Cockey’s Restaurant and Bar, 1901 Gough St. in Upper Fell’s Point, has earned a following for its reasonably-priced, high-quality food and solid draft list.
It’s that simple. The clean, well-lighted, completely normal corner bar serves an assortment of American pub fare, such as club sandwiches—including a just-right turkey club that we sampled—pizzas and entrees. We can recommend the prime rib—succulent and flavorful.
Cockey’s opened around Christmastime at the end of last year, and has been known since as a community-friendly bar, not an easy label to come by in the Southeast. Last week, the Fells Prospect Community Association actually testified before the Liquor Board in favor of Cockey’s getting outdoor seating.
Cockey’s is probably one of only a few BD-7 liquor licensed establishments that are not only in compliance with the intent of liquor laws, but above and beyond. As a BD-7, Cockey’s may sell alcohol to go seven days a week.
However, according to Bob Cockey, 65–who owns and operates the tavern with his son, Rob Cockey, 22–the establishment earns 82 percent of its income from food sales, even though it “doesn’t even have to sell pretzels.”
“We can sell miniatures—anything—to go,” laughs Cockey. “Isn’t that crazy?”
The bar does sell package goods, but it’s clear that the main focus is food. And beer. A couple weeks ago, the Guide wandered in when the bar was in the midst of a promotion with Dogfish Head. We sampled the Namaste, a mellow, delicious, easy-drinking Belgian white beer, perfect for times when the high-octane brews (which are becoming the new normal) are a little too much.
Bob Cockey credits much of the success of his restaurant to his staff, many of whom were college acquaintances of his son.
“The reason we’re able to do this is because of the staff we have,” says Cockey. “We have the horsepower in our employees.”
Before Cockey’s opened, the building—once known as “Shed Row”—underwent an extensive renovation. Gone is the no-windows, who-knows-what-lurks-inside feel, as Cockey has had large windows installed.
Another major spruce-up is planned for several blocks north, at 32 N. Chester St. Cockey has bought a long-shuttered property, formerly another dive, and plans to open Cockey’s Butchers Hill by kickoff to the 2014 football season.
He cringes good-naturedly as he mentions his target opening date.
“I almost hate to say it, because we were so off here [in Upper Fell''s Point],” he says.
Cockey notes that the expansion into Butchers Hill makes sense, given the available clientele.
“We have a lot of people from Butchers Hill coming in here,” he says from his Upper Fell’s location. “They told me where to go—they told me the address!”
A larger kitchen, which will fill the basement, is planned for the second location, Cockey says, adding that he also hopes to attract clientele from Johns Hopkins Hospital, just a couple blocks north.
The man has faith in his simple formula.
“That’s it—nothing fancy,” he says. “Just a nice, neighborhood tavern.”
Find them on Facebook for nightly specials and updates to the draft list.
by Erik Zygmont