Built in 1904, the historic Baltic building in Richmond was many things over the years: saloon, city hall, funeral parlor, speakeasy, a “house of prostitution,” and, most recently, a spice shop. But in this latest reincarnation as Baltic Kiss, chef Tony Carracci and partner Miss Suzie (nee Suzie Vasco) of Black Star Pirate BBQ are putting their own stamp on the place, turning the historical site into an art-filled restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue, serving Southern comfort food with live music.
Carracci’s barbecue reputation precedes him, as Black Star Pirate BBQ in Richmond became a popular destination during the pandemic. But he’s been in the culinary game much longer than that, starting as chef at Cha Cha Cha in the Haight in the late 1980s before going on to own and operate Cat Club in the early 1990s, and eventually running a barbecue food truck before landing at Point San Pablo Harbor.
With Baltic Kiss, Carracci expands his menu beyond what he’s known for at Black Star and includes more influences from New Orleans, where his family is from. Expect a mix of small dishes and big, bold entrees, plus a late-night menu with sandwiches incorporating made-in-house bacon and pastrami. For smaller plates, Carracci offers barbecued oysters, Creole-style barbecued shrimp, Cajun candy (candied pork belly), red beans and rice with andouille sausage, corn fritters, hush puppies, and jerk wings. For the larger dishes, look for shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, blackened redfish, smothered pork chops, Cajun shrimp, po’boys (shrimp, oyster, and catfish) as well as a pork- and bacon-filled sandwich topped with bacon jam and coleslaw — so plan to leave stuffed. “I decided to go that way because this is my comfort zone,” Carracci says. “And you can’t find that food around here much, and you can’t find anything past eight p.m.”
Baltic Kiss will have a full bar, housed in a gorgeous wooden backbar that was brought to the Baltic before the 1906 earthquake. There will be a mix of local beers, such as East Brothers and Drakes, available on tap, with a number of local wines from Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. Those looking for something stiffer can choose from a list of seasonal house cocktails or, as Carracci puts it, “pre-Prohibition classic cocktails with a Baltic Kiss twist.” The options include a shaken tequila cocktail with muddled cilantro and jalapeno, agave, fresh watermelon juice, and tequila.
The space itself is older — like, 118 years older — but has good bones. The early 1900s bar holds its weight against the changes Carracci and Miss Suzie made to transform the building into a workable entertainment space: there are two stages for live music, one inside and another planned for the back deck, with tables spread inside and out. There’s also a second patio, primed for overflow seating or a private party. And along the way, Miss Suzie is putting her personal Bohemian artist touch on it — much like at Black Star Pirate BBQ — painting the rooms, hallways, and patio in bright, bold colors; reupholstering couches and seating; and hanging paintings on the walls near the bar area.
It’s a fun, eclectic look, befitting a music venue and restaurant, as well as Carracci and Suzie and the Richmond community. “People put so much love into this place and we’re so loved,” Suzie says. “There are so many people in our lives that do so much for us, it’s amazing. It’s tons of people that love this place and are so excited for us.”
Baltic Kiss (135 Park Place, Richmond) debuted Friday, August 12 and is open 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday and Monday, closed Tuesday.