When you think about space and rocket ships, Baltimore might not be the first place that comes to mind. Back in 1928, however, three close friends tasked themselves with building a rocket ship. They didn’t aspire to go to the moon: They wanted to go to Venus. And while these three Baltimore residents might have never actually made it to space, they did inspire an eccentric and delicious restaurant in Hampden.
Before heading over to Rocket to Venus, I decided to do a bit of background research on the restaurant. When owner Geoff Danek bought a house on Morling Avenue, he was unaware of its stellar origins. According to documentary Rocket to Venus, Danek discovered that three budding scientists built a rocket to take them to Venus in his garage. It inspired him to renovate his restaurant in its honor.
I was fascinated to discover the unique history behind this 1920s rocket, built long before man had stepped foot on the moon. Robert Condit and his friends Harry and Sterling Uhler constructed their legendary one-man spaceship to go to Venus, thinking that Mars was too far and the moon was not worth visiting. After about $5,000 and eight months of work, the trio had completed their ship. And in August of 1928, they fired their beloved rocket from the sidewalk of Morling Avenue.
This week I visited the unconventional restaurant, located in Hampden, a pleasant walk from Charles Village. They offer a variety of American comfort food including fries, wings, sandwiches and entrees. They have many plant-based options as well such as vegan wings and Beyond Meat burgers. The inside looks exactly like a what I imagined a restaurant in outer space should look like. The oddly shaped windows and furniture create a nice vibe. The futuristic lighting and leather seating mirrored what you would see on your favorite sci-fi films.
I ordered the Chicken Banh Mi sandwich, a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine. If you’re a vegetarian or chicken isn’t your forte, you can also get the banh mi with either blackened catfish or tofu. Though a traditional banh mi usually contains a kind of pork called cha lua, the restaurant did not have this option.
That didn’t matter: the banh mi I had was delicious. The baguette-style bread held all the ingredients together well. The texture of the bread was light and airy, yet the crust was still firm, ensuring that each bite felt complete yet not too tough.
The sandwich’s filling contained grilled chicken, which was tender and not at all dry for a grilled meat. It also had a smoky essence that added a satisfying depth to the flavor. The chicken was lightly seasoned, which allowed the pickled carrot, daikon radish and jalapeno peppers to bring immense flavor. The jalapeno gave the sandwich a slight kick of heat, which I enjoy, but it was not overwhelming. The fresh cucumber and cilantro overall added lightness to the sandwich and gave more moisture to the dish. The creamy mint aioli provided a savory sauce, and the subtle mint was refreshing. The sandwich comes with a generous handful of fries that were well seasoned and an excellent side.
Together with a glass of ice-cold lemonade, the total was $13.00.
Rocket to Venus offers takeout and outdoor dining options. I would definitely recommend grabbing a bite from here if you want reliable comfort food that’s close to campus — or if you simply like sci-fi-themed restaurants. Plus, you could always take a friend here and impress them with your knowledge of its oddball history.