Published: October 10, 2011
Using the term “nightlife” to describe the bar scene in Baltimore is slightly misleading. It would be more accurate to call it simply “nonworklife,” since it doesn’t have to be dark to down a few. The beauty of going out in Baltimore, especially to any of the countless neighborhood joints, is the general lack of judginess. It’s like, Hey, we’re all in this together, let’s do a shot! This vague sense of fellowship is fertile ground for people to develop the many random connections that make Baltimore seem so small, even to recent transplants. But even the most entrenched of barflies will concede that the corner bar, though the heart and soul of this town, can only cover so many bases (as can your humble Baltimanual). Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
Fun With Booze
The Windup Space
12 W. North Ave., (410) 244-8855, thewindupspace.com
A gallery/watering-hole hybrid that actually works, thanks in large part to excellent bartenders, but also to the wackily balanced mix of events: live music, karaoke, movie nights, and even football on Sundays. Take that, hipsters.
Creative Alliance at the Patterson
3134 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-1651, creativealliance.org
The old Patterson Theatre was repurposed into a community center/theater/gallery, with all kinds of cool stuff happening all the time, much of which requires ticket purchases. But within is a small but shockingly well-stocked (and reasonably priced) bar—more of a drink booth really—to either amplify or dull one’s sensibilities.
8 E. Preston St., (410) 244-1020, dionysusbar.com
Trusty midtown drinking spot downstairs and a dining room and all kinds of other crazy shit going on above. Everything from DJs, poetry readings, live music, and movies to art openings and open-mic comedy. Bars on all three floors.
851-853 Hollins St., (410) 685-5787, http://lietuvis.net/Lietuvis/lha/lha.html
Not a bar in the legal sense, it falls under the category of “social club,” which means you technically have to be a member to drink there. Long story short, bring an extra five or 10 bucks and you’ll be fine. Events can be sporadic, but they’re always fun, especially dancing to DJs on the weekends, and the annual “Night of 100 ELVISes.”
Mostly just Booze
1919 E. Fleet St.
A typically nondescript Fells Point corner dive bar except that it’s got that certain inexplicable something that anoints it with a spark of awesomeness. Free pool, occasional live music, cool bartenders, heavy pours, low prices.
Charles Village Pub
3107 St. Paul St., (410) 243-1611, cvptowson.com
The venerable CVP got a much-needed makeover last year, although we do inexplicably miss all that cracked vinyl just a bit. What hasn’t changed is the affable blend of Johns Hopkins and townie drunkards that dwell within. Also decent food.
Dead End Saloon
935 Fell St., (410) 732-3602, deadendsaloon.com
Given its two entrances, it’s actually exactly not a dead end, but despite straddling tourist-laden Fells Point and a patch of swanky condo developments, Dead End remains totally chill and generally not too busy. Really good burgers, pool tables, and daily specials.
Mount Royal Tavern
1204 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 669-6686)
Some of the furniture is fashioned from industrial cable spools and the bathrooms will haunt your nightmares forever. But you can get a can of Natty Boh (the local cheap swill of choice) and a shot of whiskey, pay with a five, and still have enough for a tip. Welcome to Baltimore!
2239 Essex St., (410) 522-0015, redhousetavern.com
Recently reopened under new ownership, Redhouse is one of those places where everything is just right—beautiful interior (complete with tin ceilings and fireplace), good food and specials, and a tight selection of exceptionally cold beer.
Booze and Music
4 Market Place, Power Plant Live, (443) 468-5308, mosaic-baltimore.com
The “club” arm of the Power Plant Live complex, its decor is swanky, bar staff attractive, patrons well heeled, security surly, and bottles served. Cover and drink prices aren’t lowball, but people are usually pretty friendly. DJs are hit or miss.
The Get Down
701 S. Bond St., (443) 708-3564, getdownbaltimore.com
A typical club that happens to be in the bar mecca that is Fells Point. Somewhat cramped dance floors, but table/bottle service is available and the DJs are reliably good. One nice feature is built-in pregaming, with no cover and half-price drinks before 10.
1 W. Eager St., (410) 547-0069, clubhippo.com
A veritable Baltimore institution, as well as an LGBT scene pillar, the Hippo is startlingly cavernous, with a bar area and pool tables in front, and a huge stage area with sprawling dance floors in back, which are sometimes host to drag revues and karaoke. Friendly bar staff and generally fun crowd.
2549 N. Howard St., (410) 662-0069, theottobar.com
A roomy dual-purpose venue with a stage area featuring a wide range of live acts downstairs and a large bar/lounge with pool tables upstairs. Drink prices are a bit steep, as are the stairs connecting the two areas—a true test of motor-function impairment.
719 S. Broadway, (410) 563-4547
Not a club per se, just a bar that tends to play club music. May seem a bit Euro at first blush, but generally a good time, with lively bartenders who will almost always do a shot with you.
737 S. Broadway, (410) 675-6297, maxs.com
A huge room, lots of pool tables, and even more TVs provide for classic Fells Point-style mayhem. But Max’s true draw is the insane selection of draft (more than 140) and bottled (more than 1,200) beers. It gets crazy packed on weekends.
13.5% Wine Bar
1117 W 36th St., (410) 889-1064, 13.5winebar.com
Its sleek and modern interior screams overly precious oeno-snobbery, but this place is laid-back and comfortable, with an excellent and interesting selection of vino and a very helpful staff to navigate you through it.
1106 N. Charles St., (410) 547-9310, thebrewersart.com
Really three places in one, Brewer’s is split into distinct areas: a dark, catacomb-like bar downstairs; a bright, somewhat fancier one upstairs; and a pretty dining room in back. The house brews are excellent Belgian-style ales, which, in addition to tasting good, are imbued with some kind of supernatural drunkening power.
V-NO Wine Bar
905 S. Ann St., (410) 342-8466, v-nowinebar.com
V-NO’s more of a wine store than a bar, but the staff here seem genuinely interested in helping you pick out something good. And then there’s the choice location on water’s edge with lots of outdoor seating, where you can enjoy your purchase after paying a nominal corkage fee. Wine-appropriate snacks are offered.
21 N. Eutaw St., (410) 545-5112, alewifebaltimore.com
A gastropub housed in a beautiful old bank building, with a fairly innovative and generally well-executed menu and a veritable shit-ton of rotating draft beers, both international and regional domestic rarities. Excellent bartenders, well-made cocktails, can get very crowded during theater season.
527 E. Belvedere Ave., Belvedere Square, (410) 464-1944, grandcrubaltimore.com
Originally more of a select beer/wine store than a bar, Grand Cru got taken over as a hangout by North Baltimore locals too mature and well-heeled for the college-bar action on nearby York Road. Sharp bartenders, nice nibbles.
Booze and Sports
Mother’s Federal Hill Grille
1113 S. Charles St., (410) 244-8686, mothersgrille.com
A sea of utter purple insanity during Ravens games, Mother’s cavernous interior features multiple bars and a big back patio area with countless TVs both inside and out. Pool table, pretty good food, far less crowded and intense off-season and on non-game days.
1700 Thames St., (410) 563-6600, slaintepub.com
A haven for fans of the stepchildren of American sports coverage, namely soccer and hockey, Slainte is a straight-up Irish joint with a smallish bar but plenty of seating in the dining room and upstairs. Decent food and good Guinness.
Looney’s Pub Canton
2900 O’Donnell St., (410) 675-9235, looneyspubmd.com
A veritable monument to the long, happy marriage of sports and booze. Pool, flip cup, and such for those feeling active, and TVs in every corner for mere observers. Discounts for local social sports league participants and surprisingly good bar food.
Pratt Street Alehouse
206 W. Pratt St., (410) 244-8900, prattstreetalehouse.com
Right down the street from Camden Yards, perfect for when you leave the game early in disgust and want to drown your gnawing disappointment in a once-storied and now flaccid franchise! Hooray! Notable for its selection of (sorta) house-brewed beers, including some hand-pulled, cask-conditioned, and nitrogen-tapped ales. Lots of outdoor seating.
Turp’s Sports Bar and Restaurant
1317 N. Charles St., (410) 347-0349, turpsonline.com
Pretty much the only game (rimshot!) in this part of town, you have to squeeze through a cramped dining area to get to the narrow bar, but there are several well-placed flat screens, good beer, and food specials daily, and a fairly rowdy atmosphere during games.
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