A Day in Mount Vernon
Published: August 16, 2010
Mount Vernon typifies so many of the things we love about this city. It’s steeped in history, dotted with gorgeous architecture, and positively lousy with restaurants and cultural attractions. It’s not as bar heavy as some other neighborhoods, but the ones it does have are solid. Neighborhood residents certainly face issues with things such as parking and development, but students are free to enjoy it and don’t have to worry about how high new buildings should be.
Let’s start high-brow. There are several gander-worthy museums in the neighborhood. The Walters Art Museum (600 N. Charles St.,  547-9000, thewalters.org) has an extraordinary permanent collection that you can see for free, plus interesting special exhibits which you often can’t. Next door, the Contemporary Museum (100 W. Centre St.,  783-5720, contemporary.org) eschews a permanent collection for unexpected and thought-provoking temporary exhibits.
As students, you already spend a ton of time in a library, but the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library (400 Cathedral St.,  396-5430, prattlibrary.org) merits a visit. The building is lovely, if a little worn down, and the Pratt’s holdings are extensive and contain more than a few treasures. You can also check out DVDs (for a small fee) and CDs (for free) there.
Fans of the performing arts will find an embarrassment of riches. CenterStage (700 N. Calvert St.,  332-0033, centerstage.org) is home to professional theater productions and the deservedly adored Stoop Storytelling Series (stoopstorytelling.com)—get tickets in advance, because Stoop always sells out. The Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre (817 St. Paul St.,  752-1225, spotlighters.org) is a tiny community theater in the round, while Theatre Project (45 W. Preston St.,  752-8558, theatreproject.org) focuses on bringing experimental works to Charm City.
The Hopkins-affliated Peabody Institute (1 E. Mount Vernon Place,  234-4500, peabody.jhu.edu) offers tons of inexpensive classical music concerts, and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (1212 Cathedral St.,  783-8000, bsomusic.org) is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. For live jazz and classical in an intimate setting, take a seat in one of the comfy chairs at An die Musik (409 N. Charles St.,  385-2638, andiemusiklive.com).
Mount Vernon has some neat stores, but they’re more spread out than in some of the city’s other shopping destinations. Prepare for the revolution at Red Emma’s (800 St. Paul St.,  230-0450, redemmas.org), a radical bookstore café with yummy vegan food. Star Won (1015 Cathedral St.,  962-7277) has cute dresses, though boutiques in this area generally are very fashion forward and high end. The exceptions are A People United (516 N. Charles St.,  727-4471, apeopleunited.com), which features flowing, richly colored clothes with Indian, African, and Asian influences, and the Zone’s (813 N. Charles St.,  539-2817) thriftscores. Serious sneaker aficionados should hunt down Gentei (1010 Morton St.,  244-8961, shopgentei.com).
If you’re getting hungry, try Joss (413 N. Charles St.,  244-6988, josscafe-sushibar.com) or Minato (1013 N. Charles St.,  332-0332, minatosushibar.com) for sushi. Feast@4East (4 E. Madison St.,  332-0880, 4eastmadisoninn.com) offers a small menu that includes vegan options in a lovely old inn. There’s more good Indian restaurants than you’re liable to know what do with, such as Akbar (823 N. Charles St.,  539-0944, akbar-restaurant.com) for a dinner date, or either Mughal Garden (920 N. Charles St.,  547-0001) or Kumari (911 N. Charles St.,  547-1600, kumarirestaurant.com) for their lunch buffets. There’s a bunch of Thai restaurants in the area too, but we recommend Ban Thai (340 N. Charles St.,  727-7971) for good food at good prices. City Café’s (1001 Cathedral St.,  539-4252, citycafebaltimore.com) food can be on the pricier side, but it’s worth it for the opportunity to park your laptop along one of the window-facing counters for hours. For pizza, it’s hard to beat Iggie’s (818 N. Calvert St.,  528-0818, iggiespizza.com) fresh-from-the-wood-oven pie. The Helmand (806 N. Charles St.,  752-0311, helmand.com) serves up Afghan food in a restaurant owned by the brother of the president of that country. Dukem’s (1100 Maryland Ave.,  385-0318, dukemrestaurant.com) Ethiopian fare wows.
If you’re old enough to drink and smart enough to slow down when the alcohol content of a beer is high, make your way immediately to the Brewer’s Art (1106 N. Charles St.,  547-6925, thebrewersart.com) and choose between the swanky upstairs and the dark cavelike downstairs. For a posh night on the town, stop by Red Maple (930 N. Charles St.,  547-0149, 930 redmaple.com) or Eden’s Lounge (15 W. Eager St.,  244-0405, edenslounge.com). For a more relaxed feel, play some pool at Dougherty’s (223 W. Chase St.,  752-4059, doughertyspub.com) or have some drinks and conversation at Dionysus (8 E. Preston St., 244-1020). And dance the night away 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).