Gitan: The full French experience with the spice of the Middle East

Written by on January 23, 2013 in Baltimore Bites, Blogs, Featured - No comments

Gitan Bistro Cru, a French-Lebanese restaurant rising from the ashes of a Canton “dive bar,” opened about a year ago at 800 S. Kenwood Ave. a French-Lebanese restaurant rising from the ashes of a Canton “dive bar”, with white table cloths, polished reclaimed floors, and doors from local architectural salvage nonprofit, a Second Chance.

Cantonite Ashley Humphress tends bar at Gitan. Photo by Danielle Sweeney

“We designed the place ourselves,” says Gitan’s owner and chef Pauline Guiragoss.

White table cloths, polished reclaimed floors, and doors came from a local architectural salvage nonprofit, A Second Chance.

Gitan—French for gypsy—which seats about 70 with a bar, quickly acquired a reputation for its wine tastings and tasty Lebanese mezze, like kibbeh (key-bay). Gitan’s Kibbeh is minced beef with pine nuts, walnuts, and spices, rolled in cracked bulgur wheat and deep fried, $10. It’s caviar de aubergines, more commonly known as baba ganoush; and kefta, minced beef seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and red pepper paste, have also got attention.

And let’s not forget Gitan’s sangria, decidedly un-French, but a local crowd-pleaser at $4.

After being open for a year, however, changes are on the horizon for the Canton bistro, including an updated menu including six omelets, new sandwiches, soups, and four entrees.

New hours are part of the plan, too. For one thing, Guiragoss plans to open the bistro for breakfast.

“There’s no place close by. People are going to Safeway for coffee,” she says.

For starters, Gitan will offer coffee (regular, espresso, and French press) and pastries from Patisserie Poupon, the D.C.-based French bakery-cafe with a branch on Baltimore St., among other choices.

Guiragoss, who grew up in Beirut and moved to Paris when she was 16, wants customers to think of Gitan as a bistro in the French sense—a casual neighborhood place where the vibe changes throughout the day depending on the clientele.

She envisions one restaurant where parents with strollers can hang out with their babies in the early part of the day; where workers can grab lunch; where locals can drop by for happy hour or dinner. In the evening, maybe a wine tasting or a couple beers and a ballgame.

“Don’t let the white table cloths intimidate you—We’re not Petit Louis here,” says Guiragoss, referring to the well known but more formal French bistro in Roland Park, of which she is extremely fond.

Guiragoss also recently obtained a permit for outdoor dining and plans to offer delivery, for those who think finding parking on that block of Kenwood is too tough.

For now, Gitan (410- 276-1200) is open Tuesday through Thursday, 5-11 p.m., Friday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m., with a daily happy hour from 5-8 p.m. featuring $6 cocktails,  $5 select wines, $4 sangria, $3.50 microbrews, and $2 domestics. On $2 Tuesday, sangria and domestics are $2 all night.

Gitan will be open for Super Bowl Sunday with Direct TV and Buffalo wings. Find it on Facebook for more information.

by Danielle Sweeney

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