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January 31, 2009

El Rancho Grande: The story behind the name

el rancho grande baltimoreThere's a pretty interesting story behind the name of El Rancho Grande, the year-old coffee shop at 3608 Falls Road in Hampden.

Owner Peter Schmader's father, John, spent a lot of time in the Southwest in the 1930s, and took Peter there when Peter was a kid.

John had a record called El Rancho Grande. It was by a guy named Ramon Armengod, and came out in the late '30s. It was an album in the true sense of the word ...

Inside, El Rancho Grande was filled with little photos and descriptions of Mexican states -- a real photo album. When it came time for Schmader to name his cafe, he thought back to that album.

"I wanted to have some link to stuff in my past," Schmader said. "There were a whole lot of names in the hat and that name just kept coming back. When all was said and done -- when all the other names filtered down -- El Rancho Grande hung in."

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:57 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

January 30, 2009

Have you ever noticed

that drinking large quantities of water makes you more thirsty? Maybe it's just me, but when I drink a couple large cups of water, my mouth feels kind of dry. Am I nuts? Or has anybody else noticed this?
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:52 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Liquor board fines TD Lounge owner $3,100 for manhandling

timothy dean bistroHere's an excerpt from a piece in today's paper by Baltimore Sun reporter Brent Jones. Note the excellent use of the word "manhandling":

The city liquor board fined the owner of TD Lounge - formerly Timothy Dean Bistro - $3,100 yesterday after one of the board's inspectors was manhandled by restaurant security during an investigation last year.

Owner Timothy Dean acknowledged during the hearing that his security guards should not have physically kept the inspector from entering his business, in the 1700 block of Eastern Ave., during an early-morning private party Nov. 15 ...

But a member of Dean's staff testified that the inspector did not immediately identify himself and appeared to be trying to avoid paying a $20 cover fee. ...

The inspector testified that he was escorted out of the front of the restaurant by three security guards, and he was not allowed to begin his investigation until Dean intervened.

"I think the fine is stiff for a first-time offender," Dean said.

(Photo of Timothy Dean Bistro by Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:37 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What would your ideal basement bar look like?

basement barIf you took the time (and had the money) to build a basement bar, what would yours look like?

This photo is of a basement bar in Timonium, and has a hunting lodge feel to it, with all the wood and whatnot. I'm not sure how I feel about it, actually. Might be a little too ... earthy ... for me.

My basement bar would have a bar made of solid gold, with bacon-paneled walls and a bar topped with genuine buffalo leather. Instead of bar stools, I'd have giant, custom-made leather armchairs. I'd have champagne on tap, and everyone would drink out of pewter beer horns.


I dug through our photo archives and found some other basement bars in and around Baltimore. Check 'em out ...


This particular basement bar is too clean and streamlined for my tastes. I wonder how comfortable those chairs are, too.











Now this is more like it.

Check out the photo caption:

For several years Chris Bannister has been lusting for an original "Ren Clark severed head" mug for his  basement Tiki  bar and collection. Ren Clark was a magician who operated a famous, now-defunct, tiki  bar in Texas.

The wooden heads were part of the decor and now go for several hundred dollars apiece on EBay. Bannister, however, found a California sculptor who made reproductions for $30. The Ren Clark head will be the perfect addition to his  basement  bar, recently remodeled in tiki style.


Now, what would your basement bar look like?

(Top photo by Sun photographer Kenneth K. Lam. Middle photo by Sun photographer Algernia Perna. Bottom photo by Sun photographer Christopher T. Assaf)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:52 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

Coachella lineup announced

paul mccartneyThe lineup for this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was announced last night. Thanks to Quarterlifeparty for giving me the heads up.

Here are the big names, broken down by day -- complete with the occasional parenthesized quip:

Friday, April 17

Paul McCartney (wow), Morrissey (so much for a Smiths reunion, eh?), Franz Ferdinand (one-hit wonders?), Leonard Cohen (love his songs when other people do them), Conor Oberst, the Black Keys and Girl Talk

Saturday, April 18

The Killers (sigh), Amy Winehouse (if she lives), Thievery Corporation, TV on the Radio (nice), Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes (reverb = awesome), MSTRKRFT

Sunday April 19

The Cure (the more there is of Robert Smith, the more there is to love), My Bloody Valentine, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lupe Fiasco, Public Enemy, Jenny Lewis, and I'm having a hard time finding big names here because there aren't many this day.

Here's a link with the full lineup.

You gonna go?

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (7)

The Price is Right: Bob Barker's best moment?

Besides music videos, concert footage and various other videos, some of the best stuff on YouTube are the blooper clips. I came across this one randomly the other day and couldn't help but post it. I wonder if this Price is Right contestant was stoned at the time, or just hilarious.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

January 29, 2009

Hee hee

If you've ever been to a club, this is good for at least a chuckle.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Go to Aural States Fest this weekend

title tracksNot only does the Baltimore-based music blog Aural States offer engaging reviews and interviews with local and national artists -- it also throws quite the shindig once a year.

This year's shindig, officially called the Aural States Fest, is Friday and Saturday night. Tomorrow night is at Sonar and the Talking Head Club (407 E. Saratoga St.), and features performances by indie rock duo Wye Oak, Title Tracks (ex-Georgie James member John Davis, pictured), Small Sur, Lo Moda, Arbouretum and more.

Get your tickets here. At $10, it's cheap, which is always appreciated.

Saturday night is a dance party at Whole Gallery with Cex, Craig Sopo and Garrett McIndoe.

(Photo by Shervin Lainez

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:08 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

I drink alone

i drink aloneWell, only sometimes. But this post on Dining@Large got me thinking about drinking alone.

What bars do you hit up when you want to drink alone?

There's a perception that people who drink alone are alcoholics or just plain pathetic, and I think that's bogus. I read once that even actor Ralph Fiennes likes to drink alone. So there!

Heck, I can think of a few reasons why I like to drink alone from time to time -- and not just because I can't sucker somebody into joining me for a nightlife column ...

First off, there are plenty of places with welcoming regulars and chatty bartenders, if you feel like talking to somebody. And tons of bars have live music you can sit and watch.

But I also like sitting at the end of a bar by myself. It helps me brainstorm, or just relax. And the best bartenders can sense when you want to be alone, and leave you with your drink.

Some of the places I like to hit up when I'm by myself are Bad Decisions in Fells Point, Idle Hour in Federal Hill, One World Cafe by Hopkins, the Laughing Pint, Joe Squared and the Windup Space, among others. These are just the first few that came to mind.

You got a few for me?

(Photo of the Knotty Pine, another place I think would be welcoming to solo drinkers, by Sun photographer Algerina Perna)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:10 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The review: El Rancho Grande

Here is a link to my review of El Rancho Grande, which ran in today's paper. The Hampden cafe opened about a year ago, and recently started offering live music regularly. I saw Ellen Cherry, Rob Thorworth and David Glaser perform there a week ago. Great stuff.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:15 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

January 28, 2009

Thanks, Gutter

For the kind words. Back at ya!
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:24 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Random stuff

January 27, 2009

The skinny on Sullivan's Steakhouse

sullivans steakhouse baltimoreSullivan's Steakhouse is slated to open on the first floor of the Verizon building (at Pratt and Light streets) in just a few weeks.

But, as always, Midnight Sun has the scoop.*

The grand opening of Sullivan's is Feb. 9. The restaurant will have a dining section, as well as a large bar area with scaled back prices of menu items.

The bar at Sullivan's will have live jazz six nights a week, as well as a massive wine and cocktail list ...

Thursdays and Sundays, signature martinis will be a mere $5 and bar entrees will be half price. The bar will have more than 25 scotches, separated by region, as well as 10 bourbons and a list of a couple dozen cognacs and brandies.

The signature martini, called the Knockout, consists of Smirnoff Orange Vodka infused with Hawaiian gold pineapples and an orange twist. 


*Pardon the cheeseball-ness of this toot-my-own-horn line.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:32 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Vine to become Avery's Pearl

That's about all I know at this point -- that a place called Avery's Pearl will soon occupy the space where The Vine used to sit.

I've got a call out, and I'll update everybody when I know more.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:48 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Superbowl doesn't rank high when it comes to beer drinking

My buddy (and colleague) Rob Kasper (of Kasper on Tap fame) blogs that when it comes to beer drinking holidays, the Superbowl is only ranked eighth. Imagine that!

Here's the list of the U.S.' top beer holidays, courtesy of data from the Nielsen Co.

1. July 4

2. Labor Day

3. Memorial Day

4. Father's Day

5. Christmas

6. Thanksgiving

7. Easter

8. Super Bowl

Rob also listed some interesting Super Bowl trivia on his post. Check it out.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:25 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 26, 2009

Canton Square vs. O'Donnell Square

Canton -- i mean O'Donnell -- SquareAfter my most recent nightlife column came out, I received a heated e-mail from a concerned reader. In the piece, I wrote Canton Square instead of O'Donnell Square, and the reader demanded a correction.

So I went to the copy desk, which did an archive search and found we had been calling it "Canton Square" and "O'Donnell Square" an equal number of times since 1990.


To appease the Gods of Style, I made a sacrifice of three semicolons. Suddenly, Copy Desk Wizard John McIntyre appeared on a cloud of commas and issued his edict: Henceforth, it shall be called O'Donnell Square. Then he disappeared, leaving only a trail of ellipses. 

You can read more about the verdict here.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

Tim Lumber's Q&A

Here is Tim Lumber's new column, where he goes rogue and interviews coworkers:

As soon as i got to work today,i decided why work? Instead I will interview some of the local drunk's that i just happen to work with!

I work in a manufacturing plant, so there's alot of people here who like to party hardy! I thought the first person i will ask a drinking question to is my boss.

I thought once i involve him in my column, he will probally let me walk around all day, and just interview people!

I asked my boss, whats your craziest drinking memory? He replied" One time i was so drunk i went To McDonalds and the lady was green!"

My first opinion was i think he was doing more than drinking! That or he was abducted by aliens,and they just happen to have a McDonalds in outer space! ...


After that i decided i would interview the machine operator i work with. i asked him, whats the craziest thing you ever did while you were drinking? He said "shooting my gun,i didn't know really where i was shooting,i was just laughing because i was so drunk!"

I know one thing, next time this guy drinks, somebody better buy him a straightjacket or he is going to kill someone! And i thought, this guy asked me to go to the bar with him last week!

After that interview, i decid ed to go hide somewhere! So i went in the back and fell asleep, until my calculator alarm watch went off! I woke up, and clocked out, i have to say, it was a easy day at work today!!!   

By Tim Lumber

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:21 PM | | Comments (11)

Wharf Rat to close for renovations

The Wharf Rat (206 W. Pratt St.) will close this Thursday for renovations, according to new owner Justin Dvorkin.

Dvorkin and general manager Justin Damadio took over the downtown brewpub last fall. They plan to reopen the place with a new name and slightly different look March 10.

The changes include a new draft beer system, HVAC and a fresh coat of paint, Dvorkin said. He also wants to add a bar on the second floor, bring in live music on semi-regular basis. They have kept the same Oliver Ale recipes, as well as the same brew master.

Dvorkin also denied online rumors that he plans to make the Wharf Rat a Yankees bar.

"We got this place cause it's in the heart of Baltimore," Dvorkin said. "We wouldn't be so foolish as to make this an out-of-state bar in the heart of the city. It doesn't make any sense."

(Photo from Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:32 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Recapping Saturday's show

janine wilsonSaturday's taping of Baltimore Unsigned at The 8x10 in support of the Mammojam Music Festival was a smashing success, I'd say.

About 125 people showed up and listened to stirring sets by Billy Coulter and crew, Janine Wilson (pictured) and the Grilled Lincolns.

We also heard from breast cancer survivors, people who screen for breast cancer and friends and family of breast cancer victims.

It was an afternoon of touching stories and sweet, sweet rock 'n' roll.

Thanks again to everyone who came out for the show.

(Photo by Courtney Block)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:45 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Anything with jazz hands ...

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Random stuff

January 25, 2009

Another credit card question

the towson greene turtleSorry if I'm beating everybody over the head with credit card stories. But I've got one more share. Then, I promise, I'm finished. At least for a little while.

This one's from Midnight Sun reader Liz, who recently had lunch at a local bar/restaurant. She writes:

We attended Purple Friday at the Green Turtle in Towson (pictured) when all the cheerleaders and Raven Employees stopped by for the Titans game.

When we got to the GT we found two seats at the bar, sat down and ordered drinks and food. We didn't recognize the lunch staff, but my husband asked for his drink in his mug. So it was obvious we were regulars since all the mugs sold out about a year and a half ago.

Our total bill came to a little over $25.00 and we tipped $15.00 because the bar tender was very attentive to us in the very crowded atmosphere. The next day when I checked our bank statement, not only was there the to be expected $40.00 charge, but an extra $12.60, AND another $25.00 charge ...

I immediately thought maybe another bar-tender accidentally used our card for another bill. I called them, and the manager explained that they do that to verify the card, and the two additional charges would be removed within 24 hours. They were currently pending on our checking account, which meant the money was debited from our account, but not officially complete. It took 72 hours before the two pending charges were removed, so for the weekend, we had to factor in that "lost" money when making purchases.

I was kind of upset on several things. A) They never told us about any additional charges. B) Why did they have to give us 3 separate charges? C) What If we had only had $50.00 in our checking account, which is probable for most Towson College students in this economy. If we had known about those charges, we would of just paid in cash.

I think it's getting very excessive with all this minimum charges, and frustrating that bars don't tell you this most of the time.

I've never legally looked into it my-self, but I have had friends that have some legal knowledge tell me it's actually illegal in Maryland for business to require or charge a minimum on credit/debit cards.

I was just wondering if any of your other readers have had this experience also.

(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:23 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 24, 2009

New Animal Collective video

Here is the video for "My Girls" by the experimental rock group Animal Collective. It's from their new album Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:53 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Hope to see you this afternoon

At the free Baltimore Unsigned taping to benefit Mammojam Music Festival. It starts at 1 p.m. today at The 8x10 in Federal Hill.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

January 23, 2009

Come to the free Mammojam show tomorrow

grilled lincolnsFor some inexplicable reason, I have totally spaced on blogging about this event until now, which is completely unacceptable. Thankfully, WTMD has been pushing it pretty hard.

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow, I'm hosting a live taping of Baltimore Unsigned at The 8x10. It's in support of Mammojam, an annual event which raises money and awareness for breast cancer. You can find out more about Mammojam here.

The show, which features live performances by Janine Wilson, Billy Coulter and the Grilled Lincolns (pictured) as well as stories from patients, clinicians and survivors, is free. Sign up here.

It's a really important cause, and I'd love to see you there.

(Photo from Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

Sneakily double charged?

Midnight Sun reader Rob sent me this email today. I wanted to share it with you, and get your opinions on his predicament. Here's Rob's email:

So I was out at the downtown wharf rat last night with my girlfriend and her roommate for drinks and food. We all live downtown (well I’m on the fringe, but I’m within a 15 min walk from wharf rat) so we go there quite a bit. Not on a first name basis with the bartenders but I’m in there once a week or so and tip well, so the occasional drink will be missing from the tab.

Here’s what’s odd about last night: The check cam and looked a bit light. Not the type of light where you know there was some sort of mistake that you should say something about, just a drink or two light. I tipped the guy (cash) 30% on a $65 bill and we left.

So here’s what I notice this morning – they charged my card (checking my bank account online) an additional $12.08, I’m guessing for the missing drinks. I figure one of the bartenders opened a second tab for us and we didn’t know it,  The money isn’t a big deal, but it strikes me as a grimy way to go about doing that ...

I certainly didn’t approve that charge, I only signed off on the initial check. If the bartender had to account for the outstanding tab and he knew it was mine, he could have taken the $13 out of the cash tip I left. Personally, I think it would be smarter to keep a return customer happy, but if they felt like it was necessary for me to pay for the other tab they could have used that cash that was left.
I’m a recently retired part-time bartender so I understand that it would have blown for the guy to lose most of his tip, and he might not have had a choice about running my card a second time because of a manager or something. But I can say that I would have never had done that when I was bartending.

I can say that why I won’t stop going to the wharf rat because of this, it will certainly make me think before I stop in for a couple beers on the way home next time.

I should add – We were sitting at a table in the bar area being waited on. We were not milling around and ordering. It shouldn’t have been that hard to keep or tab straight.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:30 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What's the best trivia night in Baltimore?

Believe it or not, in three/four years of covering Baltimore's nightlife, I have never covered a trivia night. Never.

Reason is, so many bars had trivia nights, none stood out enough for me to justify going to one. But I feel like I should try one out.

My question: Who has the best one in town? And don't just list a name -- I need to know why it's the best. Suggestions?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:10 AM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Blast from the past: The Wine Brats

the wine bratsAnybody know what happened to the Wine Brats?

I found this photo in our archives of a Wine Brats event from 1999. Here's the caption, which explains things a bit:

The President of "Wine Brats," Tim Schriver, pours wine for Kenna Quereau (foreground) and Brannan Armstrong, while Harry Adams looks on. This informal club met at Corks in South Baltimore and is trying to introduce wine to a younger generation who seem to prefer beer. A meeting and mixing of the opposite sex seems to be high on the list of activities as well.

Corks is still there. But I Googled around a bit and couldn't find any results for "Baltimore" and "Wine Brats." I'll bet one of you knows something about them -- or one of the people in this picture.

Fill me in.

(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 22, 2009

The review: Hummers Bar and Grill

Here is a link to my review of Hummers Bar and Grill, which ran in today's paper. The poorly named new Canton corner bar opened just about a month ago with one of the area's better happy hour specials: $1 draft Yuenglings and Coors Lights 4 p.m.-7 p.m. weekdays.

They've also got a pretty snazzy $7 martini list and a sharp, streamlined interior. If you're in the neighborhood, Hummers is worth checking out. Will it steal some foot traffic from Canton Square? That remains to be seen. But it's certainly got a sporting chance.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:39 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Would you rather watch the Super Bowl at home or at a bar?

I've long struggled with this question. It also applies to just about any football or baseball game, and ultimately, depends on the person.

So I'm curious, and want to hear from you: Do you prefer to stay home and invite friends over for the Big Game or go out to a bar and watch it?

I did a little of both for the Ravens/Steelers game this past Sunday -- some friends and I went to Don't Know Tavern (1453 Light St.) for the first half, and then went back to Amie's place for the second half.

There are pluses and minuses to watching it at either place. I see it like this ...

Watching the game at home

Pros: Cheaper and more comfortable than watching it at a bar. You can sink into your own sofa, invite your friends over and go nuts.

Cons: It's not nearly as crazy as watching the game at a bar. You have to worry about accidentally spilling the nacho cheese on the rug.

Watching the game at a bar

Pros: You might not know all of them, but there will probably be tons more people, all of them amped about the game. The jumping up, screaming and high-fiving are twice as sweet when 50 other people are doing the same thing around you.

Cons: You're going to pay more for food and drink. How much depends on the bar. And you might have to stand up the whole game, which is just un-American.

(Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:23 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Slumming it at Lux

luxWell, perhaps that headline is a little harsh. Maybe it should be something like "Warming up at Lux." But we were definitely slumming it. More on that in a minute.

Here's the back story: After seeing President Barack Obama speak on War Memorial Plaza on Saturday, a few friends, Amie and I were walking south on Calvert Street when a dude caught our attention.

He was hyping half-price drinks and free food at Lux (10 S. Calvert St.), the new upscale lounge that recently opened where several other high-end clubs have failed.

Us: Half price drinks and free food, you say?

Dude: Yes indeed!

Now what half-frozen, winter-weary crowd member is gonna turn down cheap drinks, free food and a warm seat? So we went in for a bit ...

Keep in mind, each of us had at least three layers of clothing on. Just about everybody there did, in fact, which made Lux look like a ritzy ski resort lounge.

crazy joeDig this photo of Crazy Joe sipping a glass of whiskey in his bright red jumpsuit. Hee hee.

I got the impression that the bartenders were totally unprepared for the wave of people that crashed the place immediately following Obama's speech. They weren't slammed, but they were hopping. 

We walked up to the bar and asked them if they had any hot drinks. Nope, said the bartender. So we ordered a couple glasses of wine and some other drinks. Then I looked down the bar and saw a women with a pot of tea. 

No hot drinks, huh? I pointed the tea out to the bartender, who checked on the situation and realized they did indeed have coffee and tea. So Amie swapped her wine for a cup of coffee with Bailey's Irish Cream in it. Mmm.

I haven't been in this building since this past summer when it was Dubai. And even then, former manager Jon Han had the downstairs closed off. So it's been a good two or three years since I've been downstairs. But for all that time, it doesn't look like the place has changed all that much. The puffy white couches and seats look new, but the bar itself looks pretty much the same.

The wait staff routinely brought around samples from the kitchen, including fancy meatballs and veal cheeks, but they were nothing to write home about. But hey, they were free, and free makes everything better.

I'd much rather discuss the tab, which included four drinks but came to a mere $16! Now that's what I call a deal. I've been getting emails from one of Lux's managers, who says he has some pretty interesting plans for the place. I'll call him and post more about Lux in the near future.

(Photos by yours truly)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 21, 2009

Tim Lumber: To heck with the Steelers


Here is Midnight Sun guest columnist Tim Lumber's tipsy tirade against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the Ravens on Sunday:

Talk about a perfect night being ruined! Them yellow towell Pittsburgh Steelers beat our Ravens!

I went over my dads, we were all excited drinking our Natty Bo(Baltimore beers) getting drunk and rooting on the Ravens! I will never again in my life drink that Pittsburgh beer Rolling Rock! Im drunk and im ready to raise some [heck]!

I was reading the Pittsburgh newspaper websites talk about class-less trash! They had one story titled 3 Rivers better than Baltimores Inner Harbor! How in the [heck] do they get that?

At the harbor we drink beers and dance and have fun,tourists come from all over the world to see it! What do they do at 3Rivers go fishing for mud carp? ...

There 3 rivers smell like a rotten septic tank! Also a quick note, once this story goes up, i will e-mail 6 Pittsburgh garbage writers and challenge them to a debate on my comment section! I am the worlds first Pirate Writer, so i will take them to school, i am the world trash talking champ!

All in all i guarantee you they will be yellow..just like there wimpy towells they wave! I think Baltimore Bars should start using them yellow steeler towells as toilet paper, for all of us die hard Raven fans! I cant wait to watch the Arizona Cardinals whip them steel bums in the Super Bowl! Hold on, i need a shot of Old Crow!

I am going to mail all them trash talking Pittsburgh columnists a pacifier after them steel bums lose the Super Bowl, because there going to be crying like 2 year olds!

A true story also for yous...3 years ago i was drunk at the Ravens game and a Steeler fan started running off his lip to me! So i delivered a knuckle sandwich to his jaw! He shut up real fast, then the security escorted me out the stadium...all in all my PSL's were taken away from me! Thats O.K. because i will just buy a bleacher ticket next year! Im going to get drunk, and the 1st Steeler fan who lips off...I will go Trailer Park on him!!!!! 

By Tim Lumber

(Photo by Doug Kapustin/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:02 PM | | Comments (77)

Ladies and gentlemen ... James Brown!

james brownI recently found myself in Augusta, Ga., which, as it turns out, is the birthplace of legendary musician James Brown (pictured).

When I was in Augusta, I had lunch with Steven Uhles, an entertainment writer for the Augusta Chronicle (us journalists gotta stick together, ya know), who gave me the inside scoop on Brown.

Back in the day, Brown used to be the man about town, seeing movies and shooting pool at local bars. But he went out less and less in his later years (he passed away in 2006).

Uhles interviewed Brown a few times, and said it would always take him a while to figure out what Brown was actually saying. It was almost like Brown had his own dialect, Uhles said.

Thankfully, Augusta recognized Brown's contribution to pop music. There's a life-sized statue of the Godfather of Soul himself smack dab in downtown Augusta. At roughly 5'6," Brown was a fairly short dude, considering. But oh my what a scream he had.

Cooler still: You can stand by the statue, call a number on your cell phone, and the security camera will take your photo with the statue and post it on this Web site. How sweet is that? ...

Unfortunately, when Uhles showed me all this, the sign had disappeared, so I couldn't take advantage of it. I did get this shot of the Soul Bar, where Brown used to come shoot pool with his buddies.

the soul barHow awesome would it have been to hang out with James Brown? Almost makes me wish I grew up in Augusta. Almost.

One of my biggest regrets as a music writer is that I never got the chance to see Brown perform before he passed away. Lord knows, I had my chances. But I was always doing something else when he was in town -- or I never wanted to pay $50 to see him in a club.

Oh well.

At least I got to put my arm around James Brown -- even if it was only a statue of him.

(Top photo from Sun archives. Bottom photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:54 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

Is it OK for bartenders to eat at the bar?

MS reader Dances With Cheesesteaks sent me this email the other day, about his experience out at a local restaurant. Check it out, and tell me what you think:

I was out last night for dinner at a local restaurant and thought of a new blog topic, based on our experience.
Here was our ordeal: We sat at the bar for a few drinks first, then ordered apps and dinner (I would rather not name the restaurant). There were two bartenders serving us. After our main course was served, BOTH bartenders began eating their dinner at the bar ...

Normally, I would have not noticed this behavior, let alone cared.  However, our needs began to be neglected, as the bartenders were feasting on their dinner.
I realize bartenders, as well as the servers, can get hungry during their shifts. I just think that BOTH bartenders should not have been eating their dinner at the same time. I also believe that they should not have eaten their dinner in front of the patrons.
How in inappropriate were their actions? Tacky? What are your thoughts?
The food was excellent BTW!

Dances With Cheesesteaks

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:15 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 20, 2009

Why the Ravens lost

Granted, this isn't really totally (or even remotely) nightlife-related, but I want to take a second and tell you why the Ravens really lost. It wasn't because quarterback Joe Flacco choked or anything like that.

It was because Baltimore didn't turn purple.

Do you remember two years ago when we made that awesome 13-3 run? All the streetlights in this city had purple gels on them. Everything was purple.

Not this year. I wonder why? Was it the recession? Were purple gels too expensive? Or was it lack of motivation due to extreme coldness?

Either way, if you're searching for a reason, look no further.

(Photo by Lloyd Fox/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:11 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Random stuff

No shots for me, please

If we men could just say that and get away with it, the world would be a better place.

If you're a dude, you know what I'm talking about: You're out at a bar, drinking beer with your buddies and all the sudden, one of said "buddies" orders a round of whiskey for everybody. He doesn't bother to ask if everybody wants one -- he just orders a round. 

I hate this guy.

This guy puts everybody in an awkward situation. You see, as men, it is impossible for us to refuse a shot when it is presented to us. That would be unthinkable. That would be ... unmanly. And the last thing a drinking man wants to be is ... unmanly ...

This is the same logic that gets men into bar fights. Once the gauntlet is thrown, it can't be picked back up again. You can't refuse the shot after it's been ordered and set in front of you. Not only would you be branded as a sissy and embarrassed in front of all your friends, the shot would go to waste. And as Grandmom always used to say, "How dare you waste this drink when, somewhere in China, people are going thirsty?!?!?'

Since you have to take the shot, you take the shot.

But taking a shot of whiskey on a stomach full of beer is like chugging vinegar on a belly full of baking soda. There's only one word that properly describes the feeling:


So here we are, at the end of this little episode, and what have we learned? Tell your "buddy" not to order shots unless everybody wants one. That's the only way to head off disaster before it starts.

(Photo by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 19, 2009

Due to the holiday

I'm not posting today.

Coming tomorrow: Tim Lumber and more!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:54 PM | | Comments (5)

January 17, 2009

RIP Ricardo Montalban

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Random stuff

January 16, 2009

Can you put a time limit on a reservation?

wine marketThis might sound like something more suited for Dining@Large, but Elizabeth Large writes about drinks from time to time, so here we go.

Midnight Sunner AC-M sent me this interesting inquiry yesterday, and I'd like to get your opinion on this:

For Christmas we bought my in-laws, who hail from Harrisburg, tickets to the show at Hippodrome on Saturday at 2 p.m. and planned to take them to Fells post-show for drinks and hit Henninger’s later for dinner. 

Well, as I live in a bubble, I just learned about Obama coming to Baltimore which completely destroys any hopes of that plan going smoothly and makes crossing the city to get to Fells Point a definite NO.

We decided to hit Wine Market instead (i.e. stick to the Federal Hill side of town). When my husband called to make reservations at the Wine Market (921 E. Fort Ave.) they gave us a table reservation at 6 p.m., but we were told that our table was reserved for 8 p.m. so we had to be out by then ...

And that is the point of my email – if you are going to give me a reservation, I certainly don’t expect to hog the table all night; but I really didn’t like being told I had to be out by 8. 

This is a table of 4 we are talking about; for a large party, I would understand, but they have multiple tables available for a party of 4.  I don’t know, maybe I’m being sensitive?

(Photo from

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:34 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 15, 2009

Beatboxing with a harmonica

I just caught wind of this dude Yuri Lane, who beatboxes through a harmonica, on YouTube the other day. He lives in Chicago and is working on a new album. Here's a short video of him doing his thang on a random street in Baltimore. It's quite diggable.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:00 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Random stuff

Is it wrong for bars to ask for credit cards when you start a tab?

beer time?A couple days ago, a colleague brought up an interesting point about bar tabs.

He was at a Mount Vernon bar/restaurant with a friend, and ordered two drinks. The place wasn't that full, but they still asked him for a credit card. He took offense.

My colleague felt that since the place wasn't full, the bartender should have just given him the drinks and started a tab -- without asking for a credit card.

He felt that in asking for a credit card, the bartender implied that he was going to skip out on his bill.

This raises an interesting point, methinks. Is it wrong for bars to ask for credit cards when you start a tab?

Personally, I think it depends on a few things ...

If the bar is slammed and they don't know you, they're probably going to ask for some insurance that you're not going to skip out on your tab. Some bars have permanent policies where they require a credit card to start a tab. I've even seen signs that say as much.

But I think that if you're in a corner bar, or even a more upscale spot, they shouldn't ask you for a credit card. Take a place like the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.), where the bartenders write down what everybody orders and give them a bill when they tab out. It's a small corner bar, but I've seen a lot of people in there from time to time, and it can be tough for them to remember everything correctly.

Still, they don't ask for a card, and I respect that.

One time back in college, I spent two nights at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. Both nights, I had a drink or two (and even a cigar once) in the hotel bar. The first night, I was leaving in a hurry/slightly tipsy and forgot to pay my tab. 

When I went back the second night, the bartender or manager on duty must have recognized me, because when I got my check at the end of the night, it included my previous night's expenses.

I understand why some city bars ask for a credit card before starting a tab. I'm kind of used to it by now. But I think the sign of a really good bartender is one who doesn't need to take your credit card.

What do you think?

(Photo from Sun archives)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (32)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 14, 2009

Dan Deacon needs interns

This is pretty funny: Baltimore indie composer Dan Deacon is looking for interns to transcribe the scores to the music on his latest album, Bromst.

He's willing to pay $15 per hour cash, which ain't half bad. If you're interested, send him a message on his MySpace site.

Thanks to Stephen Kiehl for the heads up.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:40 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

January 13, 2009

I have

a stomach/intestinal virus and will not be posting today.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:59 AM | | Comments (6)

January 12, 2009

What's up with Flip's?

Got an email the other day from MS reader Neal.

He writes:

Any idea what's up with Flip's on Union Avenue in Hampden (by the Pepsi plant)?

It's had a sign on the door since mid-December that says it's closed for the "holidays". As of yesterday (Jan. 9), though, it hasn't reopened.

I've seen people in there watching TV once or twice, so I figure the owner isn't out of town. It looks to me like it might be done for good.

If it is closed, that's a shame but you could have guessed it. It's actually a nice place but it seems like it never found an identity.


Hmm. Anybody know anything?

(Photo from KRT)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:05 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What happens when you leave your credit card at a bar?

The short answer: Bad things happen.

Every time I've heard of someone leaving their credit card at a bar, I hear about how the bar itself tacks on a massive fee.

It could be as much as 20 percent, or even 50 percent, depending on the bar.

But is this fair? I mean, is it really that inconvenient for bartenders/managers to have to deal with? And is it really necessary for them to charge such a large fee?

I'd like to hear from bar owners and patrons who have been in this situation before, just because I don't know that much about it.

Personally, I don't think I've ever left a credit card at a bar overnight. but I know a lot of people do.

In fact, I'd like to share a story with you. Ian, a friend of a friend, left his card at Brewer's Art this past weekend ...

Here is the tale, in his words:

Friday night I went to Brewer's Art, started a tab, had a few beers and absent-mindedly walked out without settling my tab. I realized I had forgotten to settle up when I got home, but I thought no matter, they have my card, they can get their money if necessary.

Saturday, when I went back around 8 p.m. to pay and get my card back, I was told a manager would have to come down and they were really busy. I can't really be more specific but the barman was being sort of surly with me, after standing around like a chump for about 15 minutes I told the guy it didn't matter and I would come back tomorrow - the barman grunted.

The next day I went back just after they opened at 5pm, the bar was empty and this time a manager did come down with my card. "We expect a tip" he said as he handed over the slip for me to sign.

I don't know quite what I did to deserve to be treated like a [bad word]. I mean people must do this from time to time, I wasn't malicious and the inconvenience to the bar must have been pretty minimal.

Whadayya think?

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:51 AM | | Comments (54)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Tim Lumber: Jacked at Hammerjack's!

lords of acid

As promised, here is Tim Lumber's Midnight Sun debut:

If drinking whiskey was in the olympics, i would be the gold medalist! My background and upbringing is a perfect match for 80 proof old crow whiskey! Im the tat2'd, denture wearing writer straight from the Trailer Park! I will be writing this article drunk, so kick your feet up and pop open a beer!

Its time for a little Midnight Sun fun, I'm going to tell you some drinking stories....Tim Lumber style!

Im feeling the buzz,if your not drinking you will probably have no idea what I'm talking about! The drunker you get, the better this story will be! This is my first career article, one day this story will be put in the Writers Hall of Fame! My drunken writing style is like a frying pan,the more i write the more things begin to heat up! 

On my 21st Birthday,my friends took me to the old Hammer Jacks for a Lords of Acid (pictured) concert! After i got drunk they told me to come out into the mosh pit! I thought i was crazy, in the first 15 seconds, some guy grabs me by the shirt and says Happy Birthday! Apparently my friends told this pyscho it was my birthday! ...

Well after he grabs my shirt, he head butts me! Its bad enough I'm drunk, but now my glasses are broken in half, and my head is busted open!

Later that night they take me out to Denny's with a birthday cake! If my night wasnt bad already, the people in the restaurant start singing Happy Birthday to me! Then to top it off some little girl behind me asks her mom...what happened to that guys face? The mom says i dont know,maybe he got into a fight! And you thought your 21st birthday was bad!

On the good days when Im drunk I like doing the Robot Walk in the bars! I am the self proclaimed champion of the robot walk, i have a open challenge to anyone in America, if any one thinks there good enough...Step Up and Get Served!!!!  

By Tim Lumber

(Photo from Sun archives)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:28 AM | | Comments (34)

Why I like bars with no TVs

pub dogGoooooood Monday morning, all you Midnight Sunners. Did you see the game on Saturday? Oh man oh man oh man.

A couple friends, Amie and I wanted to go out for a late dinner in Federal Hill after the game was over.

But the neighborhood was going a little crazy, considering that the Ravens had just knocked off the Titans.

Then my buddy Crazy Joe said we should go to the Pub Dog (the clunky, semi-new name for the Thirsty Dog Pub, 20 E. Cross St.).

Not only do they serve food late, but they don't have any TVs ...

Sure enough, when we got there, we walked upstairs and there were four empty tables. Four! At 9 p.m. on a Saturday night! Turns out, everybody else was in the bars with TVs, still watching the Cardinals play the Panthers.

And, of course, timing was everything, too. When the Cardinals/Panthers game hit halftime, the upstairs started to fill up. 

But we didn't care. We had some pizza, some beer, some laughs ("hee hee") and called it a night.

The sweet taste of victory is still in my mouth. Did you do anything crazy to celebrate?

(Photo courtesy of


Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:25 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 10, 2009

If you're free tonight

and up for some experimental, improvisational, inspirational music, consider seeing Susan Alcorn and friends at 2640.

She's a pedal steel player who really makes you rethink the instrument when you hear her play. Some of her music and details about the gig are here.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

January 9, 2009

Do you miss Whatchadointhisweekend?

I've kind of grown weary with Whatchadointhisweekend? and Whatchadothisweekend?.

I feel like they had their time, and that time has come and gone. Do you agree? And if so, is there anything you'd like to see in their place?

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:50 PM | | Comments (7)

Introducing ... Tim Lumber!

liquor time!Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take a moment and introduce Tim Lumber, who will be writing occasional posts about his various exploits in and out of Baltimore bars.

Here is a brief bio Tim Lumber submitted to me: 

Name: Tim Lumber

Birthday: 4-21-1975

Hobby: Writing Fun and crazy stories

If readers want to E-Mail me, they can at My goal in life is to be one of the greatest writers to ever live. Im married to wife Mary Lumber with 2 step kids ...

I own my own Trailer Home (not sure if you want to put trailer home in bio...Ha Ha!).

If theres anything else you want me to include in Bio just let me know ... thanks alot Sam Sessa, i liked the Midnight Sun website alot !!  Look forward to being a part of it!!!!!!         

Stay tuned for Tim Lumber's first column on Monday.

(Photo from Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:51 PM | | Comments (32)

Blast from the past: Jack Daniels Amber Lager

jack daniels beerI'll bet you didn't know that Jack Daniels made beer.

Well, they didn't make beer for all that long. But they did make beer.

This is a photo I found from The Sun's archives, dated March 8, 1995. I like the wooden barrel and unmarked sacks of something. Very rustic.

Here's the caption: Riding the crest of the microbrewery craze, Jack Daniels 1866 Classic Amber Lager goes on sale this week at many  Baltimore area bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. This display is at 7542 Bel Air Rd.

The microbrewery craze may or may not be dying down some, but the wave Jack Daniels rode most definitely crashed.

I actually found a Web site of a Jack Daniels collector with tons of info and photos about Jack's beer line.

Check it out.

(Photo, as previously stated, from Sun archives)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:04 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Don't Know Tavern's innovative answer to drunk driving

taxi time!Check out Don't Know Tavern's new special, according to an email I got from proprietor Jason Zink:

We are going to take half off the customer's check up to the amount of the cab fare. Specials do not apply and we need a printed receipt from the cab. This should help ease the parking situation a tad bit and I am hoping that maybe other places might follow if it is successful. This will also help with drinking and driving.

Great idea, Jason. I hope other bars follow your lead.

Don't Know Tavern is at 1453 Light St.

(Photo by Sun staff)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:42 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

January 8, 2009

Sometimes you can't go home

the knotty pine innGot this email from Midnight Sun reader Patrick:


Reading your article (in today's paper) about the Knotty Pine Inn (pictured) brought back memories of what happened to the Emerald Tavern on Harford Road in Parkville.

The Emerald was a neighborhood establishment for decades along that corridor. The bar was relatively dark, had a long, oval bar in the middle of the room, a low ceiling and the restroom was always filthy. But I loved the place. I'll always remember that I was there one evening when I saw the Orioles pull off a triple play on the television. (Things like that somehow stick in the crevices of one's mind).

About eight years ago a new owner purchased it, and it closed for what was probably a year (I happened to go in there by coincidence the last night it was under the old ownership) ... 

the old knotty pine innI would occasionally call and ask when the place was going to reopen. Obviously, I eagerly anticipated the reopening of the place.

The truth is, some eight or nine years later, I'm still getting used to the "new" Emerald. Too many mirrors, too much light wood, and a bar tucked along the far wall as you enter. The old charm was gone, as if sucked away by a vacuum.

The music on Saturday nights is usually quite good, and there is seldom a cover charge, but every time I set foot in there, I still "pine" for the old Emerald.

Sometimes, you simply can't go home …

(Photo of the new Knotty Pine Inn, top, by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer. Photo of the old Knotty Pine Inn, bottom, by Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:44 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Do hangover cures really work?

how sam sessa deals with hangoversSun blogger Liz (of Consuming Interests fame) asked if I'd ever done a post about hangover cures. For some reason, I don't think I have.

That's probably because when I have a hangover, I don't want to write about it. And when I'm not hungover, I try not to think about being hungover.

Usually, I just guzzle water all day (much like the person in this photo).

But Elizabeth Large's (technically OMG) blog post about ancient hangover remedies about a week or two back, which jogged my memory. And while I'm sure I'm not the first person to write about hangover cures, I'm really curious to see what your own remedies are.

Also, our favorite medical site, WebMD, recently published a guide to hangover cures, although it was more of a guide of what not to take for a hangover ...

champagneI have a few quibbles with some of the things WebMD is saying in this piece. Dig this:

WEBMD MYTH: Coffee is the Cure

Coffee leads to more dehydration and could make your hangover worse. After a night of drunkenness, it’s best to avoid anything with caffeine. Instead, sip water and sports drinks to counter dehydration and replace lost electrolytes. This is especially important if you experienced any vomiting.

Sam's take: If I don't have a hangover, skipping coffee in the morning will give me one.

WEBMD MYTH: Eat Pasta Before Bed

WEBMD FACT: This one is wrong on two counts. First, eating at bedtime (after you’re already drunk) is no help. Food has to be in your stomach before Happy Hour to have any impact. Second, while any food can slow the body’s absorption of alcohol, fat does it best. So go for steak or pizza before your first martini, and you might escape a hangover. One bedtime tip that does help – drink water to fight dehydration.

Sam's take:
As an Italian, I object to such heresy. Eating something post-drink and pre-bed makes me feel much better in the morning. It's like the food acts as a sponge, sopping up all the alcohol in my tummy. But I do love steak, regardless of whether I'm drinking. Maybe I ought to drink more when I have steak. Mmm ... steak.

WEBMD MYTH: Wine is the Gentlest Choice

WEBMD FACT: Red wine contains tannins, compounds that are known to trigger headaches in some people. Malt liquors, like whisky, also tend to produce more severe hangovers. If you’re worried about how you’ll feel in the morning, the gentlest choices are beer and clear liquors, such as vodka and gin.

Sam's take: You think wine is bad? Try champagne. Senior year of college, we used to have Champagne Tuesdays, where we'd each drink a bottle or two of champagne on a Tuesday night (duh). This little tradition only lasted a couple weeks, because Champagne Tuesdays always gave way to Migraine Wednesdays. My temples still hurt thinking about it.

If you have your own takes on these hangover issues, or your own personal hangover remedies, now if the time to share them.

Right ... NOW!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:54 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The review: The Knotty Pine

I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the Knotty Pine bounced back from such a devastating fire.

After a loose wire in the basement set the blaze last February, the only thing left intact was the bar itself. But business owners Fred and Alice March were determined to come back, and after five months, the Knotty Pine was back in business.

Here's a link to my review, which ran in today's paper.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Local stuff I'm listening to

avocado happy hourI'm thinking about starting an occasional feature where I talk a bit about Baltimore bands that I've been listening to a lot.

One of the most recent ones is the Avocado Happy Hour, an instrumental duo who released a six-song EP last year.

They start off with a simple riff on the electric piano or glockenspiel and slowly build it up into a swirling, layered mix.

This is the kind of music that could easily be the background to a commercial.

Listen to it here.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:57 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

January 7, 2009

Blast from the past: Max's on Broadway

max'sMaybe I'm being a little too ambitious here at the start of 2009, but I'd like to beef up Midnight Sun with a few occasional features. I'll save them under various headings in the sidebar to the right of your screen.

When I was digging through The Sun's digital photo archives a couple days ago for the Belgian Fest post, I found this old pic of Max's on Broadway (735 S. Broadway) from 1995.


Look at the Formstone! And the tacky yellow banner! Man oh man, Max's sure has come a long way since then.

That's owner Ron Furman standing out front with his hands on his hips, staring off into the distance. He actually looks better then.


On a side note, I knew that Max's used to host live music back in the day. But I never knew that Hunter S. Thompson spoke there ...

hunter s. thompsonHere is the Gonzo journalism pioneer, speaking at Max's on Broadway in 1991.

Were any of you Midnight Sunners there?

I was way too young to even think about going to a bar in 1991. But I'll bet somebody out there remembers going to this. 

Wild stuff.

(Photo of Max's by Sun photographer Jed Kirschbaum. Photo of Thompson by Sun photographer Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:49 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I post the photo, you write the caption

(Photo by Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:57 AM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Random stuff

The city's most under-utilized bar(s)

13th floorWhen I think about Baltimore bars with the most under-realized potential, two come to mind right off the bat: The Owl Bar and the 13th Floor (pictured).

Both these bars are located in the grand old Belvedere Hotel -- a swanky building with a history of entertaining high-rollers in decades past.

Heck, when you walk through the big glass revolving door into the lobby and see the photos of all those old celebrities who used to frequent the Owl Bar when they were in town, you can't help but be impressed.

Walk back through the Owl Bar's corridor entrance way and you think, "Oh, man, this is going to be awesomely plush and old school."

Then you actually walk into the Owl Bar and think, "Oh, man, what a letdown." ...

The 13th FloorThe Owl Bar looks like just another bar/restaurant with the usual assortment of casually dressed neighborhood regulars. The bar is poorly stocked and poorly run and the drinks are pricey. Instead of giving you the list of drinks they have, the bartenders give you the list of the drinks they're out of.

For years, Amie wanted to go to the Owl Bar. When she finally did, she never wanted to go back. Can't say I blame her.

The 13th Floor is even worse. Think of the idea -- you step into an elevator and take it up to floor 13 -- the top of one of the tallest buildings around. The 13th Floor has some of the best sight lines in the city. This should be a bar you want to take your out-of-town friends to. 

Instead, it's just an OK lounge with a scattered array of live music. Granted, I'm all about having more places for local musicians to play. But it's hard for a lounge to build up a following when one night it's hosting a jazz band and the next night it's a hip-hop act.

Someone needs to take over the 13th Floor, rip up that ratty old carpet, take down the tacky rope lights and replace the rickety wood performance platform with a state-of-the-art stage and sound system. Last I checked, they don't even serve food up there! Come on!

The 13th Floor needs a bigger drink list with more reasonable prices and bartenders who don't take their sweet time making them. It doesn't even have a proper Web site! Come on!

The 13th Floor should be Baltimore's best lounge. I wish someone would make it so.

(Photos by Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:21 AM | | Comments (63)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The top 20 Baltimore hip-hop releases of 2008

Few people listen to as much Baltimore hip-hop, R&B and Baltimore Club as writer Al Shipley. He's modest, so he'll deny it, but believe me -- he gives Baltimore's music scene a ton of exposure and is a true authority on the topic.

Here is Shipley's top 20 for 2008, as published in his blog, Government Names. You might have to scroll down a little bit to see it, but you can tell Al has put a lot of time, effort and consideration into this list.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

January 6, 2009

Deep Flow Studios starts music publishing branch

amotionThis past year was a big one for Deep Flow Studios.

In case you haven't heard of Deep Flow, it's kind of an umbrella for a couple of different ventures: Deep Flow Radio, Deep Flow TV, Deep Flow event productions and Deep Flow recording studios.

Founder Amotion (pictured) moved the multitiered music business into a much larger new building in South Baltimore, and major TV networks expressed interest in picking up Deep Flow TV.

Now, Amotion is getting into the music publishing business. That's where the real money is these days -- selling songs to movies, commercials and TV shows ...

"The connection I made with the NYC music supervisior who handles dozens of major films a year is phenomenal, so once all my paperwork's taken care of, within the next month we'll be shopping music for the next movie and publishing deal," she wrote in an email.

Instead of signing artists, Deep Flow is strictly taking single track submissions only. Amotion made it clear in her email that she didn't want people to send Deep Flow CDs and expect to get signed to the publishing company.

So if you're in the neighborhood (211 E. Patapsco Ave.), drop by Deep Flow and talk to Amotion. She'll fill you in on all the details. Believe me, there's a lot of money to be made through publishing with very few strings attached.

I hope Deep Flow can carve out a niche of its own and further help put Baltimore's hip-hop on the map. This is definitely the way to do it.

(Photo by Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local music

Frank and Nic's West End Grille

frank and nic'sI've been waiting and waiting for Elizabeth Large to blog about this, but it looks like it was just a Table Talk item (which appears in print) -- not a blog topic for Dining@Large.

Here is the skinny on Frank and Nic's West End Grille (511 W. Pratt St., 410-685-6800), the new restaurant which opened on the first floor of the Zenith by Camden Yards, courtesy of Ms. Large's Table Talk column:

"Frank and Nic are Frank Zafonte and Dominic Lascola, and their new restaurant is at the base of the luxury Zenith Apartments. Their place serves as a more upscale alternative to the pubs and sports bars that used to be all that was available around the stadium.

Instead of a burger and beer, you can get American cuisine with Asian accents and selections from an extensive wine list that focuses on California.

Dinner entrees -- such as seared tuna and cuts of steak -- run from $16 to $36 ...

The handsomely appointed, 200-seat space has what Zafonte calls "three dynamic areas": a bar, the main dining room and a private dining room. Outdoor seating will be available when the weather gets better.

You won't be turned away if you're wearing your Ravens shirt, says Zafonte, but you won't feel uncomfortable in a coat and tie, either. The contemporary decor is done in shades of burgundy, silver and gold, with booths and two granite-topped bars. Black-and-white photos of Baltimore scenes line the walls.

frank and nic'sThe grill is open 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with a late-night menu served until 1:30 a.m."

Personally, I wonder if a place like this and a place like the new Diamond Tavern in the Hilton can sustain themselves.

Only time will tell.

Only time ... will tell.

(Photos by Amy Davis/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:16 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

A sneak peak at Dan Deacon's new album 'Bromst'

dan deaconBromst, the new album by Baltimore-based composer Dan Deacon, isn't slated to hit shelves until March 24.

But before Bromst comes out, Deacon will release a split 12" with fellow Baltimore musician Adventure.

Here is a sneak preview of "Get Older," one of Deacon's songs on the 12" which will also appear on Bromst.

The limited edition 12" (only 1,000 copies) will be released Jan. 27.

Bromst is a big departure for Deacon, because he used live instruments for a large portion of the album.

I saw a recent MTV special about this, where Deacon said he should no longer be called an electronic composer -- he's just a composer now ...

"Get Older" builds and builds with a mixture of synthesizers, drums and guitar until it finally explodes just before the five-minute mark.

Even though a ton of instrumental parts come together over the course of the six-and-a-half-minute track, "Get Older" doesn't sound cluttered.

I can't wait to hear the rest of the album.

(Photo by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

A place to dance

Looks like my holiday nightlife wish was at least semi-granted: A dance company has started throwing weekly parties in the old Gardel's space (29 S. Front St.).

Metromix went to the first one, which was last Saturday. They're saying that it's the start of a new venue called The Ark. But I don't think that's quite right. It looks more like an event promoter renting out the space on a weekly basis -- there's no liquor license, and the only food is an occasional buffet.

I called the people who are in charge of it, but nobody has gotten back to me yet.

Still, it's another spot to dance on a regular basis. And heaven knows, Baltimore needs more of that.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:42 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

January 5, 2009

The details for Max's Belgian Fest


Here's the skinny, courtesy of Beer Master Casey Hard:

FEB 13-15, 2009
TIME: 11 A.M.-CLOSE (2 A.M.)
Sample and full sizes will be available
We will be featuring over 170 authentic Belgian beers in bottles and a full Belgian-inspired food menu.
Friday at 11 a.m. we will be serving a free Belgian breakfast buffet.
Courtyard marriot Inner Harbor East
$129.00 Plus Tax
Ask for Max's Taphouse for Belgian fest book of rooms or call Amanda Nace directly: 443-923-4028
HERE IS A LIST OF DRAFTS FOR THE BELGIAN FEST -- it's 80 percent finished ...

Allagash Fedelte
Alvinne Bathazaar
Alvinne Extra
Alvinne Melchior
Alvinne Podge
Alvinne Gaspar
Alvinne Kerasus
Barbar Winterbok
Barbar Honey
Cantillon Iris
Chimay Cinq Cents
Chouffe N' Ice 2007
De Dolle Stille Nacht 2007
De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte
De Glazen Toren Ondienke
De Glazen Toren Saiosn De Epre Mere
De Glazen Toren Saison Special Eindejaa
De Proef Allagash Duex
De Proef La Grand Blanche
De Regenboog Catherine The Great
De Regenboog Guido
De Regenboog Calva Reserve
De Regenboog T' Smisje Dubbel
De Regenboog T' Smisje BBBourgondier
De Regenboog Wostjnte
De Regenboog Vuuve
De Regenboog Grand Reserve
Abbaye De Rocs Blonde
Dupont Avril
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Leifmans Kriek
Leifmans Oud Bruin
Bel Pils
Gouden Carolus Cuvee De Keizer Blauw
Gouden Carolus Cuvee De Keizer Rood
Gouden Carolus Noel
Strubbe Itchgems Grand Cru
Strubbe PIls
Strubbe Double Triple
Kasteel Rouge
Van Steenberge Kloekke Roeland
La Rulles Cuvee
La Rulles Triple
La Rulles Esvestiale
Ommegang raspberry Ommegeddon
Ommegang Wes' TRiple
Petrus Winter
Silly Pink Killer
St Bernardus Christmas
St Feuillien Cuvee De Noel
St Feuillien Printemps
St Feuillien Brune
Witkap Pater Dubbel
Lindmans Framboise
Plus a bunch more very Special Kegs.. will send out soon....
for any info please contact

(Photo by Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:31 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

One bar that typifies Baltimore?

now that's natty!Good morning, gang.

I have made an executive decision to blatantly steal an idea from Elizabeth Large, because it's a good one and I wish I'd thought of it.

Here's the question: If you had to pick one bar that typifies Baltimore -- one bar that truly embodies "Baltimore" more than any other, which one would it be?

Palma, perhaps?

Hee hee ...



You know, this is a really tough question, but I'd have to answer it with the Knotty Pine Inn way out near Brewer's Hill. The Pine is incredibly inviting and has cheap beer and friendly regulars.

In my opinion, Baltimore's not a big club town or a big high-end lounge town, so it has to be a corner bar or something like that. But there are so many to choose from.

I'm interested to see what suggestions you guys have.

(Illustration from Sun archives)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:27 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

And the winner is ...

Drew from Greektown! Congrats, Drew.

For the past several contests, Drew has always wanted to win but never has. Well, his streak of near misses has come to an end. Drew, email me your address and I'll get your winnings in the mail ASAP.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:01 AM | | Comments (2)

Approaching 8,000 comments

How awesome would it be to start your new year with a Midnight Sun prize pack?

We're only a few comments away from 8,000. The poster of the 8,000th comment wins. Good luck all!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:24 AM | | Comments (5)

January 2, 2009

Who is Osima?

osimaClicking through The Sun's digital photo archives, I came across this picture. It was taken at the Museum of Russian Vodka, located, of course, in the Motherland.

But it was the caption which really intruiged me:

Osima, the legendary inventor of vodka, referred to as "the ghost of the museum".

Curious, I Googled "Osima" and "vodka" but found nothing. Now I'm really stumped.

Who was Osima? And why doesn't he get any recognition online? Did our photographers/archivists get the spelling wrong?

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:23 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Does beer before liquor really make you sicker?

BEERI'm sure you've heard the old saying, "Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you're in the clear."

After a few baaaad experiences of switching to shots/whiskey/gin on a stomach full of beer, I've learned that the old saying rings true -- at least for me. Terrible things happen when I mix my liquors.

But the folks over at WebMD disagree. Dig it:

It’s the amount of alcohol you consume –- not the order of your drinks –- that matters. That said, the order of your drinks may affect how much you consume. If you have a cosmopolitan, and then switch to beer for the rest of the night, you slow down your intake of alcohol. If you switch from beer to shots, you accelerate your path to drunkenness. Of course, too much liquor can spell “sicker” regardless of whether you began with beer."

I've never been one to naysay a doctor (in fact I'm about to marry a future doctor). And I don't know how many studies they've done on this.

But I gotta draw the line here ...

Let me give you an example of why I don't believe this WebMD-ness: If I have, say, four beers over the course of a night on the town, and then I take one shot of whiskey at the end of the night, I will be in a bad state. Not because of the quantity of alcohol consumed, but because I just tossed a shot of whiskey on top a stomach full of beer.

It's like dumping vinegar onto a bowl of baking soda. Fizz fizz BOOM!

What are your thoughts on this matter?

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Looking back on 2008

I took a good, hard look back on Baltimore's bar scene in yesterday's year-end column. (Here's a link).

Now, I don't have any official numbers, but it felt like more bars opened last year than in the past couple years I've been covering nightlife here.

2008 wasn't a particularly good year for Baltimore clubs. But bars and arthouse/live music spaces did pretty well.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:05 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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