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May 30, 2009

The 10 biggest no-nos of concertgoing


When editor Sarah (of Reality Check fame) sent me this list of the 10 Worst Ways to Behave at Concerts, I chuckled in my cubicle.

The list, which was put together by Much Music's Red Hot blog, has 10 taboos for crowd members. 

What's on the list?

Snapping cell phone photos and videos during the show, crowd surfing unnecessarily, elbowing your way to the front row, standing up at seated shows, talking through the whole performance, etc.

I'm guilty of a few of these offenses, but I don't feel guilty about it ...


A couple years ago, Amie and I saw Billy Joel at the Verizon Center in Washington. During one of his slow songs, we stood up and swayed back and forth together, romantically. About halfway through the song, a rather stern looking old fellow in the seat next to me asked me if we could sit down. Nope, I told him, and we continued to dance. We paid for those seats, and if we wanted to stand, we were going to stand whenever we wanted. Is that rude? Maybe. But I don't care.

Talking through the whole performance is rude, if it's an acoustic show. But if it's a crazy rock band, and a few people are chatting near the back of the room, so what? 

And as for elbowing your way to the front row at a club? Hey, if there isn't assigned seating, I say it's fair game. I've slipped, pushed and prodded my way up to the front row many times. If you get to a show waaay early to be the first person in line so you can be right up front, you're going to have to fight to stay there. Is it fair? Is it right? Nope. But that's how it is.

I was trying to think of stuff I could add to this list, but nothing came to mind. What do you think?

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:42 AM | | Comments (45)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

May 29, 2009

The Velvet Rope to replace Palma

clubbingI know what you're thinking: Not another mega club in the Redwood Trust building (200 E. Redwood St.). I thought the same thing.

So many club owners have tried and failed to open a mega club at that spot. The most recent one was Jon Han, whose Palma/Dubai mini-franchise imploded spectacularly.

I was all set to write off the Velvet Rope, the new upscale club in the Redwood Trust building. But then I poked my head inside and met its owner and managing partner, Tracye Stafford.

Stafford is a hip-hop promoter who has brought acts like Lil' Wayne to town. Remember that hip-hop show at DuBurns Arena in Canton that ended early a couple years ago? That was her ...

Stafford has been throwing shows occasionally at the building for the past few months. She recently decided to make it a dedicated club and concert venue. The grand opening should be in July.

With its purple walls, paintings and new carpeted floors, The Velvet Rope has a cool, comfortable feel. I don't know how much money Stafford put into the place, but from the looks of it, she spent a lot on renovations.

Stafford knows about all the failed clubs that came before her, and she knows how hard it can be to get people out to a high-end joint in this city. She also knows how important security is -- especially at hip-hop shows, which have a history of violence.

If Stafford focuses enough on bringing in big names in hip-hop, if she makes sure there is proper security, if she can consistently fill the place and if her rent payments aren't too high, she might be able to swing it -- for a couple years.

That's a lot of ifs. I'll add one more: If anybody can do it, I'll bet she can.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:11 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Scratch that bit about Scores and Aqua

aqua baltimoreIt seems I've been misled.

Earlier this week, when Sean Lewis told me the gentleman's club Scores was taking over the high-end pool lounge Aqua (pictured) at the Merritt Athletic Club in Canton, he overstated Scores' role.

According to Aqua's management, Scores didn't have any direct input on events at Aqua.

According to them, Lewis works for a promotional company that was planning on holding events at Aqua, though nothing has been finalized ...

"There's no official relation with Scores and Aqua or any promotional organization and Aqua," said Dan Llewellyn, one of Aqua's employees.

And though Lewis said he's a co-owner of Aqua, that title belongs to Maura Smith. Sorry for any confusion, gang.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:53 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Baltimore Magazine has me blushing

The June issue of Baltimore Magazine has a lovely little shout out to Baltimore Unsigned, the local music show I host on WTMD. The show is No. 69 on B-Mag's list of 101 Things To Eat, See & Do Before You Die.

Since the list isn't online yet (probably because it's not June), here is what the blurb says ...

Every Tuesday night, Sam Sessa welcomes a local band to WTMD's Baltimore Unsigned, which highlights a wide-ranging array of the area's best artists, from jazz singer Felicia Carter to indie rockers Wye Oak. The show gets extra credit for posting in-studio performances on its website and facilitating last year's cross-genre collaboration between local folkie Caleb Stine and hip-hop emcee Saleem.

In the nearly three years I've been hosting Baltimore Unsigned, I've had some amazing experiences. Seeing some of the regions best bands perform live in studio and then sitting down with them for an interview is truly thrilling.

The show has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to generous grants from the Baltimore Community Foundation and the William G. Baker Memorial Fund. I'd like to thank God and my wife and my mom. Hee hee.

Seriously though, the show would not be possible without producer Nick Jackson and engineer Ryan Glaeser. Nick and Ryan, I can't thank you enough. And I can't wait to see where Baltimore Unsigned goes from here.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:37 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Random stuff

May 28, 2009

Still no news about the Virgin Mobile Festival

virginmobilefestivalcrowdshot.JPGRumors have been flying for months about where the Virgin Mobile Festival will take place -- if it happens at all.

Organizers said they'd have announcements by April.

No news came.

Then they said they'd release the dates by mid-May.

Here we are almost into June and nothing has been announced yet.

I've gotten numerous e-mails from curious readers, and I keep having to tell them I've got no news for them.

If the festival moves to Merriweather, and it's looking more and more like it will, I predict a much more scaled-back version ...

If I had to wage a gander, I'd put my money on Virgin Mobile Festival being a one-day event this year, probably in late August, with a mainstream rock band as the headliner.

That's just my guess.

But I hope we hear something soon either way. It would be sad to see the Virgin Mobile Festival shrink rather than grow, but it hasn't been the best year ever for festivals.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:06 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Virgin Mobile Festival

Merriweather gussies up a bit

merriweather post pavilion

Early this morning, I checked my work e-mail and saw the subject line "NEWS CONF: Merriweather Post Pavilion."

I thought it would be a juicy announcement about this year's Virgin Mobile Festival. False.

Instead, the e-mail was about some updates at the popular Columbia amphitheater. Looks like the rumors were true.

They range from practical renovations -- such as tripling the size of the restrooms and drastically expanding the food service area -- to green initiatives -- such as planting hundreds of trees and shrubs and adding a biodeisel fueling station.

Oh, and then there's the new pinball lounge and the 7,500-pound chicken statue ... 

No, this is not a joke. Merriweather will now have its own pinball lounge. The proceeds from it will benefit the National Pinball Museum. Uhh ... OK.

On second thought, this could actually be cool -- if the pinball machines are old school. I'm not interested in playing Lord of the Rings on a pinball machine. A Capt. Fantastic pinball machine, on the other hand, would be a winner.

I'm not kidding about the chicken statue, either. According to the press release, a 7,500-pound chicken now exists on the Merriweather grounds. Hee hee. I admire the sense of humor it takes to erect a big chicken statue.

They're going to officially announce all of this at a news conference on Monday. I'll keep you posted.

(Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:13 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music

An update on BAR in Fells Point


When one of my spies passed by BAR in Fells Point yesterday, he couldn't help but stop and chuckle.

Contractors were tearing up the floor of the long-standing Lancaster Street dive bar.

The whole place was in disarray -- except for Carol, the owner, who calmly sat on a bar stool and sipped a can of beer. Hee hee.

The dudette abides.

Carol told my spy that BAR should be back open on or about July 4th ...

The workers are replacing the rotted floor beams and making other small cosmetic updates to the place.

I just love that Carol was chilling there in the middle of all the construction. And I hope that BAR gets up and rolling soon. The last thing I want is for Carol to sell the place.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:15 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 27, 2009

Scores to take over Aqua

aquabaltimore.JPGAqua, the popular summer poolside club at the Merritt Athletic Club in Canton, is back for another season.

But this year, it's being run by Scores, the gentleman's club at 615 Fallsway. 

No, there won't be strippers at Aqua, which, due to a partnering with Van Gogh Blue vodka, has been renamed Aqua Blue. That's according to Sean Lewis, the general manager of Scores and now a co-owner of Aqua Blue.

"It's so busy at Scores already that none of the girls could [work at Aqua]," Lewis said. "All of our staff is here on a Saturday night." ...

Lewis said Scores will be hiring a whole new staff of people to run Aqua Blue. In fact, they're holding open auditions this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the pool.

Aqua Blue's grand opening is June 6, and it's almost sold out, Lewis said. The lounge will be open every Saturday through the end of the summer and have a $10 cover charge. Each week will feature a different theme, he said.

"We're moving it up a notch this year," he said. "We're trying to price it Baltimore -- not over the top. ... We're just trying to get the right group of people in -- good, fun people."

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:17 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

I'm back! Oh, and the winner is ...

parkside baltimoreYou guys never cease to amaze me.

When I posted this incredibly obscure photo Alexander D. Mitchell IV took of the bar at the Parkside (4709 Harford Road, pictured), I thought it would be hours before anyone identified it.


It took Midnight Sun commenter Rob Walshe about 40 minutes to de-cloak our mystery bar.

Great job, Rob. I'm quite impressed.

I'm also, if you haven't noticed, back from my honeymoon ...

And first off, I'd like to hear a warm round of applause for our lovely lineup of guest posters, who kept Midnight Sun lively in my absence. Thanks a million, guys and gals.

Hours after leaving warm, sunny Costa Rica, Amie and I got back to a damp, stinky Baltimore. Anybody else nearly wretch from the smell of dead fish yesterday? Blech.

If you're ever in Costa Rica, I suggest you try the mojitos. I don't want to think about how much sugar and rum I drank this past week. 

This morning, I'm trying to digest close to 1,000 e-mails. I'm also chasing a few hot tips, which I'll post about later today.

Again, guest posters, thank you so much for covering my butt while I was gone. And gang, it's good to be back.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:36 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Name that Bar, vol. 5


Since some of you seem to be so good at this game, Alexander D. Mitchell IV and I have decided to take it to a new level.

Name this bar.

Winner gets a prize.

(Photo by ADM4)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Name That Bar

May 26, 2009

Where to take the parents out in Baltimore

Midnight Sun guest poster Brian Ryder compiled this list of his favorite spots to take parents out in Baltimore:

A fun place for to take your parents out to isn’t always easy to find.

After hosting several annual family outings over the years, I’ve come up with a list of nightspots to take your parents in Baltimore. Most are causal places, in different city neighborhoods and have a very distinct feel. Hopefully your folks will leave with a good impression of the city you call home ...

the laughing pintDead End Saloon – Fells Point
Atmosphere: A classic Baltimore bar with room to stretch out and enjoy a good dinner.
For You: Great drink prices and a menu for everyone.
For Parents: Let's just say they will not feel like they are the oldest patrons.

Ryleigh's Oyster
– Federal Hill
Atmosphere: A well polished tavern on a nice setting on Cross Street.
For You: Fun neighborhood, with a lot of after dinner options.
For Parents: Maybe on the busy side of bars, but a good place to people watch.

Shuckers – Fells Point
Atmosphere: Perfect for the 'main family event' -- birthdays, etc…
For You: Show them you can pick a great place for an important occasion.
For Parents: Plan ahead and get a row of tables along the windows on the water. They’ll love it.

Laughing Pint
(pictured) – Highlandtown
Atmosphere: Happiest bar in Baltimore; thoroughly enjoyable.
For You: Great for small get-togethers with the folks for either drinks, dinner or both.
For Parents: Excellent specialty drinks, good draft selection and background music to permit conversation (if that is deemed desirable).

Coburns Tavern – Canton
Atmosphere: A bright, inviting place on O'Donnell Square with a bit fancier fare for the square.
For You: Enjoy a bar setting in a restaurant context.
For Parents: Enjoy a bar setting in a restaurant context.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 25, 2009

I don't like Moon-days

moondaysTake it away, guest poster Owl Meat:

An article in The Guardian reports that the English have lost their minds regarding wine and are nuttier than Donovan riding a lovecoaster powered by unicorn tears:

The idea that the taste of wine changes with the lunar calendar is gaining credibility among the UK's major retailers, who believe the day, and even hour, on which wine is drunk alters its taste. Tesco and its rival Marks & Spencer, which sell about a third of all wine drunk in Britain, now invite critics to taste their ranges only at times when the biodynamic calendar suggests they will show at their best.

Many scientists have little time for biodynamic wine, pointing out that the movement's guru, Rudolf Steiner, claimed to have conceived the concept after consulting telepathically with spirits beyond the realm of the material world. Among his other works are claims that the human race is as old as the Earth and descended from creatures with jelly-like bodies, and a belief that men's passions seep into the Earth's interior, where they trigger earthquakes and volcanoes.

Well pour me a Pinot Noir, smack my butt and call me Krakatoa. I can understand that there is a certain lunatic fringe who will buy into anything, but the idea that major retailers are encouraging people to not drink wine ever is bonkers ...

Perhaps there are better or worse days to plant things. Who knows? The moon does have a serious effect upon the tides, human biology and possibly human behavior. Plus werewolves.
The matter of how wine already in the bottle can be influenced by the moon seems ridiculous. Does a waxing moon change the chemistry of a Spanish Rioja? How would that work?

Moon gravity changing flavor electron orbitals? Perhaps the moon changes the chemistry in my brain so that those leathery undertones on Monday taste like vinyl car seat on Thursday. If this was true, wouldn't food taste vary by some astrological calendar too?
Here's my astro-œnological forecast for the coming week: This is a good time for people to buy wine for Sagittarians. Their sparkling personalities and awesome guest blogging skills will reflect back upon you and make you more attractive to them the more glasses of wine you buy them ... ladies.  And no merlot.

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

My recommendation is ...

gnocchi.JPGMidnight Sun guest bloger Mykel Nahorniak thought this post would be more suited to Dining@Large. Perhaps. But I need all the guests posts I can get, and it's on an interesting topic. So I'm going to step on Elizabeth Large's feet a little bit here. I hope she won't mind.

My recent trip to Boston to witness the marathon was both inspiring and relaxing. The city is teeming with history, culture and on Marathon Weekend, tourists.

On our first night, we ventured deep into Little Italy in the North End for my running friends to "carbo-load" for the next day’s run.

Every restaurant we passed touted a 45-minute wait, accompanied by (understandably) impatient hosts. We finally settled on a hole-in-the-wall that looked promising ...

As we were seated, we asked the waiter what he recommended. His response: “What do you like?”

When it comes to food, a question like that is tantamount to finding a strand of hair in soup. How do you answer?

"I like steak… er, no. Salad. I mean, pasta. No wait! Beef brisket."

Yuck. No.

If I'm asking you for a wide-open recommendation, it means I want your opinion. It means I'm not a vegan who will throw a tantrum when you recommend the pork. It means I'll eat almost anything you sit in front of me. It means I want you to tell me what you think the best dish is, not ask me what I think the best dish is.

I ended up getting the gnocchi. It was pretty great.

(Photo of gnocchi from the Chicago Tribune)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 24, 2009

In praise of the working drink

wi-fi in barsI've often wondered if anybody actually does work in bars. The answer, it seems, is yes. From Midnight Sun guest poster Matthew Smith:

In the late 19th century, John D. Rockefeller carved out a monopoly for Standard Oil in part by ruthlessly underselling smaller, less durable companies.

Over the last couple decades, a certain mermaid-emblazoned coffee company has accomplished a similar (though more legal) end through various means. Among which I would number underselling not coffee, but time.

One of the pleasures of visiting a café is staying a while. Unfortunately for local places, a table occupied is a dollar lost, especially when there’s somewhere else to go.

Just check out the sign at Carma's Café in Charles Village (3120 Saint Paul Street). Thus can a corporation named after a Melville character gain an edge on locals simply by not hassling the lingerers ...

And, damn it, that’s crucial. Particularly if you’re a writer, like this writer. When you’ve got a deadline (or a whim) it’s nice to be able to go somewhere free from the duties and distractions of home.

The natural choice is a coffee house, what with the constantly snapping beatniks and so forth. But lately it’s gotten hard to buy a cup and hunker down anywhere but that green-and-white place. Which, yeah, I do. But if you’re a determined locabeve, then try taking your work to a bar.

Sure, there are a lot of obvious reasons why that’s a bad idea. Among them alcohol. Plus, it’s noisy in bars, and people think you’re a melvin when you bust out the laptop between pints. (Disclosure: I have in fact been called a melvin. By a former student.)

So, the working drink is not a method for every project, or for every night (read: during Terp games). And it’s not much use to bring your tablet and stylus along if you’re just gonna get slammed.

But I’ve shared some pleasant and productive nights with a few beers and a writing buddy to help me stay on track. Granted, I’m half deaf, so the noise doesn’t faze me. And I’m Irish, so beer is like mother’s milk, if mother’s milk were something I drank all the time and didn’t feel weird about.

That said, I honestly enjoy writing in bars, and it’s not a bad way to practice moderation on a couple of fronts. Because your bar friends won’t make you do shots if you’re busy typing something serious, and you won’t take your prose so seriously if someone in the next booth is singing passionately along to “Don’t Stop Believing”.

But remember, not all bars will suit the working drink. Booths are good. So are slash-grilles.

My pick, for service, atmosphere, and tolerance, is the Charles Village Pub (3107 Saint Paul Street). It’s where I’m writing this.

(Photo by Sam Sessa)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 23, 2009

Japanese beer for kids

kidsbeer.jpgI had to read this guest post from Owl Meat Gravy twice, I was so shocked this even exists:

Kidsbeer! Kidsbeer! Kidsbeer!
The Tomomasu company of Japan once made a non-alcoholic drink for kids chock full of the guarana (twice the caffeine of coffee), with enough kick to have the little ones running up the walls.

It didn't sell very well, so they put it in a brown bottle and changed the name to Kidsbeer.

Whoosh ... turning your kid into a kinder-meth-head is much more attractive when it seems like you're getting them drunk. All the chore-doing benefits of kiddie Red Bull combined with the gateway drug priming for later alcoholism.

Kidsbeer! And I thought Shirley Temples were weird. Why not rename this an Amy Winehouse?
Note: The photo above is from the company's actual ads ...

Before rebranding they decreased the sweetness and increased its frothiness. 

Mmm... frothy.

Satoshi Tomoda, company president said, "Children copy and mimic adults. If you get this drink ready on such occasions as events and celebrations attended by kids, it would make the occasions even more entertaining." I'll bet.
"Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink," is Kidsbeer's slogan.

Hang on kids, maybe it will come to the U.S, soon. Now if only we could get candy cigarettes back, because nothing goes with a Kidsbeer like a kid's Camel filterless.

(Photo courtesy of Kaku Kurita/Gamma)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Drink-ology, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

The skinny on real ale

real ale

Here Alexander D. Mitchell IV (he goes by the much simpler ADM4 in his e-mails) discusses the benefits of real ale, and where to find it:

One terrific aspect of Baltimore's beer scene is the routine and regular availability of real ale.

No, no one is saying that your Sam Adams is phony.

Real ale, also referred to as "cask ale," is ale (a lager can be done this way, but 99 percent of the time it's an ale) that has undergone a second fermentation in the keg or cask, and thus has natural, yeast-created carbonation, as opposed to forced CO2 carbonation.

It's the way beer was served until modern times, back when beer wasn't mass-produced in massive industrial plants and was instead made and delivered locally.

Instead of gas pressure pushing the beer through a tap, such beers are literally pumped by hand into a glass or, in extreme cases, poured directly from the keg (called a "firkin") into the glass through a gravity tap ...

Is there a difference? You bet there is.

If mass-produced beer is that soft, squishy white bread from the grocery store and craft beers are those whole grain loaves of firm bread, real ale is the fresh-baked bakery bread, still warm from the oven.

Twice, I've been lucky enough to pour for friends or strangers the exact same batch of beer either bottled, draft, and hand-pumped, or draft, hand-pumped, and firkin, without telling the drinkers, and all of them swore they were three different beers.

real ale being madeIf you think you can tell the differences between different bottled waters or vodkas, the difference of real ale is likely to be astounding. But it's a labor of love, for both the breweries making it and the retailers selling it. It's labor-intensive, requires special hand pumps and lines or handling, and is thus a lower-profit-margin product. If a bar wanted to make money, they'd just push cocktails instead.

According to this database kept by beer writer Alex Hall, there are approximately 500 venues in all of the U. S. serving cask ale either regularly or at least occasionally. Baltimore and its suburbs have 10  locations on that database -- as many or more than 37 entire states.

Cask ale is on full-time -- or as much as they can manage to keep inventory on hand and ready to go -- at Pratt Street Ale House, Max's Taphouse, Mahaffey's, the Wharf Rat in Fells Point, Bertha's (the last two supplied by Olivers), and Red Brick Station out in White Marsh.

In addition, cask is featured at Metropolitan Coffeehouse in Federal Hill every Thursday evening, and somewhat less predictably at Racers Cafe, Duda's, Grand Cru in Belvedere, and monthly at DuClaw Fells Point and Ellicott Mills Brewing in Ellicott City.

The Pratt Street Ale House recently started a Cask Ale Appreciation Night every Tuesday, with full British pints for $3. (One brewpub missing from the list: The Brewer's Art. Cask ale doesn't tend to go well with the funky Belgian-styled yeasts, nor does the BA have the room in their claustrophobic brewhouse for the additional barrels and equipment.)

Baltimore even has its own real ale appreciation club: the Chesapeake Bay Branch of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood, with well over 200 dues-paying members. They hold monthly "meetings" which are little more than drinking parties dedicated to draining a firkin -- or several -- at the participating venue. Details are here.

(At top, Sun photo by Kim Hairston. Bottom, Richard Clark brews a light ale for a contest the Chesapeake Real Ale Brewers Society (C.R.A.B.S.), a group he is a member of.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 22, 2009

Some liquor laws getting an overhaul

Guest poster Alexander D. Mitchell IV has an update on my "growlers are illegal" post from a little while back:

I spent a little while on the phone recently with Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners chairman Stephan Fogleman regarding the obscure-laws-being-violated issue brought up by Sessa. Long story short, Fogleman and associates are planning to go over the entire collection of city laws concerning alcohol, and see what has to be targeted for change or removal ...

However, thanks to the complexities of how laws get changed in the state, any official changes are not likely to happen until the fall, simply because there are several requirements such as allowing for public comment, etc. that have to be observed, and these take time and proper procedure.

Rest assured, however, that we're dealing with a chairman that is on the side of good drinking enthusiasts and not "that's the way it's always been done."
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Comfort cocktails

comfort cocktails

I don't know if I'd be a big fan of some of these drinks guest poster Owl Meat has cooked up for us, but they sound pretty funny:



Moooooooooooooooooooooooom ... get me a Sunny D ... and Grey Goose? On the rocks.
Attention swizzlers, guzzlers and dribblers, here's a new trend – comfort cocktails.  Like comfort food, they use flavors and ingredients from childhood to recreate mom's tasty refreshments ... plus a little kick from Aunt Ethyl.
Amicci's bar in Little Italy has a drink called a Grown-Up Grape Soda: Three Olives grape vodka, Grape Pucker, and Sprite. It is ridiculously popular ... with men.

People must see something greater than the sum of its parts. I witnessed a burly bearded man order one and rock a sly grin like he was being smothered by puppy kisses. Yikes ...

I wrote something for Dining@Large on the enduring jones for the mutant orange dust devil of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Maybe this could all be explained by neurotransmitters and a blackboard but not today.

Enough neurophysiology .. let's make drinks:  

  • Daddy's Girl: Bourbon, milk, a hint of Aqua Velva and the inability to have a functional relationship with a grown man ever.
  • Choking Hazard: Skittles, tequila, and Hi-C shooter
  • Skew Driver: Sunny D, vodka and a scolding, "Don't leave your skateboard in the kitchen!"
  • Wrong Island Iced Tea: the usual ingredients with a straw that says, "I never loved you!"  
  • Ovaltine-Age Wasteland: Milk, Ovaltine, Kahlua and sitting around making fun of everybody.
  • Babysitter: Hawaiian Punch and rum in a glass rimmed with strawberry lip gloss

I'm starting to think that my warm fuzzy memories are a little dysfunctional. Oh well, time for a shot of Tang, mezcal and crushing disappointment – I call it the Adopted Astronaut. Cheers!

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

May 21, 2009

What do we have to look forward to?

parking federal hillFrequent Midnight Sun commenter Jason has stepped up to the plate to produce this questionnaire of local entertainment happenings:

A lot of things happen in Baltimore which make people either happy or mad one day and then they disappear the next.

By the end of the year, Baltimore will see a few more changes that we can either look forward to or blog against. I was wondering if anybody has any updates on the following:
1.  Bar openings: The Reserve (in the old Charlottes) should be opening soon -- I have been told within the next month. The Rowhouse Grille is still being worked on and The Hill should open next week.

Whatever happened to The Fed on Light Street next to Dunkin Donuts? The owner of Rub is opening a place in Silo Point this summer and Sam reported on work at Bar.

We also have to look forward to Avery's Pearl where the old Vine used to be on Hanover Street ...

2. Swann Park: Where the kids love to play kickball, football and softball. At one time there used to be a hundred young adults down there 5 days a week until arsenic was found. The Honeywell Corp. finished their job, when will the city?
3. Live entertainment for bars and restaurants: Is this still tied up in local politics. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was behind this at one time, has this billed died?
4. Area 9 in Federal Hill now has the new parking restrictions. Has this affected local restaurants like Metropolitan and how long before it comes to the rest of Cross Street?

(Sun photo by Amy Davis)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

Sweet, glorious cocktails

Guest blogger Dan Volin has some tasty sounding cocktail suggestions for us. Dig his, and feel free to add your own:

Look, we all saw that Brewer’s Art was named the best bar in the country by Esquire – deservedly so, I might add, it’s a heck of a place – but sometimes I just don’t feel like a pint of Resurrection, you know?

Sometimes I just want to kick back, sip a cocktail and pretend I’m in Mad Men or something. When I feel like that, there are a few places in Baltimore where you’ll find me ...

golden west cafe baltimoreGolden West Café (pictured), in Hampden, known more for its Southwestern-inspired slow food (and I mean slooooooow), has a smoke-free bar in back. Their beer selection is great and rotates frequently, but their cocktails are where it’s at. My favorite is the Trolley Car, made with Captain Morgan, Cointreau, sweet and sour, rimmed with cinnamon sugar and fresh lemon. But then again, I’m a sucker for almost anything with cinnamon sugar.

Captain Larry's, down in South Baltimore, has their famous Dark and Stormy. The Dark and Stormy is made from Barritt's ginger beer and Gosling's Black Seal rum. I like this drink a lot; however, I’m a bigger fan of its impossible-to-find-in-Baltimore cousin the Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer and lime, served in a copper mug). You find that drink in Baltimore; you’ve made a new friend in me.

If you imbibe as much as I do, you’re going to have a few hangovers. And if you, like me, think the hair of the dog that bit you is the best way to get over them, I’ve got some good news.

Miss Shirley's, with locations off of Cold Spring Lane and in the Inner Harbor, has some seriously thick, seriously great Bloody Marys. Made with citrus vodka, tomato juice, hot sauce and spices garnished with a celery stalk, green tomato slices, lime, pickled okra, jalapeño and hot cherry peppers, with optional fresh jumbo lump crab meat and Old Bay for three dollars more, this is one serious eye-opener for a bleary-eyed Sunday morning.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 20, 2009



After reading this guest post by Owl Meat Gravy, all I have to say is, yuck: 

Oh baby, you are the total package.

I'm talking about beer and cigarettes together. And not like the time that I took a swig from a bottle of Carlsberg Elephant that someone was using as an ashtray. If only you could combine them in one delicious synaptic cocktail.
Good news?

Those crafty Germans have created NicoShot beer which contains 3 milligrams of nicotine alkaloids. NicoShot is brewed like regular beer, with a tobacco-leaf extract added at the end of the brewing process.

Sounds terrible! Nothing says fine German brewing like maker Nautilus GmbH Laboratoriumsbedarf.

You can almost taste the bedarf ...

The appeal to smokers who are banished from bars now seems obvious, but I just don't see it happening. Three cans of NicoShot have the amount of nicotine in a pack of Marlboros. Sweet slim Virginia Plain! That's a lot of nicotine.
The makers market it as nicotine replacement therapy, but I don't buy that for eine Minute. A six pack of that stuff might stop my heart. Someone will eventually create some form of OTC speedball like Nico-Red VodBullKa. Woohoo! Can I get a shot? An adrenaline shot!

Seriously. My heart is shutting down.

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

The World Series of Flip Cup is coming

flip cup photoI laughed out loud several times while reading this awesome ode to the drinking game flip cup, courtesy of Midnight Sun guest poster Evan Porter:

I think it goes without saying that flip cup is the best drinking game that doesn't involve a deck of cards, ping pong balls, or an accurate short term memory.

The 2009 World Series of Flip Cup is coming to the Recher Theater in Towson on May 30th, and you might want to ... wait, what was I saying?

Oh, right. Flip cup.

Flip cup really has something for everyone, and nothing beats the drama of a tight game.

When you're the last in line, and the whole match is riding on your shoulders, a fraction of an inch can make the difference between you being a hero and you coming off looking like Tony Romo in the playoffs ...

I've been on both sides of that scenario and I have to say that the role of Jessica Simpson's boyfriend just isn't as enviable a position as it was a year and several Big Macs ago. When the pressure is on, trust me, you do not want to lose.

Flip Cup is also a game that you can keep playing all night. With beer pong, you steadily get better until you hit your sweet spot after about four or five beers. A few games later, your run is over.

At that point, you'll be lucky if you can shoot your vomit into an industrial sized trash can at point blank range, let alone sink a ping pong ball into a Solo cup from ten feet away. Not so with flip cup. You can keep things competitive no matter how badly your motor skills have deteriorated. At some point, though, you really do need to stop drinking before you do something you'll really regret.

Ah, what am I saying? You're an adult, you can make your own decisions.

Hey, can I have a ride home?

You can head over to the 2009 WSoFC website to register your team alongside crews like the Two Finger Fanatics, Dunder Flipplin, and Flip Cup My [Ahem]. If drinking a ton of beer and getting knocked out in the first round by a bunch of ringers isn't reason enough to play, a portion of the proceeds goes to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

(Photo courtesy of the World Series of Flip Cup)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 19, 2009

Huff, huff huffing on heaven's door


This. Is. Amazing. Owl Meat Gravy comes through big time with this one, folks. As soon as I get back, I'm hitting up MICA:

Until now I couldn't think of anything I wanted to thank the English for except Mr. Thomas' fork-split muffins and Dame Judi Dench.

As my grandfather Liam O'Hanlon's skeleton spins furiously in his grave, I must add another tip of my derby to the English.  
Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have opened a new "architectural exhibit" in London called Alcoholic Architecture.

It's a bar. You are advised to wear protective clothing here. Raise your hands if you have a hazmat suit in your closet.

The bar serves no drinks, because the air is literally your buzz. They vaporize massive amounts of gin into the air ...

It costs £5 for an all-you-can-breathe Happy Hour.  
How is this safe or even legal? Because it's an art project.

Sam, please see what you can do with some of your bar contacts and MICA people and for the love of god make the Bacon Vodka Art Project happen. 

(Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Baltimore Beer Week: What do you want to see?


After using his photos for several Name That Bar contests, I finally snookered Alexander D. Mitchell IV into writing me a few blog posts. Here is the first one:

Hello there. Alexander Mitchell here, Baltimore columnist for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and blogger at

As some of you may have already read here and elsewhere, plans are in the works for Baltimore Beer Week, October 8-18th (yes, that's ten days--are you complaining?).

Those of us planning the events are wondering: What do YOU want to see for such a week? ...

Some things are already set in stone: The two keystone events are the Brewers Association of Md. Oktoberfest at the Timonium fairgrounds on Oct. 10 and the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood's Chesapeake Real Ale Festival down at the Pratt Street Ale House on Oct. 17. Certain bars, breweries, and distributors are already making plans for such things as beer dinners, "meet the brewer" nights, special beers brewed especially for the week, and other such promotions.

Some personal projects of mine:

  • A "blind tasting" of Irish stouts where one could sample Guinness, Murphy's, O-Hara's, Beamish (if we can still get it by then or stash a keg or two), and a "ringer" stout brewed in Maryland or close by -- and not find out which is which until you pick your favorite.
  • A banquet featuring as many of the "pioneers" of the Maryland craft-beer renaissance as we could find and get to come (Hugh Sisson, folks from British/Oxford, Wild Goose-Cambridge, Baltimore Brewing Co., etc.), and let them reminisce in front of microphones and pints.
  • A "history of Baltimore beer" tour, either via bus or self-guided with a website/handout.
  • And, of course, a Scottish beer tasting. (As well as German, Belgian, Australian, Californian, etc. at appropriate venues.)

But what do you, the readers of Sam Sessa, want to see?

It's too easy for beer geeks to conjure up beer events by beer geeks for beer geeks, but beer geeks are only a small proportion of the beer audience. Nobody connected with BBW is going to condone, for example, a beer-chugging contest, but for all I know there's a Beer-Pong league just waiting for a tournament. Ditto a Natty Boh fan club.

"Beer in Art" at some art gallery? Orioles against the Brewers? A beer-chili cookoff? A Bud-Miller-Coors taste-off?

I'll take any and all suggestions, serious and frivolous. The too-frivolous will be forgotten; the not-so-frivolous may actually happen.

Help us make it happen!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 18, 2009

Baltimore shot etiquette


Owl Meat Gravy starts this guest post with a confession that could get him in lots of trouble. And for the record, I've always been curious about this shot-taking tradition myself:

First let me say that I'm not from here, even though I have lived here quite a while on and off. I don't like steamed crabs (yeah, yeah, yeah) or Natty Bo.

In my defense, I did drink National Premium when I was in college here (once). Does that count? No?  OK.

After college and graduate school, I figured that all the ways that made me superficially different from Baltimore people were exposed. Wrong 'em, boyo.
In the past couple of years, I've gotten to know a lot of people who grew up in Baltimore. Being a thirsty creature of the night, I know them from local watering holes.

I recently noticed something that may have been there all the time, but eluded my occasionally blurry vision. Put simply: I have a problem and need help.  
Shots! Shots! Shots! Wanna do a shot? Uh, OK. It seems rude to answer otherwise and if I say "no" then the question of my man-parts is on the table. Ugh, I'm too old for this. Nah. So lately I've noticed that everybody clinks glasses, then taps them on the bar, and then drinks. It freaks me out ...

I've been clinking glasses my whole life here and in other parts of the world. Why is this local custom suddenly flippin' my wig? Is it a local custom? Just a Little Italy thing? That seems unlikely. Is it new? I'm lost. Here's what I'm comfortable with – clink clink clink, drink.
When you raise your glass with your friends and clink glasses it implies a (momentary) bond of good will. Here's to you. And you and you and you. Oh hell, I just had a weird flashback to the Sound of Music. I have no problem rolling with the local custom, but this seems new to me. Clink to your momentary bestest friend and then bang it on the bar before drinking? It seems dirty to me, like the bond has been broken.
So does anyone have an explanation? Is it new, really local, or have I been oblivious to local customs for the past 20 years?

Does it have some significance, like here's to the guy that built the bar? Or to remove demons? I'm clueless. I'll buy a shot for anyone with a reasonable explanation. Really.

(Getty images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

Porch drinking etiquette

porch drinking

This guest post comes from Matthew Smith (pictured, on his porch), a writer for the Urban Discoveries Blog. Check them out. As a country boy with my share of front porch chilling, I heartily agree with Matthew:

The coincidence of economic collapse and spring in Baltimore has led to a spate of stay-at-home drinking among my circle of friends.

And thanks to my porch, the home everyone’s drinking at is mine. Which, mostly, is a good thing.

I’ve lived in a few towns with traditions of boozing on porches, so I fully support the cause.

Here are a few guidelines for those who participate in the Sport of King’s Cabin, N.C.:

1. Drink what you drink. If you think it will be hilarious to pick up some forties of Colt and slurp them from paper bags, you are wrong.

2. Everybody’s welcome on the porch. There’s a time and a place for exclusivity: middle school. On the porch, your influence extends only as far as your generosity.

3. Do not cough every time someone lights up. I quit cigarettes a while back, and now all the bars in town are pristine and sweet smelling (sort of), but the day smoking is banned on porches is the day Rome falls.

4. Get a real ashtray, even if you don’t smoke. It will be worth it when no one ever again takes a sip from the wrong can.

Editor's note: Blech!

5. Whether you’re the first soul invited or the near-stranger whom manners compelled the host to welcome, treat the porch as if it were your own. No one likes to pick up shards of glass.

6. Greet your neighbors as they come in and out of their front doors, which are, after all directly adjacent to your drinking area. Not to do so will create a weirdness force-field for all future interactions.

7. After 10 p.m., take it inside. It’s fun to carouse by the light of the moon, but it’s not fun to comfort your screaming infant while outside jerks are carousing by the light of the moon.

8. Speaking of which, don’t call the cops unless there is an actual crime being committed. Go over and introduce yourself or leave a note or just take a deep breath and realize how close you came to becoming that guy. Neighbors who communicate through public servants are not neighbors.

9. When the cops come to your door, be excruciatingly polite to them. Do not remind them that there are murders they might be solving. They know this, and it is why they are irritated with you.

10. Clean up after yourself, but don’t scrub too hard. A porch should never feel too clean to spill a beer on.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Random stuff

May 16, 2009

The creepiest drink ever

creepiestdrink.jpgHere is Owl Meat Gravy with a rather spooky guest post:

The setting: Asunción, Paraguay October 1995. Last night in a food court in the Brazilian jungle waiting for the bus to Asunción. Strangers danced the lambada, while weary travelers chomped down on greasy fast food.

I arrived at the Central Bus Terminal in Asunción the next day. I saw families of bowl-cut blondes in denim overalls, straw hats, and calico print shirts. What the ...? Apparently there are scads of Mennonites and Amish in Paraguay.
After finding a hotel, I settled into the outdoor cafe of a much better old hotel. I was dressed poorly and felt tired and dirty. For this story you need to know that people often think I am German, based on my appearance and name. I am not.

I settled into the stabby rattan chair and asked the waiter for a whiskey, something local. I know, Paraguay whiskey? I was exhausted.

The waiter said in Spanish that I didn't want that and he would bring me a nice whiskey for very little guarani ($) ...

The waiter returned with a white towel draped across his forearm and an elegant silver tray. On the tray was a bottle of very good Scotch, a glass, a silver bowl filled with ice and silver tongs. He poured me a glass and added a single cube. He left the tray with the bottle, told me to enjoy myself, and vanished. I thought that it was odd to be treated so well, when I looked like a poor American traveler. I swirled the cube in the glass and took a sip. My inner monologue: Ah ... that tastes ... civilized.
I relaxed and took in the colonial courtyard. Businessmen walked together with no sense of urgency.  It was uncommonly peaceful, almost gentle. Another slow sip. I look to my right and see an old man sitting in the shade wearing a tan linen suit, a crisp white shirt and a pale blue tie. He reminded me of one of my college professors, a Prussian with the posture of an ironing board and the calm mastery of one who had been there and seen that.  
The well-dressed man caught my eye like a tractor beam, raised a glass of the same Scotch, and nodded affirmatively to me. I nodded back and drank from the warming glass. I paused and sensed that a hidden history was swirling around me and that I was some sort of accessory after-the-fact. A twitchy shudder descended from my shoulders. When I looked again, the man in the linen suit was gone.
I finished my drink, had another, and motioned for the waiter. I asked for my check. He said, "No, no, Sir. It has been taken care of. You owe nothing. Please enjoy your stay in Paraguay."

(Getty images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

May 15, 2009

An evening at Silks


Finally, I swindled convinced longtime commenter Evan to do a post for me, and he came through in spades.Every time I drive past Silks, it's closed. Evan is one of the lucky few who've been inside. Dig it:

What seems like a thousand years ago, I was on a rather smallish bar crawl of sorts hitting up some of the non-square Canton establishments that I had frequently heard of, but never really been to.

One such establishment was Silks -- a place whose name I found myself repeating out loud every time I passed it, because the name is printed in enormous letters on the side of the building, as well as in big neon CAPS on the door (picture slightly outdated).

You'd think based on the mural on the side, SILKS is some sort of sports bar, yes? Well, the reality is somewhat different ...

Upon arriving at the front door of Silks, our group found it to be locked. There were people inside, vacantly staring at a television in the corner, but nevertheless that goofy door was locked tight. So we tried the side door, asking aloud if they were open, to which we didn't really get a response but walked in anyway.

I couldn't help but instantly notice that Silks, despite its sporty exterior, has nothing to do with sports whatsoever. In fact, the bar itself is quite elegant. Solid wood, with molded trim lining the room and a huge mirror backing dusty bottles of various boozes. Turns out, that was about the only elegant part of Silks, coz the rest of it is crazier than crazy.

SILKsm.jpgEssentially, Silks is the extension of the owner's house - not an unusual reality in Baltimore - which became evident when one of the people we were with accidentally walked into a living room after going through a door assumed to be for the bathroom (the actual bathroom was pretty cool actually, with a large trough urinal and old porcelain fixtures).

While looking around, I saw stacks of mail on the table next to the bar, newspapers, a chaffing dish, and piles upon piles of other random crap you'd find in a Baltimore row home. The walls are plastered with old pictures, posters and other interesting knickknacks, all of which have a bit more character than your standard bar.

But wait! There's more! The owner, a guy named Kevin, is quite the character. He yells at you, has a foul mouth, and is probably nuts, but in a charming way. At one point he stepped out from behind the bar, revealing himself to be wearing pajama pants and slippers - definitely a first as far as my bar-going experiences are concerned.

He asked one of us for a business card, which was provided. Kevin proceeded to whip out a plastic grocery bag full of piles of business cards and napkins with names on them, extolling the virtues of how many celebrity contacts he had (none of which I had really heard of). It was a riot, and so was he.

Check out the totally sweet business card he gave in return! It even has a map on it!

(Photos by Evan)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Pocketshots: My new squeeze

pocket shots

And just like that, I'm off on my honeymoon. Whoosh! Don't worry, though -- I've left you some great guest posts from some delightful guest commenters. Remember Owl Meat Gravy? Here he is:

I was sitting at my desk squirting Purell directly into my mouth on Monday morning when I caught my reflection in the computer monitor.  "What am I doing?" I said to myself. 

Like a message from God, a voice inside me said, "This would be better if it tasted like tequila instead of potpourri." If only there was a way to sanitize my hands and get my gel swerve crankin' too.  Reason number 637 of why America is great: PocketShots.  
PocketShots are 50 ml (1.7 oz.) squeeze packets of alcohol gel preferred by discerning ladies in ill-fitting tube tops everywhere. The container looks like the worst (best) tiny IV bag ever. They contain 80 proof alcohol as gin, vodka, rum, tequila or "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged Four Years."...

Ads for PocketShots imply that the best way to consume it is to squeeze it onto the taut tanned belly of a supine nymphomaniac. Why gel? It's difficult to make a Cuba Libre with rum goo. I think the gel form might be quite filling, judging by an ad where the young lady has to open the top of her jeans.  Just like after Thanksgiving dinner on the Rock of Love skank wagon.
Here's a great use for PocketShots. You know the angry woman near the Xerox machine at the office who hates Gypsies and has mild OCD? Yeah, Bridget. Replace the contents of her Purell with PocketShots. New office nickname: Gin Fingers.
The company claims that it is "perfect for active activities, outdoor adventures, and glass restricting venues." Outdoor adventures? Yeah, like getting drunk in the parking lot behind Arby's.

Sadly, PocketShots are not available in Maryland. The next time I'm in Delaware or Idaho I will be stocking up on them, because my on-the-go lifestyle demands it.

Where else can you get "Squishable pleasure?"

(Photo courtesy of Pocketshots)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Drink-ology, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays, Random stuff

May 14, 2009

And I'm off!

costa rica

Sunny beaches and various adventures await.

I'll be back May 27.

Don't worry though -- I've lined up about 20 guest posts from old friends and new favorites.

Oh, and before I forget, The Hill will have its soft opening this time next week.

Elizabeth Large should have more details between now and then.

See ya!

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

How about a refreshing sip of Vapor Water?

vapor water

As an entertainment writer/editor, I get some pretty weird stuff in the mail.

Most of it, I either throw away, give away or award as prizes to loyal Midnight Sun commenters.

But I've just got to post a bit about Vapor Water. It's some new brand of water from a company named Arizona. 

Side note: Why would you name your company after a state, which (I thought) didn't have much water to begin with?

Anyway, on the back of the sizable (33.8 oz.) bottle, it says:

A perfectly balanced blend of electrolytes in every thirst-quenching sip.

If every sip is thirst-quenching, why does it come in such a big bottle?

(Photo by me)


Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:54 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Random stuff

Why I don't like the rose guy in Fells Point

roseyroses.JPGYou know that guy who strolls around Fells Point with a basket full of roses? He pops in and out of bars up and down Broadway and Thames Street on Friday and Saturday nights. I call him Flower Dude.

I don't like Flower Dude. It's nothing personal. But I don't like Flower Dude.

You see, Flower Dude never says anything. He just waltzes up to your table or barstool and silently stares at you. He doesn't ask you if you want to buy a rose. He doesn't have to.

Heck, I'll bet if he actually asked, I'd feel more comfortable saying "no, thanks."

But oh no.

Flower Dude just comes up and stares at you for a second and puts us guys on the spot in front of our friend/girlfriend/wife ...

This is so unfair. I'm a good husband. I buy flowers and plenty of presents. But suddenly, up comes Flower Dude, and just because I don't want to buy one of his roses right then and there, I feel like a terrible husband -- even if I've gotten Amie flowers earlier that day.

This, dear readers, is why I don't like Flower Dude. 

From what I've heard, Flower Dude has been guilting boyfriends/husbands into buying roses for their sweethearts for years now. He might even make a living off of it!

Since there is nothing I can do to stop Flower Dude (except avoid Fells Point), I thought I would share my frustrations with you, gang. Does anybody else feel the same way? Or am I alone in my opinion of Flower Dude?

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

And the winner is ...

mmmmmCantonKate, with this comment:

When I was in college, my boyfriend at the time poured me some of his mother's Tanqueray.  It tasted like a pine tree to me.  I believe the quote was "it tastes like Christmas".

Congrats, Kate, and as always, thanks to everybody for playing. Have your pets spayed or neutered!

Oh, and Kate, please e-mail me your physical address.


(LA Times photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Approaching 12,000 comments

By now, you had better know what that means.

But, for posterity's sake, I'll say it again: Who so ever posteth the 12,000th comment shall win cool stuff. Need something to discuss? How about this: Besides the mojito and the gin and tonic, what is the best summer cocktail?


Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Random stuff

May 13, 2009

Judge will rule on Suite Ultralounge in 30 days

After hearing from Mount Vernon residents, the liquor board and representatives from the violence-plagued Suite Ultralounge, a judge will rule within 30 days. That's according to Sun reporter Justin Fenton. More info here.

Talk about anti-climactic. The judge heard from both sides and then decided to decide something soon. I'll keep you posted when the ruling arrives.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:55 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The Hill is coming soon

the hill

A new restaurant and bar named the Hill looks ready to replace the old Banjara (1017 S. Charles St.).

Amie and I walked past the space last weekend, and peering inside, we saw an earthy decor with tables and chairs set up. I wouldn't be surprised if the Hill opened this weekend.

I've heard through the grapevine that Tony, formerly a chef at the nearby Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, will be in charge of the Hill.

Midnight Sun commenter AC-M sent me an e-mail today, and it sounds like she's frothing at the bit (pardon the Preakness pun) to check out the Hill ...

One of the things that has set Metropolitan apart from most of the other bars and restaurants in South Baltimore is that it appeals to the breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night crowds. It's really hard for one place to pull off that wide of a range with such ease, but the Metro does it.

That makes me wonder if Tony will try to do the same thing at the Hill. Anybody else know more about this place?

Tony, if you're reading this, call me at 410.332.6689 or e-mail me at

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:54 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Expect more news from Suite Ultralounge this morning

Suite Ultralounge, the bottle club in the basement of the Belvedere with a history of violence, is appealing the liquor board's decision to yank their license. The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in Baltimore Circuit Court, and Sun reporter Justin Fenton will be there to cover it.

This morning, Peter Hermann published two chilling recounts of violence near Suite, as told by the victims. Both cases seem to be random assaults on passersby. Read his post here.

All I can say is, Suite is out of control and needs to be shut down, period. I'll keep you posted on what happens at the hearing.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:20 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Photos from last night's roller disco

roller discoLast night, the Charm City Roller Girls threw a charity roller disco at Dundalk Skateland.

Local photographer John Milleker snapped a few shots of the event. I saw this one and just had to post it. 

You can see the rest here.

Looks like it was a blast.

I'm kicking myself for not going.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

iLike the iLounge

ginandtonic.JPGThe iLounge, Mount Vernon's newest club/lounge, is off to a promising start.

A few Saturdays ago, I checked out the iLounge, which is above Cazbar at 316 N. Charles St. Cover was $10, which was too much, considering the decor really didn't merit it.

Red Maple charges $10, but at least the club, with its fire pits, cushion seats and brick walls, is memorable. The iLounge, not so much.

It's split into three spaces -- the dance floor, the bar area and a lounge with booths and tables.

A crisp gin and tonic was $7, and the place was wall-to-wall people at 11:30 p.m. A DJ spun remixes of pop songs from artists like Katy Perry ...

The crowd gave off this Eastern European vibe, which was unexpected.

I also didn't expect the rear of the club to have a door that lead to a parking garage, where patrons stood and smoked cigarettes. Talk about random.

Drink prices aside, I think it's a bit much to ask for a $10 cover. But that didn't seem to stop all these 20- and 30-somethings from flocking to the iLounge. If you're looking for a new place to dance, check it out.

Now, Baltimore has an iLounge and an iBar. What's next? The iTini? The iClub?

(Photo from the LA Times)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 12, 2009

80's roller disco tonight

roller discoThe lovely ladies of the Charm City Roller Girls are throwing a roller disco bash tonight at Dundalk Skateland, 1111 North Point Road.

Thanks to Gutter Magazine for the tip about the event.

They're asking for a $10-$20 donation, and skate rentals are $2.

I heard through the grapevine that the roller girls will be in '80s getup, so you had better break out the spandex and hair spray. 

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:11 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Are you going (or not going) to Preakness?

running of the urinalsA colleague of mine, Michael Dresser, wants to know if you're going to (or avoiding) Preakness because of the new anti-BYOB policies.

He's working on a piece from the paper, and needs to hear from you.

Call him at 410.332.6175 or e-mail him at

Michael is curious if more or fewer people will hit up Pimlico on Saturday. Remember -- it's now illegal to bring your own wine and beer, and there will be live music from ZZ Top, Buckcherry and the Charm City Devils.

Hit him up and tell him what you think.

(Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:09 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Random stuff

TD Lounge, Club Choices and Chubbies will not be shut down

club choicesThree city clubs who drew complaints from neighborhood residents over noise, violence and ... various adult-oriented complaints ... will keep their liquor licenses.

TD Lounge, Club Choices and Chubbies Club have reached settlements with concerned community members, according to a source at the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

I don't have all of the details, and I'm planning on calling these places today. But it's really hard to get a hold of club owners/managers who can speak on the record about this kind of thing. So I'll share what I know from the liquor board source.

According to the source, TD Lounge (1717 Eastern Ave.), formerly Timothy Dean Bistro, will stop having live entertainment ...

Neighbors of the Fells Point spot were upset last year when the upscale restaurant morphed into a lounge with DJs and dancing on weekends.

Club Choices (1815 N. Charles St.), which has a long-standing history of violence, promised to step up its security detail to prevent further altercations and help control the flow of foot traffic at closing time.

The owners of Chubbies, a gentleman's club at 2000 Eastern Ave., agreed to plant shrubbery outside so passersby can't see inside, and stop dancers from taking smoke breaks by the front of the building.

All three clubs pledged to take more input from their relative community associations.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:28 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Looking back at BAR

pourthatbeer.JPGWith some kind of changes currently under way at BAR, I went back and re-read a column I did on the Fells Point dive bar in May 2007. I got a ton of feedback (most of it positive) on this column when it ran. Check it out:

Music blared from Bertha's Restaurant and Bar at 10 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo. Other Fells Point pubs were packed full of partyers.

But a block east of Broadway -- within earshot of all the festivities -- only three people sat inside BAR. And one of them was the bartender.

They drank and talked among themselves while Pink Floyd's "Money" played on the stereo and a ceiling fan with only two blades left slowly spun overhead.

You could call a place like BAR a dive or a relic. But it's also a quirky little refuge in a changing neighborhood, where a dwindling number of people can come to escape the wilder, crazier bars on Broadway or Thames Street ...

The place's name mirrors its decor: simple and unpretentious. The white sign hanging outside looks like it's from the 1950s, and it very well may be. The bartender said the place has been serving beer and liquor since Prohibition ended, and it's been known as BAR since at least the '40s or '50s.

At BAR, draft Yuenglings (one of two beers on tap) cost $3, and bottles will run you $2.75.

The wine list, also posted on the bar back, gives you two options:

1. White

2. Red

Amie ordered a No. 2, and the bartender hefted a large glass jug of cheap screw-top vino onto the bar and poured her a tall one. My jaw dropped in shock and horror. It was the same nasty stuff winos buy on payday -- straight from the Sam's Club extra-special bargain discount rack.

Amie stopped drinking the wine after a few sips and left it to me to finish (gee, thanks). I took a small taste. It was like taking a karate chop to the tongue.

But, being the stubborn man that I am, I had to finish the glass in front of me. It sucked all the moisture out of my mouth and burned on the way down. I would rather have been drinking cheap whiskey. The only way I could get the wine down was by chasing it with beer.

So there I sat, wineglass in one hand and beer glass in the other. Some people would call that a win-win situation. But when your wine comes from a large glass jug, you lose.

Some of BAR's charm comes from the subtle decorations you'll spot throughout the place. A bouquet of dead roses adorned the bar back, and the two old box TV sets flickered at either end of the bar, both largely ignored. At one point, a young couple walked in looking for the boxing match, but BAR doesn't get pay-per-view, so they left.

We asked our bartender about the dozen or so mugs on the bar-back shelves, and she told us they were for coffee or hot cider. Then we noticed the old microwave sitting nearby. The conversation went a bit like this:

Me: "What's the microwave for?"

Bartender: "Warming up the cider."

Me: "I see."

Bartender: "Hey, hot is hot, ain't it?"

Me: "Yes. Yes, it is."

Some dives have a little energy about them, but BAR just feels tired. The lone pool table in the bar's back section was unused when we got there, and the bartender said the pool league had been dead for some time.

One of BAR's other signs said "Free walking tour" and had an arrow pointing out the door. A little while before midnight, Amie and I took the tour. But I'll definitely be back to BAR, one night when I'm looking to escape the more frenzied Fells Point joints in favor of something more laid-back.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 11, 2009

Clutch is open (and has a Web site too)

beerclink.JPGClutch, the new sports lounge which replaced Tiburzi's in Canton, is open for business, Midnight Sun commenter Mike 1,000 reports.

He sent me a link to their Web site.

Dig it.

According to the site, Clutch "brings together a trendy atmosphere with a sports influence."

Sounds interesting.

It's no Fumbles, for sure. But it sounds interesting.

Mike went there a couple times, and sent me this report ...

the owners Trevor and John are very friendly and nice. We were there very late Friday night, and my sister asked if they were still serving food at close to 1:00 AM. They said "Honey, our kitchen is always open" and she got a chicken sandwich. They also had a good crowd Saturday night. They have Blue Moon and Magic Hat #9 on tap, with other domestics.

Thanks for the heads up, Mike. Clutch must have opened in the past month or so. If you remember, I went there to check in on it in early April.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:00 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Unpaid sales taxes? Kiss that liquor license goodbye*

federal hill lounge*At least until you pay up.

Each year, all the liquor licenses in the city must be renewed.

Old liquor licenses expire April 30 and new ones start May 1. But bars won't be issued a new liquor license if they owe taxes.

That's why, every year, a whole bunch of bars mysteriously close on May 1 -- they haven't paid their taxes in time.

That was the case with the Federal Hill Lounge (pictured), which now has this nifty little sign telling everybody this bar is c-l-o-s-e-d by the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

I called liquor board spokesman Douglas Paige, who confirmed it.

"They have an outstanding sales tax due to the state of Maryland," he said.

The lounge's owners had plenty of warning, too ...

Paige said every year, they send out notices in January warning bars with back taxes about their impending closure.

Though Paige isn't sure how many bars shut down every year (some temporarily, some permanently) due to tax issues, he said this year between 250-500 bars were shuttered for not paying taxes. 

Wow. That's a lot of bars.

(Photo by eCommerce Consultant)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:52 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Vote for the best unsigned band in Baltimore

ellen cherry

Five Baltimore musicians are vying to win Artscape's annual Sound Off! unsigned band competition. The winner gets to perform on the main stage at this year's Artscape, as well as a $500 check and a backstage performance for 20 fans.

The five semi-finalists are ellen cherry (pictured), For the People Entertainment, Jinxxx, Thrushes and Wordsmith.

These semi-finalists were plucked from a pool of about 85 submissions by a panel of expert judges, including Billy Zero, program director for WTMD, Bret McCabe of the City Paper and Jimmy Mac of Sound Garden.

Vote here.

Artscape is July 17-19.

(This handout photo of ellen cherry is from back in 2005, but I like it)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local music

And the winner is ...

ed, who figured out the bar in the mystery photo in 29 minutes. The bar in question was the upstairs bar at Mahaffey's (2706 Dillon St.). Man, I thought this would really stump everybody. Wrong. Good job, ed. E-mail me with your address at
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Name That Bar

Name That Bar, Vol. 4

DSC_0186.JPGSince you guys have been so good at guessing the mystery bar in the past, Alexander D. Mitchell IV and I have decided to take it to new extremes.

If someone guesses this correctly in less than 20 minutes, I will be beside myself.

Also, since I'm going to be moving to a new desk soon, I need to clear out the junk on my current desk. And there's a lot of junk.

Wait, scratch that -- by "junk," I mean "awesome prizes for the winner of the Name That Bar contest."

So have at it, gang!

(Photo by Alexander D. Mitchell IV)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Name That Bar

May 10, 2009

Melon Dog beer is coming!

Pub Dog's new Melon Beer

Steve Osmond, the owner of Pub Dog, sent me this proof of the Melon Beer they're brewing. Hey Steve, how about showing some love to Midnight Sun for introducing the idea of watermelon-flavored beer to Baltimore? Hee hee. Actually, I'm just glad somebody read my original post and acted on it. I'll let everybody know when Melon Dog arrives. Should be in less than four weeks. Cheers!

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 9, 2009

"Shelter from the Storm"

Best version of this song, hands down.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:48 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Random stuff

Fumbles, the sports bar for losers

fumbling, bumbling benJmgiordano and I want to open a sports bar for losers.

We'd call it Fumbles.

Fumbles would celebrate silly mistakes that cost sports teams big. There would be a shrine honoring Joe Pisarcik and the Miracle at the Meadowlands.

And let's not forget the specialty drink list. How about the Timeout martini, in honor of Chris Webber's infamous flub?

Got any other suggestions for me? ...

This is actually an original idea. I Googled "sports bar for losers" and nothing came up. Imagine that -- an original idea in the year 2009?!?!

Then I Googled "Fumbles" sports bar, and found two -- one in Arizona and one in Iowa. I assume the one in Arizona is closed, because the number was disconnected. I called the one in Iowa. Here is a transcript of my conversation:

Female bartender: Hello, Fumbles.

Me: Hi, I was wondering, is Fumbles just your average sports bar?

Bartender: Uhh ...

Me: I mean, like, does it celebrate the act of fumbling, or maybe does it celebrate losing?

Bartender: No, um, it's just a sports bar.

Me: OK, thanks!

That does it. Fumbles is going to happen. This is how jmgiordano and I are going to make a living when the journalism industry implodes. I already have a slogan picked out:

"Come to Fumbles -- where losers win!"

I smell a franchise ... all I need now is some moolah ... Jason Zink, where are you? Mark Twain, can you hear me knockin'?!?!

(AP photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 8, 2009

BAR is closed (temporarily, I hope)

According to local brew guru (and Midnight Sun commenter) Alexander D. Mitchell IV, BAR (1718 Lancaster St.) has been closed for some time now. There is a yellowed sign on the front door which reads "Out of order."

Let's hope the place is just closed for renovations and not for good. But the signs aren't positive -- I called their phone and it was disconnected. Uh oh.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:07 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Want to know why First Thursdays didn't happen yesterday?

Read this.
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:20 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music

Another obscure liquor law: Growlers are illegal

duclaw growlersI'll bet you didn't know that growlers are technically illegal.

Ever seen a growler? It's a resealable glass jug used to hold draft beer. If you own a growler, you can have it filled at a number of local bars.

The upside to having a growler is the beer is fresher than if it was bottled, and you get a large quantity of beer (about five pints, depending on the size of the growler) for much cheaper than if you had bought five pints individually at a bar.

According to liquor laws, it's illegal to "refill or reuse any container" with beer or liquor in a licensed establishment, according to Steve Fogleman, chairman of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City.

This law, if I may say so myself, is silly. People have been filling growlers in Baltimore City since before Prohibition. I'm glad the liquor board hasn't been enforcing it.

In fact, Fogleman is working to have the law repealed ...

"We're going to change that rule," he told me yesterday.

Fogleman has been eyeing a bunch of old liquor laws that he thinks don't make sense anymore, and wants to have them updated. 

Here's another one: Have you ever seen city watering holes set out free finger food on the bar? A year or two ago, I was in Birds of a Feather, the scotch bar in Fells Point, and the owner, Alicia Horn, set out small, homemade personal pan pizzas for her regulars. Well, that's illegal too -- at least in the city, Fogleman said.

City liquor laws state that bars can't give out free food -- just "pretzels, crackers, chips and the like," Fogleman said. State law says the same thing, except it includes hors d'oeuvres.

"I've been in [city] bars where they put something a little more substantial than pretzels out," Fogleman said.

Fogleman hopes to allow city bars to give away free hors d'oeuvres too.

Good idea, Steve.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:26 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

You're in Baltimore for the first time. Where do you go out?

interactive city guideI recently found myself in the lobby of the Tremont Plaza Hotel, where I spotted this touch-screen Interactive City Guide marquee.

Ever seen these things? This was the first time I came across one. I fooled around with it a bit, and it gave me a list of the city's top hot spots for nightlife.

City-wide lists like this one are rarely up to date. And sure enough, there were a couple  spots (The Spy Club, for one) that are closed.

Update: The Spy Club is not closed. It just has scaled back hours. And there is no longer a sign on the front of the building advertising it. My apologies for the confusion.

Overall, I thought it wasn't a bad list, considering.

I'd like to see more under-the-radar spots on it. Then again, they wouldn't be under-the-radar spots anymore if they were on the list.

I wonder -- are these podiums at any other city hotels.

(Photo by me)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 7, 2009

Pub Dog will not open in Fells Point

pub dog in federal hillpub dog in federal hillThe day after my blog post about Pub Dog opening a new branch in Fells Point published, the deal was called off.

According to Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond, an investment group formed by the Kali's Court folks swooped in and offered the seller more money.

"I got a call from the seller, [who said] 'I need the keys back and we're not doing the deal,'" Osmond said today.

Considering the bad news about the deal, Osmond sounded pretty upbeat on the phone.

"I'm moving on," he said. "There's lot of other great spots in Baltimore." ...

On a more positive note, Osmond read my blog post about watermelon beer, and had some made. The first batch should be ready in about four weeks.

"I'm really excited about that," he said.

Thanks to Alexander D. Mitchell IV for the tip.

(Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:17 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

The potential Pigtown bar takes a tentative step forward

piggly townWhile I was away, a couple of you asked about the bar in Pigtown that Jason Zink (Don't Know Tavern, No Idea Tavern) was thinking about opening.

If you're new to the saga, this and this should bring you up to speed.

The idea, which was first leaked on Midnight Sun, generated a huge response from bar owners (who said it was suicide) and Pigtown residents (who begged for another bar to visit).

Well, it looks like Jason is moving forward with his plans for 803-807 Washington Blvd. ...

Provided he and the landlord can work out the lease agreements, Jason wants to turn the place into a crab house with a big, U-shaped bar smack in the middle of it. You all know how I love U-shaped bars.

The landlord is going to submit a proposal next week, Jason told me in an e-mail.

"If I like it, we move ahead," he wrote. "Otherwise, we are back to square one. I am also looking at Hampden as well, just in case this deal doesn't go through."

(Sun archive photo)
Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:03 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Passing the Cat's Eye Pub from one Tony Cushing to another

tony cushing, sr.For decades, Tony Cushing Sr. (pictured) owned and ran the Cat's Eye Pub in Fells Point. He watched it grow from a neighborhood dive to a character-filled Fells Point haunt with live music every day.

When Tony died suddenly last year, the pub's future came into question. His widow, Ana Marie, took over temporarily, before passing the bar to their son, Tony Jr.

There's a great interview with young Tony (he's only 25) at Baltimore Magazine's On the Town blog. Check it out.

The interview with Tony Jr. reminded me of his father, who I only met once. But I'll never forget the encounter ...

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was walking around Fells Point, notepad in hand, looking for a bar to profile. (We used to do a weekly feature called Meet the Venue, which ran in the now-defunct LIVE weekend entertainment section.)

As soon as I set foot inside the Cat's Eye, Tony Sr. waltzes over and introduces himself. He must have spotted my notepad and the unmistakable newbie reporter look on my face (wide eyes, nervous grin -- you get the picture).

Tony had this tipsy glee most people get after tossing back a few rounds. I think that's just how he was, permanently. He pointed to the top of the bar back, where all the liquor bottles sat, and told me about this one bottle of tequila he picked up in Spain. It had a full-sized cobra in it, he said.

"Some bottles of tequila have worms in 'em. This one had a whole snake inside," he told me.

Tony said he kept the bottle on the shelf, waiting for a special occasion. Then one night, a pack of Pagan motorcycle gang members strolled in.

"We opened the bottle and drank the whole thing," Tony said. 

Then he paused for a second.

"They're not welcome here anymore."

Tony Sr. made the Cat's Eye into what it is today. And I have full faith that Tony Jr. will carry on his father's legacy and help keep the Cat's Eye a citywide destination for low key drinking, late night partying and great live music.

(Photo of Tony Sr. courtesy of Ana Marie)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:30 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

Elementary school kids love "Baltimore" by Caleb and Saleem

I was going to put this story in my own words, but Saleem Heggins' manager Natashia says it so plainly in an e-mail she sent me:

A teacher at Cherry Hill Elementary in Baltimore saw Caleb & Saleem perform at Sound Garden a few months back. He was so moved by the music, he asked for them to speak to his class (and turns out four other classes) about their journey through music & life. Caleb unfortunately was unable to attend, but Mr. Carlberg, (yes, the teacher) suggested that he learn "Baltimore" to accompany Saleem ...

At any rate, the clip below is a small glimpse into what a tiny classroom in Baltimore looked like yesterday. I am sharing with you all because you were the architects (and supporters) of this music being created. I hope you appreciate how far Sam’s initial idea of pairing people from completely different genres of music has come.


Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music

Dan Marino drops by Morton's in Annapolis

dan marinoFootball star Dan Marino stopped into Morton's in Annapolis Tuesday evening, I'm told.

Marino and four guests feasted on filet mignon, asparagus and mushrooms, among other things.

As you see in the photo, Marino is beginning to look a bit like David Hasselhoff.

Hopefully, Marino is not beginning to act like Hasselhoff. 

Hee hee.

(Photo of Marino with assistant manager John Pacewicz)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Celebrity sightings

May 6, 2009

Aaaand I'm back!

kelly'sAt least for a week or two. Then it's off to the honeymoon, when you'll be subjected to more guest posts. But for now, Sam Sessa is back in action.

I see at least one person missed me while I was gone. Even though the rest of you didn't comment about missing me, I'm sure you all cried yourselves to sleep every night. Right?

While I was away, Midnight Sun commenter Jay Trucker e-mailed me about Kelly's (2108 Eastern Ave.). He went there this past Saturday, and saw a sign on the door that said "Kelly's will be closed until further notice."

That's usually the kiss of death for a bar/restaurant ...

I called the place, but the phone kept ringing. I'll try calling again this afternoon. Anybody know more?

I always meant to get to Kelly's, but never had the pleasure. I know commenter jmgiordano was a fan of the place. jmgiordano, do you know anything about it closing? Jay Trucker also liked Kelly's. In his e-mail, he wrote:

I am hopeful that they will re-open because Kelly's, thoughy dive-y and redneck-y in many ways, was also a fun and inexpensive place to drink and sing karaoke on the weekends. The place had lots of character.

Who can tell me what's going on?

(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:17 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 5, 2009

Drink like a viking


Editor's note: Ever heard of akvavit? Me neither, until I read this piece, by Owl Meat Gravy:

Akvavit and I go way back. Maybe the berserker in me loves it.

Unlike other spirits, such as whiskey and tequila, there are no personal akvavit stories ending with, "And that's why I can't blink anymore." Someone once said that it's like having a shot of rye bread. That's not a bad thing.

Akvavit or aquavit is 80 proof vodka infused with herbs such as caraway seeds, anise, dill, fennel and coriander.

You can make it yourself using vodka and your choice of aromatic herbs, but getting the right combination is tricky ...

Akvavit means "water of life" and shares that etymology with whiskey and eau de vie. Now that's marketing. Some say it promotes digestion and cures everything from the vapors to dropsy. I say it's an icy shot of mischief from Norse trickster god Loki ...

The best way to drink akvavit is ice cold from the bottle, not diluted with city water ice. There are a number of drink recipes that involve akvavit, but I'm wary of sullying my Viking elixir with foofy sweet ingredients.

Will akvavit ever get its rightful place in the pantheon of great liquors? Probably not. Still, the next time I hoist a shot of this icy water of life, I will toast to my berserker brothers and think:

How soft your fields so green, can whisper tales of gore,
Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your overlords.


(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

May 4, 2009

Recovering from (the) depression

flappers.JPGHere, Midnight Sun commenter Patchen makes the depression a little less depressing:

My senior year of college I was buying books for class when I found this great little book in the remainder bin. It was called something like Depression-Era Cocktails. Each page had a beautiful shot of some old cocktail and the recipe that went with it.

The book got lifted from my suite -- I assume during a party -- before I ever got to make a single drink.

I’ve never been able to find it anywhere else, and losing it has always bugged me -- especially now that the economy is in the toilet. I mean, if we’re going to go through a Great Recession, why not have drinks to match?

Lots of people have had this idea. A bunch of bars in places like Milwaukee, Memphis and L.A. have bars that offer Depression-themed specials, though I haven’t found any in Baltimore. Still, with a little Googling, you can find some great drinks to try -- sometimes with recipes, sometimes just with names worth looking up in your bar manual.

Here’s what I love about cocktails from the Depression ...

Cool Liquors Mixed Together: Brandy? Cognac? Sherry? Absinthe? Awesome.

Twists on the Norm: Like instead of London dry gin. Instead of bourbon, now’s the time to pull down that bottle of Pikesville Rye you’ve had sitting around. (That link, BTW, has a ton of mixes.)

Beer: Some Depression-era recipes actually involved beer, often mixed with ...

Crazy Ingredients: Like egg (sometimes whites, sometimes yolks, sometimes the whole thing), caster sugar, nutmeg, etc.

Editor's note: Yuck!

No Vodka: Vodka really didn’t show up in U.S. drinks till the '50s. Look for drinks with rum, gin, brandy and whiskey instead.

And the best part about Depression era cocktails is that they really do help you save money.  My buddy Reed in Washington has a weekly cocktail party. He picks one drink and serves variations on that exclusively. If you want something else, it’s BYOB (and BYO food). So he's able to throw a great party every Friday for a whole lot less than he would shelling out for six-packs.

(Sun archive photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What's been your wildest night out in Baltimore?


I think my wildest night out in Baltimore would be a little too R-rated for Midnight Sun. However, Heather aka BiCoastalChickie, has some pretty crazy stories for us:

I like to travel, and I have had a few couldn't-have-planned-it-better nights out in other cities.

In November 2006, I traveled to New Orleans for the second time (first post-Katrina) for "work." I was there by myself, and determined to eat some authentic local cuisine and down a few hurricanes (or Katrina-ritas, which were being served at the time).

Somehow, the conference hotel was right off of Bourbon Street, and I decided to have dinner at Acme Oyster Bar: etouffee and hush puppies and Abitas, oh my.

The old-as-my-mom divorcee sitting next to me struck up conversation and, yadda yadda yadda, we ended up bar-hopping Bourbon Street together into the wee hours of the morning.

I danced to a local blues band's music, did shots with post-Katrina construction workers, and joined an African-American midget lead singer onstage for some '80s party song covers.

You can't make this up. You can’t plan this. It just happens and it's awesome ...

I have been to Vegas seven times (this is not unusual if you have spent time living in SoCal), but the last time I was there was the absolute best.

We had a smaller group, five of us most of the weekend, which made it easier to agree on what to do and where to go. On Friday night that weekend, we splurged and took a cab (thank God for paying jobs vs. the on-foot travels of poor college students) to the Hard Rock casino/hotel, which had a little younger, flashier crowd (and sexier dealers) than some of the older casinos on the strip.

We gambled, drank, and ate dinner there and then rode (!!!) over to the Rio to go to one of the hotter clubs (read: "no sneakers allowed"). There, the five of us individually embarked on the what-happens-in-Vegas portions of our evening. That was my top Vegas night, because it was unplanned, high-energy and memorable.

Here’s where you share your most awesome night out in Baltimore (or some other city). I know it will never be re-created quite the same, but it might provide a good starting place for anyone who needs to celebrate or memorialize or just get out of the house.

(Sun photo by Monica Lopossay)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 3, 2009

Do's and don'ts for local nightlife Web sites

supercomputer.JPGMidnight Sun commenter eCommerce Consultant aka Ethan Giffin takes the lead on this piece about Web design:

Since I've spent more than half my life either slinging records, owning a venue or running a digital marketing agency, ol’ Sammo asked me to step in and give a state of the nightlife address: Internet edition.

There is no doubt that over the last three years, the Web sites of Baltimore's nightclubs and bars have gotten better. But they're still not great.

Most of this change is influenced by the explosive growth of social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook or Twitter.

In fact, the best promoters across the country utilize all of these tools to build their communities.  The truth, though, is that most Baltimore promoters and operators have truly failed to harness the web and make it play an active role within their marketing plans ...

I took a cross sampling of 10 local venues. All of these venues and promoters have special events and cover charges. 

Of the local 10 web sites I looked at:

  • Seven had updated events calendars
  • Zero had an RSS feed available of those events (What?!?!)
  • Three had recently updated photo galleries
  • Four had a linked and recently updated Facebook page
  • Four had a linked and recently updated MySpace page
  • Five had an easily accessible email newsletter sign up
  • One had a linked and recently updated Twitter account 

I would say that this is a pretty poor report card. With a little bit of time, money and sweat equity, there is no reason that they can’t be doing a better job of promoting online.

More than once, I found out about an event too late to go to it. All the promoters had to do was send out a quick and simple Facebook message to their friend list ahead of time, and I would have been able to make the event.

One of the best local night life presences, love 'em or hate 'em, are Bob and Robby of JetSetMafia.  They don’t have the cleanest sites in terms of graphic design or functionality, but that is made up for by the sheer amount of photos and content they publish online on a weekly basis.

Hiring a photographer for almost every event they promote, then having those photos published on their Web site within 48 hours of the event is a definite key to their success. They also engage their audience from many different places, including MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as well as SMS text messaging.

It’s 2009. The days of massive radio buys and dropping 10,000 fliers on the ground are over. Developing and connecting with online audiences is what will help Baltimore’s venues survive the current economic storm.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

May 2, 2009

The sidecar: Unsafe at any speed


And now, a personal confession from Midnight Sun guest poster Owl Meat Gravy:

When I was a wee lad in the Keystone state, I remember eating in mom and pop taverns with my parents.

The most memorable thing (other than "shrimp-in-a-basket")? The classic cocktail place mats.

I studied these exotic drinks since I was old enough to read. I never saw adults drink them other than in old movies. The Grasshopper, Gin Rickey, Manhattan, Mai Tai, Singapore Sling, Old Fashioned, and the Sidecar.

It just so happens that in this month's issue of Happening Dude magazine, it says that the Sidecar is the hot new drink for the coolaratti.

Properly constructed, this drink should be made with cognac or brandy, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice. The problem is that most bartenders will look at you funny, check their Old Mr. Boston book, and make it with brandy, triple sec and (ugh) sour mix ...

I have a constitutional prohibition against mixing cognac with anything other than saliva, so a decent brandy is just fine. California brandy is good, but I like to use a Spanish solera for a little extra kick. 

Some people use Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau, I think Cointreau has a lighter touch. Properly made, it is a great cocktail, with the dominant flavors blending into a synthesis of refreshment. Nice.
My friend Balthazar says it's like a brandy margarita, which is true. He also says that aliens built the pyramids with monkey slaves. Even H. L. Mencken praised it as one of the few cocktails of any merit. 

So trendsetters, join the toolaratti and be the first to annoy your favorite bartender by making him squeeze lemon slices for an authentic sidecar.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays

May 1, 2009

Experiments with alcohol and condiments

maplesyrup.JPGMidnight Sun guest poster ryan97ou has the summers most ... appetizing ... new drink:

When you find yourself sitting at Club Charles (1724 N. Charles St.) late on a Thursday night with a couple friends and the bartender plops down a jar of capers, a large jug of maple syrup, and mustard and proclaims, "Bet you can't make a shot out of one of these," you take that bet.

When life gives you maple syrup you make ... syrup-ade? Well that's what I found myself trying to do last night.

And ya know what? Maybe it was the half bottle of wine or shots of tequila I had prior in the evening, but the resulting concoction wasn't half bad ...

It all started when I walked into the bar and ordered a shot my friends introduced to me many years ago: a TNT. This stands for Tequila-N-Tomato juice, which sounds disgusting, I know. But if you are like me and can no longer take shots of tequila without a serious gag reflex, the TNT is perfect.

You pour a shot of tequila and next to it a shot of tomato juice. Right after you shoot the tequila, drink the tomato juice and voila ... zero tequila taste. It's a dangerous thing.

The (lovely) bartenders had never heard of it and seemed impressed with the disgusting concoction, which was probably why the "condiment challenge" ensued. I decided on maple syrup since it seemed the easiest to deal with (caper juice? even I'm not that dumb), and added it to some espresso vodka and a dash of club soda.

It actually turned into a drink more than a shot. The bartender mixed them up and served them to me and my two friends and the result wasn't half bad: like a sweet espresso. Next time, I would mix up the syrup more because it tended to float down to the bottom, which resulted in an overly espresso-tasting drink. But when you mixed it up, it tasted like a sweet alcoholic espresso.

Lesson learned?  Next time you're sitting at home with a bottle of vodka sans mixers, just open your fridge. You might be surprised how good a ketchup-ini tastes.

(AP photo)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs

What do the Somali pirates drink?

piratetime.jpgAnd now, dear readers, Owl Meat wonders just what's in the gullets of those Somali pirates we all know and hate:

Flashback to third grade ... the future promised personal jet packs, moving sidewalks and robot maids. No luck there. 

But even an imaginative tyke like me didn't anticipate ... Future Pirates! And here we are, ankle-deep into a new century and the villains of the moment arrrr ... Somali pirates.

Arrr ... pirates.

In yore-like days, pirates roamed the seas in tricked-out square-riggers fueled by greed, rotten meat and grog.

The British Royal Navy kept these grog-swogglers in check with, as Winston Churchill said apocryphally, "Rum, sodomy and the lash."
What fuels modern Somali pirates with their souped-up dinghies, GPS's and Bat Rope conveyance systems?

Even if their business model is pure 18th-century, surely they don't get their pirate swerve going with grog. We can eliminate Captain Morgan from consideration, since he's got more flair than a Tim Gunn acid trip. People romanticize pirates, for example this Bright Eyes emo tribute. I'll never understand the allure of a fancy lad with poor depth perception.

These pirates dress like Somali donkey racers on a home-made sorghum wine bender.  That can't be it. Something more modern and violent. My theory: Red Bull and tequila.

Judging by their lack of style and talent, I would guess that Cabo Wabo is their tequila of choice (Take that, Sammy Hagar). I think that if I threw back five or six Pirate Bombs, I might get some friends together and hijack a container ship or maybe an ice-cream truck.
If Red Bull and Sammy Hagar tequila are destroying the fabric of maritime commerce, then what are our counter-measures? Some might say that my life is far too influenced by Bill Murray movies. I say we fight pirates Steve Zissou style: Campari (his drink of choice), red watch caps, Speedos and Glocks blazing while The Stooges' "Search and Destroy" blasts from the speakers on deck.
That's right. Campari kills pirates. And in a perfect world, Bill Murray shoots Sammy Hagar and throws him off the poop deck.

Have I gone too far? Maybe, but that's just the righteous sword of Campari talking. Mmm... refreshing.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:00 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays
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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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