Technically, it's full name is Encantada at the American Visionary Art Museum. The first time I ever went to AVAM, when I was a dumb kid, it freaked me out. It may still freak me out but as I've grown older, I've come to appreciate it. It may even be one of my favorite places in Baltimore now. The art is definitely eclectic but I see that most of it is pretty innovative and just my type of nerdy cool. Now, that I've discovered that there's a restaurant there too, I may just learn not to be afraid of art.
Encantada, when translated (according to the internet) means haunted, bewitched and/or delighted which seems perfect after having a few meals there. First off, you will not find a more pretty restaurant in all of Charm City. The vibe and decor is hip and varied but definitely appropriate for being in the AVAM. If you walk all the way to the left of the main dining room, there's an entrance to a beautifully colorful balcony with a great view of Federal Hill and the Harbor (well, the buildings off Key Highway overlooking the Harbor). If the weather is cooperating, it's a porch perfect for a meal.
I've been to Encantada about three to four times over the past few months. I've tried out their brunch, lunch and had a spectacular dinner their on Canada Day. Yeah, that was a little bit ago but the place has a way of leaving an impression. While I love the interior restaurant, the balcony is absolutely the way to go. Dinner there on a hot summer night with a breeze and early enough for a sunset will give you a whole different perspective of the city. The menu is a good mix of modern American food and it starts with a worthwhile drink menu. If you're not going adult, I'd recommend going with the fresh juices like the Stoned Citrus which is a combination of apple and OJ.
If you're going with a mixed drink, my favorites so far are the Fed Hill Sour with bourbon, vermouth, lemon and red wine foam. It's the perfect kind of outdoor summer drink with a nice blend of sweetness and acid. If you're not feeling the goodness of bourbon, you should try out the Cheshire Cat. Gin, cucumber, lemongrass, simple syrup, fresh mint, lime, fizzy water and a magic blue velvet ice cube. Everyone should get that just for that ice cube. It's colored bluish-purple and slowly melts into your drink to change it's color. The rest of the drink is pretty grand with a ton of light and tart notes.
For brunch, I got the steak 'n eggs. The steak was perfectly mid-rare but the star were the salsas hidden under the dish. A nice salsa verde under the steak and a punchy salsa under the home fries. For dinner, the line up included pan seared shrimp with a risotto, miso mushroom tartare, seared duck breast, scallops with an english pea risotto, creamy polenta for a side and finished with a creme brulee with fresh blueberries on top. I can't say enough about this meal. The dishes weren't over-complicated and skillfully made. My personally highlights were the mushroom tartare with it's subtle earthiness and a nice crunch of pine nuts. The duck was nicely mid-rare and don't sleep on the agro dolce underneath which gave the protein an extra tang & kick.
I decided to go back for lunch before writing this since it had been a while. I went straight up bold and simple with their lunch burger and added some cheddar cheese. This burger again was cooked to...wait for it...a perfect mid-rare. It was no frills with just lettuce, tomato, and onion. It wasn't one of those over-sized trendy burgers and spoke to the type of food that I've come to expect from this place. Simply put, it was straight up, well-made, not too complicated food with a few surprises (especially with their sauce game).
Encantada was one of my first pleasant surprises since I had been back in Baltimore. I love Charm City but the food scene has always lagged a bit behind other cities I've lived in. General opinion may be that it's still lagging (or even lacking) but things seem to be progressing at a rapid pace. Encantada, with it's hip location, fantastic vibe and skillfully made food, is one of the places helping B'more make it's mark. Don't forget that balcony when you go.
Encantada at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway, Batlmore, MD 21230, 410.752.1000