Baltimore’s best 50 bars, 31-50
Baltimore Sun reporterbal-mobile-bars1-1012Fall always seems to usher in big changes on Baltimore’s bar scene. New watering holes open and some old favorites close. It’s a good time of year to take stock of Charm City’s colorful nightlife — from neighborhood dives to ritzy lounges. This week, we’re counting down the city’s 50 best bars; 10 each day Monday through Friday. Remember to check back all week for more of Baltimore’s best bars. Bottoms up!
List compiled by Erik Maza and Sam Sessa of Midnight Sun and Richard Gorelick of Dining@Large.
No. 50 — Waterstone This is the scrappy old lesbian bar Coconuts, converted last year into Waterstone — a pretty tavern for the under-served western edge of Mount Vernon. Time will tell whether it can succeed without a clearly defined personality. — Richard Gorelick
No. 49 — Brannan’s Pub The green sign out front has a four-leaf clover on it, but the Irishness ends at the door. At last check, Brannan’s didn’t even have Guinness on tap. It did, however, have one of the neighborhoods most colorful scenes. Brannan’s is an earnest dive, serving draft beer in frozen plastic mugs. It’s a little too well-lit, and the decor leaves a lot to the imagination, but Brannan’s has killer karaoke and quite the cast of regulars. — Sam Sessa
No. 48 — Joe Squared Joe Squared is known for its big, square, delicious pizzas. But the reason it’s on this list is because it offers live music daily, for free. And on Tuesdays, it offers a relentless break-dance party. A better slogan might be: come for the pizza, stay for the free band. This Station North mainstay is just down the street from Windup Space and Club Charles, and might be the tastiest place to grab your first bite of the night. — Erik Maza
No. 47 — Holy Frijoles Exhibit A in the “Depends on Who’s Working There” argument. This Hampden hangout, a six-year old annex to the popular Mexican restaurant, can deliver pleasure or a punishment. Holy Frijoles regulars have it all figured out. — Richard Gorelick
No. 46 — Midtown Yacht Club Smooth sailing at this gregarious neighborhood bar — peanuts on the floor, a meat-lovers Sunday brunch, sports on TV, Thursday night karaoke and a classic pub grub menu. Hard to believe, but back in the early ’80s, the “yacht club” name wasn’t ironic. — Richard Gorelick
No. 45 — Henninger’s When is a bar a bar, and not just a restaurant amenity? It is hard to be sure. There are 20-year regulars at Henninger’s, the fiercely idiosyncratic Upper Fells Point bar, who have never stepped foot in the dining rooms. — Richard Gorelick
No. 44 — Grand Central Grand Central deserves praise for how well the multi-level, double-wide Mount Vernon mainstay thrives as an entertainment complex. Major assets include outdoor seating, the nifty discotheque, and Sappho’s, a posh second-story Lesbian space. In its 20th year, the original bar space still packs in crowds resistant to high prices and the world’s worst music. — Richard Gorelick
No. 43 — Walt’s Inn A couple short blocks from Canton Square, Walt’s Inn can be a low key watering hole or a wild and crazy karaoke zone. It all depends on the night. The staff and regulars are inviting, and on Friday and Saturday nights, Walt’s gets wall-to-wall stuffed with tipsy revelers.
No. 42 — Turp’s There are other sports bars in the neighborhood — Midtown Yacht Club, for starters — but Turp’s is the place to go to on game days. It’s the Mother’s of Mount Vernon. A lot of it is location, but the other big draw is John Turpin, for whom the bar is named, and who just recently quit. Many came for the game, stayed for the repartee with Turp. That familiar face is sometimes all that makes a neighborhood bar. When he left, old customers poured in with the same question: “Is Turp around? I wanted to do one last shot with him.” — Erik Maza
No. 41 — The Get Down Sound Garden owner Bryan Burkert (pictured) gambled big when he turned the dark Fells Point music hall Fletchers into the even darker lounge The Get Down. Clever interior lighting and stunning design combine to make The Get Down the best new club to open here in the past several years. — Sam Sessa
No. 40 — Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar While Metropolitan’s sloppy, inattentive service can cripple a good night out, we keep coming back for this South Baltimore bar’s wide-reaching beer and wine list. Like many Baltimore bars, Metropolitan has lots of wood and brick, and like many good Baltimore bars, the lighting is artfully dim. Abuse us, Metropolitan. We’ll still be seeing you this weekend. — Sam Sessa
No. 39 — Capt. Larry’s What’s not to love about a bar whose logo is a saucy mermaid holding a pitchfork? Larry’s is one of those neighborhood bars that’s filthy with character. Get there early, though, if you want seats, because it can get crawling with regulars on any given day of the week. Drinks are cheap, especially during Sunday specials. And be warned: It may be 2010, but Larry’s still doesn’t take credit cards. — Erik Maza
No. 38 — Vino Rosina A relative newcomer to the Baltimore scene, the upscale wine bar Vino Rosina is a no-brainer for Harbor East. The square bar is key for conversation, and the big glass vats of infused vodkas are, to borrow a phrase from a local pie-maker, dangerously delicious. But let’s not forget the comprehensive wine list or the helpful wait staff. Though Vino Rosina has only been open a few months, it’s off to the right start. — Sam Sessa
No. 37 — Harry’s American Bar It is not true that this legendary, storied, working-class Canton bar, the former American Joe’s, has been operated for years by the a coalition of The Newspaper Guild Local 32035 and the Hopkins Writing Seminars as creative source material. It’s just not. — Richard Gorelick
No. 36 — Dionysus Baltimore doesn’t have enough basement bars, which is part of the reason Dionysus sticks out. The Mount Vernon bar also has a capable beer list and a new third-floor performance space, which push it a notch above many of the neighborhood’s other watering holes.
No. 35 — Charles Village Pub Best known as the setting for countless Homewood student coming-of-age stories, the CVP always worked best as Charles Village’s de facto neighborhood bar. It has had contenders, but none of them has lasted for long. — Richard Gorelick
No. 34 — J. Patrick’s J. Patrick’s is that rare Irish bar that doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME! I’M AN IRISH BAR!” It just is one, and that’s enough. Tucked away down in Locust Point. J. Patrick’s has authentic Irish music every week, and a sizable crowd of loyal regulars who come for the camaraderie and stay for the suds. — Sam Sessa
No. 33 — Ale Mary’s Ale Mary’s is a lot like its owner, Mary Rivers: brassy, no-nonsense, and very Fells Point. Come here at midnight and you’ll feel like you’re in your big sister’s dining room downing some good beer. Part of it is Rivers herself, welcoming despite the put-on attitude. But the other half is the decoration. Rivers has outfitted the diner-like bar with recycled religious artifacts — ancient lockers from a torn-down Masonic temple; crucifixes and hymnals from a long-gone church. But all the religious imagery on the wall has been donated by the customers themselves. And the black-and-white Sacred Hearts are even more personal. They’re from Rivers’ grandmother’s home in Highlandtown. — Erik Maza
No. 32 — Leon’s There’s some respect that should be paid to Leon’s. For starters, it’s among the oldest gay bars in the city, if not the oldest. Except young gay men aren’t known for respecting their pioneering elders. In fact, at most gay bars, the two crowds stay as far away from each other as Ted Haggard and his wife. But at Leon’s, there’s so little room between its circular bar and the walls, there’s no choice for seniors and twinks to bump into each other. Sometimes they’ll clash over the differences between Donna Summer and Lady Gaga, but sometimes, just sometimes, they get over their generational divide and get to know each other. In that sense of community, it’s unlike just about any other gay bar in town. Drinks are also dirt cheap, especially on Sundays, when $3 buys two Coors. — Erik Maza
No. 31 — MaGerks Like most of Federal Hill, MaGerks attracts a “sporty” crowd. Upstairs is commonly referred to as meat-head central; it’s a great anthropology lesson. The weekend crowds are about the same as nearby Mother’s, but younger. Miller Lights — drink of choice for the popped collar crowd — are only $1.50 during weekday happy hour. — Erik Maza
Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun
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