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February 3, 2010

In defense of Baltimore bars

peter's innHere at Midnight Sun, we spend a lot of time being critical of Baltimore bars. That's why I asked guest columnist Patti to write a post defending Baltimore bars. Take it away, Patti:

About two years ago, I went to the Mt. Royal Tavern. When I returned one Sunday last November, three of the four strangers who had been in the bar during my previous trip were sitting in the same seats (probably drinking the same drink).

Sad? Maybe a little, given that it was before noon on both occasions. But mostly just charming in that odd, slightly disturbing way that Baltimore does so well.

I've lived in Chicago and spent more than my share of 20-dollar bills on quasi-martinis in Manhattan. I've sampled some of the finest artisanal cocktails that San Francisco and Portland Oregon have to offer. I've downed beer from boots in Madison and let les bons temps roulez in New Orleans.

In short, I consider myself something of a bar connoisseur, at least in the continental U.S. And yet, I can state without any equivocation that Baltimore is hands down the best bar town ...

Baltimore doesn’t have the flash and pizazz that make a lot of cities seem like obvious front-runners. But what we've got is genuine and unpretentious.

The bars with great beer don't overcharge, the bars with amazing infusions and inventive cocktail programs don't condescend, and the bars with loud music, cramped dance floors and 20-somethings chain smoking out front don't pretend to be something they're not.

Some people may disagree with me because other towns have more eye candy. But in my experience, the people at those bars are trying too hard, and at the end of the night, probably didn’t have as much fun as we do.

A few nights ago, I stopped by Nevins on Cross Street. Strangers were singing with each other. I joined them. We sounded terrible, and no one cared. To me, that is the essence of the Baltimore bar scene.

We aren't the fanciest or the most innovative. Our dives aren't even the dive-iest (I believe Detroit gets that distinction). But Captain Larry's is like visiting a friend's house, Bad Decisions will make a drink out of bacon and Manwich, and no one does wine selection and prices like the Wine Market. 

Add to that that the top bar in America (Brewer's Art), a plethora of shuffleboard tables, and such gems as Cat's Eye Pub, Peter's Inn, Woodberry Kitchen and Muggsy's. There is no doubt in my mind that Baltimore bars are unrivaled.

(Baltimore Sun photo of Peter's Inn by Kenneth K. Lam)

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


Well said! I hope to see the bacon / Manwich drink in the book soon.

Amen to that mama! 100% agree. I'm obviously biased, but I traveled quite a bit with my former job and the bars I visited didn't have 1/2 the personality and warm feel as Baltimore's.

Yay for an optimistic post and one that hits the nail on the head!

Great job, Patti!!

I don't know if this is a good or bad thing about Baltimore bars (I don't particularly love it, but find it funny), but I was out Saturday night and saw an elementary school teacher, a middle/high school classmate and someone I knew from college in the span of an hour at one bar. Name another city where that can happen, haha.

haha, preaching to the choir. i whole-heartedly agree. then again i'm not exactly objective either.

that said, a recent weekend in NOLA was just as close.

i have a friend who lived here for about 6 months in the early 2000's...he's since been living in Manhattan (and visits NOLA at least once a year) and to this day still swears baltimore's slogan should be "Baltimore: Drunkest city in america"

and i don't think he meant that in a bad way....

I actually hate the Mt. Royal Tavern- the bartenders were SO mean to me the one time I was there I will never go back. But other than that I agree with you completely!

Great post. I agree with just about everything you said ("just about' particularly referring to the mention of Muggsy's instead of Captain Larry's, J Patricks, Idle Hour, or a host of other places that don't have a completely disjointed decor and confused atmosphere).


I agree- I frequent bars in DC, NY, Philly, and Memphis and I never enjoy it as much as the Mt. Royal Tavern where I was a week ago and the guy next to me got held up at gunpoint while taking a smoke. I've sang Temptations tunes drunkingly at Nevin's with political candidates and basicaly live at a few other bars. Beale st., Olde City, SoHo can not compare.

This has to be the most enjoyable post I have ever read here. I often find myself asking the Negative Nancy;s why they hate Baltimore so much, and I never get a straight answer. You were able to grasp word for word what I love about this place. What Baltimore does, it does well.

Thanks! I've been touting the superiority of the Baltimore bar scene for a long time, and have converted some New Yorkers into true believers. Any new places I should give a try?

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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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