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January 27, 2010

Sipping a bottle o' Bud Light at Cancun Cantina

a cowboy tightens his boots at cancun cantina, circa 1997For 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.)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:02 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Now that you've sampled the country dance scene, you must sample the swing scene. Equal time is only fair, right?

Biggest night is probably Monday at Club Baltimore (used to be called Little Texas) out on Pulaski Highway. The website has the details.

There's a few smaller dances in town as well, including a two nights a week at the Dickeysville Mill ( and a swing/blues night at the Broom Factory this Saturday night (Broom Factory Blues on Facebook).

There's even a group planning a Lindy exchange and another group planning a weekend-long New Year's Eve blues camp.

It's a young, growing scene, and lots of fun.

I LOVE Cancun Cantina. I haven't been in forever, but it's so fun to go and (try to) country line dance. Most people don't mind if you're terrible, which I absolutely am. Someone said on a previous post that someone should put a country themed bar within city limits... I would absolutely go. Maybe that should be the next incarnation of the huge club on Redwood and Charles.

I got excited. That would be Redwood and CALVERT. sigh.

Budweiser is no longer American... well, not American owned :p

I was last at Cancun Cantina about 9 years ago and saw two people trying to have sex in a hammock outside.

Darnit, Sam... Dearest has been missing Texas, so now i have been condemned to go. Do they still have bullriding?

You guys gotta go on Wednesdays...cant you go wrong with free country dance lessons! I tell you, the girls like a guy who can dance. And country dancing is not that hard.

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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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