City That Drinks
The Wurlizter Prize
Kenny B’s Blue Marlin boasts a big fish and an even bigger selection on its jukebox
Published: October 23, 2013
It’s a cool autumn night and you’ve hit all the old places in Station North and the surrounding neighborhoods. After an extremely stressful day, you just want to go to place where no one knows your name and you don’t know theirs. No ping pong, no pizza, no Dan Deacon on the jukebox.
That’s when a trip to Dundalk is needed. The “blue-collar” area butts up to Baltimore City and is a close drive for those looking to run out for a while. One bar, of the many that are plunked in the middle of surrounding neighborhoods, that you might want to escape to is Kenny B’s Blue Marlin Inn (118 Williams Ave.,  284-9705). The Marlin is nowhere near water and there’s no outside deck. But what it does have, at least on this lonely Tuesday evening, is a jukebox full of country and a case full of fish. Well, one fish that is. In the back poolroom, the eponymous record-setting blue marlin stares blankly out of a trophy case big enough to house a small lion.
In the front of the house, three men sit at the empty bar belting out old Conway Twitty songs while the barmaid complains quietly about some unknown illness. On a Tuesday night, the $1.50 Bud bottles go down way too easy as a pair of women who have no interest in country music gossip in the light of their glowing cellphones at the far end of the bar.
“You like old country?” asks one of the men at the back who bears a striking resemblance to the late George Jones with a floppy lock of whitish hair. “Well, see if you remember this one,” he says and slides another dollar in the juke.
In a few seconds, “It’s Only Make Believe”—the piano original followed by the Twitty version—tinkles out of the speakers and into the air, which, a few years ago, would have been thick with cigarette smoke.
“Believe” is followed by a string of old hits, from Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” to the Willie Nelson and Ray Charles duet “Seven Spanish Angels.”
Rounds are bought, more singing is encouraged, until finally you forgot what made the day so stressful. As the tab comes and you pay and head to the heavy steel front door, the three men at the back wave and say, “You come back. We’re here every Tuesday.”
And you know, you just might.
> Email J.M. Giordano