Werner's is back in Baltimore with bar, outdoor dining

03/10/2022| Karen Glenn Hood

Werner's is back in Baltimore with bar, outdoor dining

03/10/2022 | Karen Glenn Hood

The iconic red neon sign hangs prominently on the wall. Photos from movies and TV shows dot the walls. The familiar Art Deco interior – all maple wood and chrome – shine to a high gleam.

The legendary Werner’s, which for years was a popular downtown Baltimore lunch spot and served as a backdrop to famous local productions like Ladder 49, The Wire, and House of Cards, is back. And back, with a few new twists.

Opened more than 70 years ago, Werner’s – which is now Werner’s Diner and Pub – had recently sat vacant during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic until Kemp Byrnes and Brad Byrnes of Byrnes & Byrnes Associates, a commercial real estate firm, bought the Vickers Exchange on E. Redwood Street in early 2021. Werner’s sits on the ground floor of the building in the middle of the block. The firm also purchased the adjacent building at the corner of Redwood and South streets now known as Redwood Exchange.

Looking for a potential new owner of the landmark restaurant, the Byrnes reached out to current Baltimore City restaurateur Ray Crum, who owns the popular Pete’s Grille in the Waverly neighborhood.

A former downtown property owner and self-described handyman, Crum has owned Pete’s for about five years with impressive results. His concept of comfort food and reasonable prices has been a hit with residents and visitors alike.

Although Crum wasn’t considering buying another restaurant, he was intrigued and met the Byrnes at Werner’s one day in mid-2021. Not only did he like the quirkiness of Werner’s, but he also understood the tremendous potential the restaurant has as part of a greater resurgence taking place in Baltimore City and in particular, a new vision for Redwood Street.

“I liked everything about it. It’s very Baltimore,” Crum said. “It reminds me of when I was a kid.”

Crum inked a deal with the Byrnes, and Werner’s underwent months of deep cleaning and renovations to add some new features, like music, a full bar, outdoor seating, special events and valet parking on the weekends. There was a grand re-opening in late January attended by about 100 people, including city leaders and Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill.

The diner and pub is now open until from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weeknights, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on and Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, extending service hours to bring in a happy hour and dinner crowd. And soon, a carryout-only storefront will open, which will also include the sale of beer and wine.

But many of the popular features remain, including the extensive menu with an array of breakfast options, as well as signature items like hand-carved turkey and ham sandwiches, homestyle soups, and comfort food like grilled cheese and hot roast beef. And, of course, the memorable 50’s style décor that is like stepping back in time.

Crum said since reopening, business has been steady and he estimates it’s up about 50 percent from the first week. And, like many restaurants, he is struggling with hiring and hopes he is able to attract more staff soon.

“It gets particularly crowded for lunch, but I am hoping with some of the new things we will be doing like happy hour, we will see more of a crowd all day long,” he said.

And this is just the beginning, says Brad Byrnes, of the changes they are envisioning for Historic Redwood Street. In addition to the renovations to both the Vickers Exchange and the Garrett building, which has led to the signing of more than 30 leases recently, the Byrnes want the 200 block of E. Redwood Street to be like Main Street of Downtown, adding more retail options to go along with newly opened restaurants and the existing theater on the corner.

“There are more than 45,000 residents within one mile of Werner’s, and from 2010 to 2020, this area of downtown Baltimore was the fastest growing tract in the city,” said Brad Byrnes, adding that more residential living as well as hotels are coming online in the area, along with the move of thousands of workers from State Center to downtown. “There is a lot on the horizon.”

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