« Poe Boys is open | Main | What was your very first favorite song? »

December 10, 2009

Help me pick the best new bars of 2009

the reserve baltimoreLordy, lordy, it's December already, which means it's open season on End-Of-The-Year lists. And since I know how much everybody loves lists, I'm going to whip up a few of 'em.

Let's start with the Best New Bars of 2009. I'd like to pick the Top Five New Bars of 2009, but to do it, I'm going to need your help.

I sifted through the Midnight Sun digital archives (which look something like this), and came up with a bunch of nominees. I'm sure I'm missing some, so let me know which ones aren't on my radar.

It's going to go down like this: You pick one of these bars (or nominate your own, as long as it opened in 2009), and tell me a couple reasons why you think it should make the Top Five. Reasons are important.

As you'll see, some of the nominees are both restaurants and bars. If you can, focus on the drinks and bar scene first and foremost. Food is for the weak.

OK. Ready?

Here are the nominees ...


Canton Arts and Entertainment

Lil' Phil's

The Rowhouse Grille

The Reserve (pictured)

Suite 18


Green Cilantro

The Hill


J.A. Murphy's


The Velvet Rope



Blue Hill Tavern


Azul 17


(Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Follow Midnight Sun on Facebook and Twitter @midnightsunblog
Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:33 PM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Did Hamilton Tavern open in '09? If so, that's tops on my list. Reasons why:
- Best burger in town
- Brewer's Art beers on tap
- It's not in Federal Hill or Canton

what about turps?


Thanks for remembering that one, Ryan. I added it to the list.

JA Murphys (great happy hour, as well as their pork bbq loaded fries)
The Reserve
definitely NOT Canton A&E, no one is ever in there and I still dont even quite the conecpt

JA murphy's, can't beat 1$ shot's for happiness hour, and good bar food too,plus the owners and the bartenders are top notch people.

i would have to say turps (shocker) not because it's anything mind-blowingly new, but considering it's kind of is.

everyone scoffed at putting a sports bar in Mt. Vernon, but that place is packed every time i go in on weekends, and on weeknights it's got a pretty good crowd.

the beer is cheep, the food is good bar food, and the staff is always trying to make everyone feel welcome.

so for the fact they took a chance and it filled a market that was obviously lacking....i give it to turps.

that, and i haven't been to many of the other places more than once.

The Reserve:
- for extending the Light St. bar scene.
- because the decor is very cool and contemporary.
- because it's in my 'hood.
- for serving way more than standard bar fare.
- for having an awesome stone wall that the taps come out of.
- for having an awesome array of flavored vodkas, because I'm a vodka tonic gal.

If mist makes this list, i'm moving out of Baltimore. I wouldn't be able to show my face again. worst attempt at club yet for this city.
Blue Hill is'll be interesting to see how a lot of these do through a rough winter. I like the reserve but horrendous service.

TURPS! WOOT!!!!!!!!

If you meet the guy you'll know why !

how about Diablita?

slim pickings in general, though. i guess i'd have to go with Blue Hill

I have been living in Baltimore for 2 years and Turp's is by far the best bang for your buck I have found. It also has very friendly service and everyone I have met has been very good people.

On another note, a good bit of the beauties working are Steelers fans. Steelers fans who have to serve Ravens fans? Gotta love it!

Looney's pub South in Maple Lawn? Always packed, great food & drinks..90 hdtvs..And awesome Live Music..

Turps it is! Hands down!

My vote is for Azul 17.

Hands down the best margarita/ Tequila list anywhere, and having sampled some, the drinks are awesome ~ unique, refreshing, artful, and yummy.

from an aesthetic point of view too, the place is striking in a cool way.

i only wish they were downtown somewhere.. maybe it's time to envision an Azul 17 2nd location.......

Thanks for asking us too, Sam

Banners - Because service is great, the fellow patrons are friendly and the drinks are a great bargain..just a great atmosphere to be around

The Reserve - nice stone wall with taps coming out, and they had live music there which makes for a fun evening

J.A. Murphy's for sure! The owners are very cool, always nice, & they welcome patrons of all ages, whether you're there every Friday or haven't been in months! Also, the food is great and reasonably priced.

Lil Phil's. I like Murphy's food, but not a big fan of the crowd that seems to always be in there when i am.

B&O American Brasserie would be a must for this award!! Stylish bar set in a historic building with a gourmet restautant and 4 star Hotel!! How could you go wrong?
It hosts a Vibrant Happy Hour loved by locals, offering the best deals in town; coupled with Brendon Dorr mixing fantastic drinks!!! Sounds like a home run to me!!!
Thats my two cents!


Many of these new bars are fine and dandy, but I have found myself at Turp's more than any of the others. Murphy's is a pretty great close second though.

I'll throw my vote in for Banner's. Super friendly staff, and the cheapest beers around. Plus they've got great new TVs, and the food (before the kitchen fire) was surprisingly good too (as well as cheap, sometimes even free). FMEB

Bad Decisions! Although it's not "new" per-say, the atmosphere is chiiled out, it's a great place to just hang with friends and has great drink prices!

I'm a fan of Clutch.

DEFINITELY B&O BRASSERIE!!! Best thing to happen to Downtown Baltimore in a long time!

I'll be at The Reserve this Saturday for a bar crawl and I can't wait to see what it is like. I hear good things but can't vote for it on the list yet. Same goes for Blue Hill Tavern (I'm going to dinner there this week).

Green Cilantro is a nice little bar but I don't feel like it really does anything to set itself apart from the other Fells Point bars.

J.A. Murphy's- Fun bar and it does have a good happy hour. Granted, the dollar shots are small but they have other good drink specials during the happiness hour. And the bartenders are nice.

Clutch is a great improvement over Tiburzi's. Good food for sure and they always run drink specials.

Hideaways- Wasn't this the third bar on the Movember crawl? If so, then it should be in the top five. Those girls working the bar made some deceptively strong drinks and those really are my favorite kind.

the rowhouse grille is my new favorite bar...the comfort and staff is why it gets my vote...hopefully the second floor is open sooner than later it looks great

I have to agree with a lot of the folks here and say Turp's hands down. I'm not biased in that Turp has been serving me beer since he was a teenager- being a Mt. Vernonite- I now can stay in the neighborhood, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights. Turp's fills that much needed sports bar void that had us flocking to Locust point, Fed Hill and Fell's Point. Plus the place pretty much caters to a college crowd who can't afford Frank & Nick's or ESPN Zone prices- so you can get good grub and drinks and still afford to keep your lights on. My only grievance is if Turp and staff can keep their big heads out of my viewing path on plays like that Derek Mason catch from yesterday.

Although a reincarnation I would throw Maisy's on the list

JA Murphs all the way..
1. Great happiness hour
2. Good drink slingers
3. Always fun
4. Decent draft choice

Hands down Canton Arts and Entertainment!

It is spacious and well advertised from the outside. The concept is clear and provides a variety of atmospheres and themes to choose from. You don't have to wrestle your way to the bar in order to get a drink and the food is amazing!

...just kidding

Oh and if you're gonna put "Hummers" you gotta put "Nadd's" LOL

The Rowhouse Grille -

Great service, atmosphere, creative menu.

My vote goes to the Rowhouse. The woodwork is amazing the staff is very friendly and they also have a very diverse and moderately priced wine selection. I'm excited for the second floor to open and the live entertainment that they will have...hopefully soon!

B&O American Brasserie is clearly the best bar, lead by the best bartender, Brendan Dorr and his awesome team. No one does cocktails like them. That is my vote for best bar and bartender. Other great spots for me include Woodberry Kitchen, awesome cocktails by Corey and Greg. Brewers Art is always a town favorite. What about Max's, that's quite a beer selection? Good luck in choosing.

Turp's. Good food, beer, and prices

The Rowhouse Grille has definitely been an excellent addition to the Federal Hill area. Fun and friendly staff, great drink specials, tasty food, and they play good tunes!! There's been a decent crowd every time I've gone, but it's never been too annoying to enjoy myself. Can't wait for the upstairs to open!

Sam- I heard the Green Cilantro is actually closing and being opened up as a new bar (The Drop Inn). You hear anything about that?

Hold that thought. I think my friend was making a joke about that name.

Hands down B&O American Brassiere for best new bar:

-seasonal cocktail list with the classics and new trends- where else do you see a beer cocktail on the menu in Baltimore?
-head bartender Brendan Dorr has competed in international cocktail competitions. Knows his beers and wines just as well as he knows his cocktails.
-$3 glass of wine happy hour special . . . DAILY
- big comfy chairs that feel like your living room furniture
-foxy cocktail waitresses
-Hoegaarden on tap. Word.

Yeah, so Green Cilantro is closing and the building owner is taking over the bar. And they are renaming it the Drop Inn. Allegedly. Another bar bites the dust.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "i" in the field below:
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.

Most Recent Comments
Recent tweets
Sign up for FREE nightlife alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Photo galleries
Stay connected