A Day in Mount Vernon/Station North
Published: August 29, 2011
Mount Vernon is the grand dame of Baltimore neighborhoods. In many ways it’s the cultural heart of the city, with its breathtaking architecture, museums, and arts institutions. Getting there isn’t a problem. A ton of buses go through the neighborhood, including the free Charm City Circulator and Johns Hopkins shuttle, as does the light rail. A day isn’t really going to cut it for seeing all Mount Vernon has to offer, but here are some things to put on your to-do list.
As far as culture goes—and we know you fancy college students are all about soaking that in—you’ve hit the jackpot. The Walters Art Museum (600 N. Charles St.,  547-9000, thewalters.org) and the Contemporary Museum (100 W. Centre St.,  783-5720, contemporary.org), though close to each other physically, offer very different visual-arts experiences, from the former’s impressive collections to the latter’s provocative exhibits. For the gallery experience, head to C. Grimaldis Gallery (523 N. Charles St. No. 1,  539-1080, cgrimaldisgallery.com). The Maryland Historical Society (201 W. Monument St.,  685-3750, mdhs.org) will help you learn about your adopted hometown. For classical music, make your way to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (1212 Cathedral St.,  783-8000, bsomusic.org) for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Institute (1 E. Mount Vernon Place,  234-4500, peabody.jhu.edu) for a slate of affordable student and faculty performances, or An die Musik (409 N. Charles St.,  385-2638, andiemusiklive.com) for choice classical and jazz recitals. You can also enjoy some theater, from professional productions at Center Stage (700 N. Calvert St.,  332-0033, centerstage.org) to plucky community theater at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre (817 St. Paul St.,  752-1225, spotlighters.org) to experimental works at Theatre Project (45 W. Preston St.,  752-8558, theatreproject.org).
If you don’t have enough to read already—ha!—the city’s Enoch Pratt Free Library (400 Cathedral St.,  396-5430, prattlibrary.org) is vast and free, provided you return the books on time, while Red Emma’s (800 St. Paul St.,  230-0450, redemmas.org) is a worker-owned bookstore and coffeehouse with vegan fare and books for your inner revolutionary.
Mount Vernon isn’t a major shopping destination, but there are some stores worth hitting. Star Won (1015 Cathedral St.,  962-7277), Katwalk (243 W. Read St.,  728-9255, myspace.com/katwalkboutique), and Dollhouse (525 N. Charles St.,  874-7900, myspace.com/dollhouseboutique) offer surprising clothing options—perhaps not as surprising, though, as bondage store Chained Desires (136 W. Read St.,  528-8441, chaineddesires.com) though. The Zone (813 N. Charles St.,  539-2817) is one of the city’s best-curated thrift stores. The Woman’s Industrial Exchange (333 N. Charles St.,  685-4388, womansindustrialexchange.org) has been bringing the city handmade goods since the Civil War. Pretentious Pooch (1017 Cathedral St.,  524-7777, pretentiouspooch.com) spoils your dog rotten. Get a haircut and a cup of coffee at the Beatnik Barbershop (241 W. Read St.,  669-3033, beatnikbarbershop.com). OK Natural (11 W. Preston St.,  837-3911) brings health food and vegan options to center city, while Milk and Honey Market (816 Cathedral St..,  685-6455, milkandhoneybaltimore.com) offers locally sourced food and gourmet sandwiches.
Speaking of food, what Mount Vernon lacks in shopping it makes up for in awesome places to eat. You can pretty much scratch any itch here. Joss (413 N. Charles St.,  244-6988, josssushi.com), Minato (1013 N. Charles St.,  332-0332, minatosushibar.com), and Aloha Sushi (1218 N. Charles St.,  759-8531, alohasushimd.com) offer Japanese fare; Akbar (823 N. Charles St.,  539-0944, akbar-restaurant.com), Kumari (911 N. Charles St.,  547-1600, kumarirestaurantnbar.com), and Lumbini (322 N. Charles St.,  244-5556, indianlumbinirestaurant.com) Indian and Nepalese. The Turkish fare at Cazbar (316 N. Charles St.,  528-1222, cazbarbaltimore.com) is divine. Dukem (1100 Maryland Ave.,  385-0318, dukemrestaurant.com) and Helmand (806 N. Charles St.,  752-0311, helmand.com) offer great Ethiopian and Afghan food, respectively. Hit Zhongshan (323 Park Ave.,  223-1881, zhongshanrestaurant.com) for dim sum and Mekong Delta (105 W. Saratoga St.,  244-8677) for mom-and-pop Vietnamese. Try the self-service pizza at Iggies (818 N. Calvert St.,  528-0818, iggiespizza.com). Get some outstanding falafel at Shapiro’s Cafe (7 W. Preston St.,  220-0050, shapiroscafe.com) and crazy good soup and sandwiches at Soup’s On (11 W. Preston St.,  528-1003, soupsonbalto.com). City Café (1001 Cathedral St.,  539-4252, citycafebaltimore.com) is the place for coffee, web surfing, and people watching.
If all that eating has left you thirsty, have no fear: The bar scene here is ample. Brewer’s Art (1106 N. Charles St.,  547-6925, thebrewersart.com) makes its own beer (pace yourself, it’s strong) and has a nice upstairs area for the cocktails set and a dark lower den for the how-many-beers-can-I-put-in-my-face crew. Red Maple (930 N. Charles St.,  547-0149, redmaple.com) and Eden’s Lounge (15 W. Eager St.,  244-0405, edenslounge.com) keep things a little more upscale. Dougherty’s (223 W. Chase St.,  752-4059, doughertyspub.com), Dionysus (8 E. Preston St.,  244-1020), the Owl Bar (1 E. Chase St.,  347-0888, theowlbar.com), and Mick O’Shea’s (328 N. Charles St.,  539-7504, mickosheas.com) are more about a comfy place to throw a few back. Dance is the thing at gay bars Club Hippo (1 W. Eager St.,  547-0069, clubhippo.com) and Grand Central (1001-3 N. Charles St.,  752-7133, centralstationpub.com). Don’t miss the 13th Floor (1 E. Chase St.,  347-0888, the13th-floor.com) for its killer city views.
And don’t forget to stop and take a breather in lovely Mount Vernon Square Park (Charles and Monument streets) in the shadow of the Washington Monument.
If Mount Vernon is the matriarch of the city, Station North (stationnorth.org) is the cool older sister who gives you sips of her beer. Situated just north of Penn Station (hence the name) and close to MICA, this neighborhood is all about the arts, but rather than age-old institutions, it’s filled with plucky young start-ups.
Load of Fun Studios (120 W. North Ave., loadoffun.net) is the neighborhood’s unofficial headquarters, with artist studios, exhibition space, and frequent and eclectic events. See what theater has to offer at Single Carrot Theatre (120 W. North Ave.,  844-9253, singlecarrot.com), the Strand Theater Company (1823 N. Charles St.,  874-4917, strand-theater.org), and Everyman Theatre (1727 N. Charles St.,  752-2208, everymantheatre.org) or watch an indie film at the Charles Theatre (1711 N. Charles St., (410) 727-3456, thecharles.com). Art, music, and alcohol meet at Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.,  244-0899, the metrogallery.net) and Windup Space (12 W. North Ave., thewindupspace.com). For galleries without bars head to Area 405 (405 E. Oliver St.,  528-1968, area405.com), Westnorth Studio (106 W. North Ave.,  759-7691, westnorthstudio.com), and Galerie Myrtis (2224 N. Charles St.,  235-3711, galeriemyrtis.net). Punk and indie rock bands play at Charm City Art Space (1729 Maryland Ave., ccspace.org).
This neighborhood doesn’t offer much in the way of traditional shopping but Cyclops Books and Music (30 W. North Ave.,  752-4487, facebook.com/cyclopsbmore ) is more than meets the eye (heh). And bike enthusiasts will find their soulmates in either worker-owned Baltimore Bicycle Works (1813 Falls Road,  605-0705, baltimorebicycleworks.com) or collective Velocipede Bike Project (4 W. Lanvale St., velocipede bikeproject.org).
Grab inexpensive bites to eat at Joe Squared (133 W. North Ave.,  545-0444, joesquared.com), Sofi’s Crepes (1723 N. Charles St.,  727-7732, sofiscrepes.com), Kader’s Café Mocha (1501 St. Paul St.,  962-5717, kadercafemochabaltimore.com), or Bohemian Coffee House (1821 N. Charles St.,  400-0022, bmorebohemian.com). For something a bit fancier, pull up a chair at Tapas Teatro (1711 N. Charles St.,  332-0110, tapasteatro.com). Hit little Korea for delights from Joung Kak (18 W. 20th St.,  837-5231), Nak Won (12 W. 20th St.,  244-5501), and Nam Kang (2126 Maryland Ave.,  685-6237).
Finish your day off with drinks at the venerable Club Charles (1724 N. Charles St.,  727-8815), dancing at the Depot (1728 N. Charles St.,  528-0174), and after-hours fun at Club 1722 (1722 N. Charles St., club1722.com).
> Email Anna Ditkoff