Eats and Drinks
Who says Hampden can’t have a sports bar?
Published: June 5, 2013
When I talked to people about going to David’s 1st and 10 (3626 Falls Road,  662-7779), I got a lot of variations on the same reaction: (in mock-shocked voices) “A sports bar? In Hampden?!”
I was expecting this snide response from a few but not from the overwhelming majority. Hampden has become, over the past few years, a place where you would sooner expect to see a guy with a handlebar mustache wearing cutoff jorts overalls, a striped tank top, and sock garters than to see a sports bar. Which is a shame, because Hampden is not the artsy-fartsy nest of hipsterism that many think it is. It is a neighborhood that has attracted the creative types, but that doesn’t stop junkies, stickup boys, or tricks from scumming it up like any other place in Baltimore. It is a Baltimore neighborhood, and there are people in it that love sports as well as art, and this is where David’s 1st and 10 comes in.
On a recent visit to David’s, which opened in May, the mix of indigenous and imported Hampdenites was about 50/50, with everyone enjoying each other’s company (as well as the baseball game). The dining areas that flank the enclosed bar are open and casual, with light wooden dividers and hand-painted murals on the walls; 36 flat-screens swirl around the joint like a vortex of athletic excess. Almost every sport was represented when we were there, with most of the TVs tuned to the O’s game. It’s a fun experience watching the O’s game there, but be warned: Some TVs are on a four-second delay. That pitch you are watching on one TV could already be out of the park on another, so choose wisely.
The Orioles are down in the second when we order our beers. Union Craft Brewing’s Balt-Altbier ($5) turned out to be the perfect beer for the comeback that was coming. Clean and rich, it was light enough to throw back a few, but malty and flavorful enough to let you know you are drinking a real beer.
The altbier paired well with all of the food we had at David’s 1st and 10, starting with the chicken wings ($9). We ordered them covered in Old Bay, with a side of the house-made buffalo sauce. They were crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, hot throughout, and cooled with celery and carrot sticks. The buffalo sauce was so good that we used it as a dip for the other items we ordered—they should bottle that stuff. The poutine ($9) was an interesting mix of french fries, two types of cheese (cheddar and mozzarella), and brown gravy. It was the gravy, with a tangy back note that hinted of Worcestershire sauce, that made it interesting. The fries were crisp and well-fried, but we could have used more gravy (the buffalo sauce picked up the slack). Also taking a splash in buffalo sauce was the fried chicken sandwich ($9). A small butterflied chicken breast was served on a soft roll with Sriracha mayo and a sesame slaw. The slaw was good for crunch, and the mayo was almost nonexistent, but the sandwich had good flavor. With such a small cut of chicken, I would have liked a thicker crust on the fried crust to give the meat some heft.
While most of the food served at David’s 1st and 10 is what you would expect on a sports bar menu, the roasted portabella ($13) is most definitely not. The best dish we had that night, it consisted of roasted portabella, wilted greens, sweet potato, barley, and balsamic-soaked cherries. The balance of sweet, sour, umami, and salt (after salt was added) kept us coming back for more. It was surprisingly filling, yet not heavy (good for a summer day). The dish was supposed to be served with quinoa instead of barley, but we thought the barley gave a nuttiness that would be unattainable in the quinoa.
Margherita pizza ($9) ended the meal on a fresh note. Slices of tomato were hidden under mozzarella and sprinkled with a chiffonade of basil. It wasn’t the best pizza we’ve ever had, but it was better than 95 percent of the pizza we’ve had in bars.
David’s 1st and 10 seems to know their clients and wants to serve them better fare than the normal mozzarella-stick-slinging, shitty-beer-serving, corporate-master-having hellhole. Hampden seems to have welcomed them with open arms and will give them room to come up with a new meaning to the term “bar food.” I can’t wait to catch a ballgame there again.
David’s 1st and 10 serves food seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
> Email John Houser III