Sipping a bottle o' Bud Light at Cancun Cantina
For a city that straddles the North and South, Baltimore doesn't have much of a country bar scene.
This used to puzzle me -- until I went to Cancun Cantina.
Ever been there? Last night was my first time. Now I see why there aren't many country bars. Why would you need seven or eight smaller country joints when you've got one Cancun Cantina?
As I heard a woman inside say, if you drive by Cancun Cantina and don't notice it, you need glasses. You can spot the radiant glow from the giant neon sign from half a mile away. The sign has the words 'Cancun Cantina' and a huge neon bull skull, horns and all. The bull's eyes glow red. Awesome!
I walked inside, and a hostess at a glass display table asked me for $6. I told her I was just going getting drink -- not participate in the weekly country dance lesson. No deal, she said. Cancun Cantina always charges cover after 7 p.m., no matter what's going on, she told me.
I paid the $6, and kept going.
Cancun Cantina is a sprawling space, split into several sections. There's an outdoor patio, a big dance floor, a couple dining areas and pool rooms.
Last night (a Tuesday, no less), the dance floor was full of folks dancing to country music. ...
A friendly lady was giving lessons. Since I didn't have a partner, I sidled up to the bar. Neither of the bars in the main rooms appeared to have draft beer, so I had to go for a bottle.
What bottle, you ask? Bud Light. As an American in an American country bar, I had to order an American beer. It cost $3, and tasted, um, American.
Country bands come through Cancun Cantina pretty regularly. David Allan Coe (who has a guitar with a Confederate emblem on it) is playing there Feb. 22. My guess is, he'll perform on the elevated wood stage by the dance floor. A black banner hangs behind that stage, emblazoned with Cancun Cantina's logo and streaked with lightening bolts.
In short, David Allan Coe + Confederate guitar + lightening bolts = Awesome!
A game of pool costs $2 at Cancun Cantina. This realization shocked me. I don't know if I've ever seen a Greater Baltimore pool table consume as many as eight quarters at once.
Two gentlemen sat near me at the bar, discussing business. It seemed like they both worked for the same company. At one point, one guy told a sloppy rendition of how the ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu beheaded two company commanders for disobedience, and used this as a metaphor for how their company should handle its business. Awesome!
I left Cancun Cantina with a Bud Light in my belly, and on my way out, spotted a sign above the doorway to the patio: "No strangers, just friends you haven't met." Right on, Cancun Cantina. Right on.
(Photo of a cowboy tying his boots outside Cancun Cantina in 1997 from Sun archives. Sorry I don't have a more recent photo. This was the best I could do on such short notice.)