. They gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up! (It could make a great entrée by itself or a shared appetizer for three or four people!) Marty and Paul both decided on the “rancher wrap” ($11) which arrived with chipotle-infused steak nestled with chopped lettuce, tomato, cheddar, with a cilantro sauce; they both anted up $1 extra for sweet potato fries and were glad they did! Another thumbs-up! John’s “lamb sliders” ($12) arrived with three sliders (unexpectedly but nicely served on pita!) with plain fries. Ground lamb patties were topped with feta, grilled onion, and tzatziki sauce and earned another thumbs-up (Are you sensing a pattern here?). Tom’s “spring chicken” sandwich ($10) with pesto, feta, mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes was such a mouthful that he had to resort to using knife and fork to eat it, and it proved another winning choice.

Our waitress’s praise of chocolate mousse, tiramisu, and peanut butter pie (all $6) was mighty tempting, but between the generous portion of starters and main courses, we decided to save dessert for our next visit.

Waterstone’s combination of good food, friendly servers, and a wonderfully pleasant space prompted our friend Paul to exclaim: “This place is a gem!” We can’t agree more.

DETAILS: Waterstone Bar & Grille, 311 W. Madison St. Full bar, vegetarian options, free on-street parking. Open Tues-Sun, 5pm–10pm. 410.225.7475. WaterstoneBarAndGrille.com. Find more Dining Out on UrbanSpoon.com

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