Fab Five Fridays
As promised, here's my list of the five best pre-gaming spots:
1. The Wharf Rat Pub and Restaurant, 206 W. Pratt St.
This was an easy choice. Not only does the Wharf Rat have an authentic 1800s feel, it also has some of the best locally brewed beer you'll find around town. The service is friendly and down to earth, and before games, it usually doesn't get too slammed.
2. Pickles Pub, 520 Washington Blvd.
Since expanding into the neighboring building earlier this year, Pickles has gotten even more wild and crazy before games. In addition to the tents outside, there is now a beer pong table, a larger dining room and that game where you toss bean sacks into holes in a board. And who can resist a deep-fried pickle or two?
3. Mother's Federal Hill Grille, 1113 S. Charles St.
The polar opposite of the Wharf Rat, this restaurant and bar is party central, especially during football season. They set up a tent out back on the Purple Patio to accommodate all the extra mayhem, and people slam back drinks before streaming down to the stadiums.
4. Downtown Sports Exchange, 200 W. Pratt St.
Since new owners took over this place last summer, they've really cleaned it up. The service has really improved, as has the number of beers on tap and flat screen TVs. The DSX used to be a decent place to pre-game. Now it's a great one.
5. Quigley's Half-Irish Pub, 633 Portland St.
I know, I know, they don't serve food at Quigley's. Yet. But on game days, owner Jim Quigley sets up a grill outside and cooks hot dogs and hamburgers. Quigley did a great job rehabbing the turn-of-the-century building, and the fold-open windows allow for maximum airflow, which is always key. And though there are only a couple beers on tap, they're priced cheap and served quick.