By Joey Hoff
Special to The Dagger
The Dark Horse Saloon will open its doors on Main Street in Bel Air on March 6, renting the building that was once home to the Ropewalk Tavern and The Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille.
Property owner Marc McFaul purchased the building in 2002 and later renovated the space for the Ropewalk Tavern, which opened the following year on Main Street. The bar was put up for sale and eventually closed in May 2007 after bad publicity stemming from two earlier fights at the establishment carved into its business, McFaul said at the time.
McFaul owns and operates another Ropewalk Tavern location in Federal Hill, which he purchased nearly 15 years ago and is still in operation today.
When McFaul put the Main Street property up for sale, he was approached by Green Turtle franchisees looking to rent the space.
“At the time, it was a smart business decision to accept their offer. Because of the Greene Turtle’s business decisions and financial problems that followed, I realized that I might be back soon,” McFaul said.
The Greene Turtle closed in November 2009, and rumors soon began to circle about the possibility of Ropewalk’s return.
“Due to politics and a false perception by some that Ropewalk failed, I decided not to open Ropewalk again,” McFaul said.
Instead of opening a restaurant of his own, McFaul is leasing the space to Chris Reda and Gina Carapico, who will open the Dark Horse Saloon. McFaul plans to work with Reda and Carapico as landlord and a management consultant.
Carapico plans for “Dark Horse” to be more than just a restaurant, bringing needed business to downtown Bel Air and providing jobs for the local economy.
“We would like to be active in the community by hosting fundraisers and being involved in community events,” Carapico added.
As for the name, the Dark Horse Saloon was named after a popular horse racing term, which describes a horse that has unfavorable odds but ends up winning the race.
“[The name] Dark Horse was decided upon because Harford County is horse country,” said McFaul.
Dark Horse Saloon Executive Chef, Frank Campanella is incorporating his past barbeque competition experience with a Tex-Mex theme to create a Southwest barbeque fusion menu. Campanella, a member of the competitive barbeque team called the Kansas City Barbeque Society, competes in up to twelve barbeque competitions each year.
With this experience, Campanella will smoke barbeque ribs in-house, and the menu will feature his award-winning pulled pork and brisket.
“You’re not going to be limited to tacos and quesadillas with ground beef and chicken,” said Campanella.
As the name suggests, the Dark Horse will be horse-themed throughout. While the building won’t face major renovations, McFaul plans to incorporate bronze horses, a horse fountain, and murals of Harford County’s horse racing history into the saloon.
“We have a great historical building with so much potential, and we’re creating a great atmosphere with delicious food.” Carapico said. “People want variety and we want to offer something to everyone.”