Social Pub and Pie
New Fed Hill neighborhood spot serves up the basics
Published: October 12, 2011
Social Pub and Pie
25 E. Cross St.,  234-0376, socialpubbaltimore.com
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Beer, pizza, and televisions are the draws at Federal Hill’s Social Pub and Pie, where the drafts only slightly outnumber the pies and screens (that’s 12 drafts, nine pizzas, and 11 televisions, for those keeping count). Open since July, the pub melds together the spaces of the former Grumpies Pour House and Federal Hill Lounge into a neohistorical mix of pressed tin, wood bar, open kitchen, stained glass, and mirrors. It’s by all means a neighborhood joint, friendly and casual to a fault, and, if nothing else, it confirms that the trend for coal-fired pizza isn’t going away anytime soon.
This is not a bad thing if you’re a fan of wafer-thin, slightly charred, crisp-as-a-chip crust. Social Pub and Pie turns out a fine version from its oven, which uses both coal and wood, according to staff. That the copper-topped oven is visible from the dining room is a nice plus, though a seat in the booths that line one side of the pub offers clearer views of sinks and dishwashing—a necessary but not as attractive part of restaurant work. If this bothers you, grab a seat at the bar or one of several four-tops. A television, however, is visible from any vantage point.
Lest coal-fired be misinterpreted as gourmet or fancy, be aware that the most high-falutin’ pizza on Social Pub and Pie’s menu is the onion and crumbled bleu ($15 for a 16-inch), a self-explanatory and nicely savory combo of caramelized onion, bleu and provolone cheeses, and a generous sprinkle of rosemary. The rest of the options run from traditional—a veggie, a carnivore, a Margherita whose fresh sauce could use a little boost, and a more flavorful cheese ($14 for a 16-inch)—to mainstream gimmicky, such as the Hawaiian or three chicken (pesto, barbecue, or buffalo) pizzas. Pies are served on multi-layered metal racks that tower over the table, and if one pizza cools off while you dig into the other you ordered, a server will gladly pop it back in the oven for a minute to heat it back up.
Aside from pizza, Social Pub and Pie’s offerings are limited. You can order appetizer portions of mild meatballs ($7) or sausage bites ($7), each napped in pizza sauce and served in a small ceramic dish, or a plate of chicken wings ($10), the house version of which includes caramelized onions and a lemon-garlic sauce. There are also a handful of salads. The MaGerk’s ($7), with its jumble of craisins, candied pecans, and bleu cheese, fares better than the wan Caesar ($6), if only because its sweet-tart balsamic dressing is a hundred times more appealing than the pub’s oddly sweet version of Caesar dressing. And that’s it for food, which is not an unwise move for an operation that does a good portion of its business during Ravens games and other high-profile sporting events. This would also explain the unadventurous wine list—mostly corporate, recognizable brands (though that there is a wine list at all in a self-styled pub earns points from me)—and the small portion of beer taps devoted to local or microbrews.
But if the food and drink are fairly standard at Social Pub and Pie, the prices are not. The pub runs nightly specials—$3 drafts 7 p.m. to closing on Monday; half-price pizzas and $5 Fireflies from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesdays—that create deals on top of already very reasonable prices. Pair that with patient and eminently good-humored servers who let diners set their own pace, and you’ve got all the makings of a neighborhood go-to. Given the foot traffic around the Cross Street Market on any given night, Social Pub and Pie is a welcome addition.
Social Pub and Pie is open seven days.
> Email Mary K. Zajac