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City That Drinks

The City That Drinks

Seahorse Inn, and Pop’s Tavern,

Photo: Photographs by J.M. Giordano, License: N/A

Photographs by J.M. Giordano

It’s a hundred degrees, and the city is stifling. We want to get that beach feeling even though we have no vacation, so we drive down to Dundalk. The windows are down and the radio cranked.

We stop by the Seahorse Inn (710 Wise Ave.), which has a lovely view of Bear Creek. “I like the age difference. There are old veterans and little teeny-boppers,” Anna Stewart, the bartender, says. The old veterans are all inside, sipping Budweiser, while the teeny-boppers share 64-ounce fruity rum drinks from Fish Bowls. The Fish Bowls are made from four different fruit-flavored Cruzan rums—Rogue Wave, Great Bite, Seawitch, and Crab Trap. The fruit flavors and the sweetness of the rum combine into a bright drink that’ll run you $15 for the 64-ounce and $8 for the 32-ounce. It’s make-your-teeth-hurt sweet, and “It’s awesome,” according to Erica Farhart, a woman sitting at the bar, over a half-finished bowl. (Beers are $2.25)

When we leave the Seahorse, we stop by Pop’s Tavern (4343 North Point Blvd.), the second oldest bar in Baltimore County. As we walk in, a guy gets up from the table where he has been playing cards and asks for a beer.

“Tim, shut your fucking mouth,” Chris, the bartender, yells. He’s pouring the beer, and when he sees me writing, he says, “Don’t quote that. That’s off the record, motherfucker.”

The poker players play. Chris brings us beers.

At the front of the room is a wooden wagon wheel and a wooden fence encircling it, where country bands play most weekends. “Somebody who played here told me to take it down,” says Ma, the owner of the joint. “But you see it’s still here,” she adds.

Ma took over in 2001, when her husband got sick and, later, died. “His grandfather opened this place in 1933,” when Prohibition ended, she says. “It was right in the middle of where Wise Avenue is now. When they built the road, they moved the bar with a crane.” She met her husband back when his father ran the bar and she was working at a nearby drug store. She came into the business when she came into the family, in 1956.

But Ma says the bar has fallen on hard times. “Closing down Sparrow’s Point, that’s what killed it,” she says. “It could really be the end now,” she says, referring to the plan to liquidate the assets of RG Steel in August if no buyer is found.

She’s tried a lot of things to make it work. “We sell hot dogs, pizza, in-the-microwave burgers, and I make pulled pork. We also have local crabs,” she says. “We have poker in here three nights a week, to try to get by, but a lot those people don’t spend any money anyway.” Her daughter mostly runs the place now, and when the Cruzan guy came by, she decided to try the Fish Bowl, too.

It’s time for us to try it.

Chris mixes together a couple rums in a haphazard fashion, but he mainly talks about the Shark Attack—their vodka version of the drink. “We don’t have the vodka tonight, but you really ought to try it. It’s blue. We’re working on purple for the Ravens,” he says. “But it’s not perfected yet.”

The summery drink he pours has an intensely sweet pineapple flavor.

Ma looks on with bemusement. “I let them do what they want, now,” she says. “I just sit back there and watch them on the TV.”

“And she watches like a hawk,” Chris adds. “And it don’t matter if you just ordered your drink or not. When she’s ready to go, you’re out,” he says.

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