Resplendent readers, marvelous Midnight Sunners, it is with great pride and prejudice that I bring you Midnight Sun's 2010 Best of the Best of the Best Awards.
It's been a good year for the Baltimore bar scene -- a year filled with surprises, big and small. The unexpected was everywhere.
This is the second year for the Best of the Best of the Best Awards (named after a quote from this "Men In Black" scene), and I'm giddy with glee to share them with you.
The baltimoresun.com gurus put together this photo gallery, which gives you a tour of 10 of this year's awards. I've printed the entire list below, along with a bunch of awards that didn't appear anywhere online or in print. It's the Deluxe Edition, if you will.
The awards will be handed out in person at our party at Tiki Barge July 15 around 6:30 p.m. Be there.
Are you ready? Of course you are. Fasten your safety belts, kids. Here we go ...
Best Bar to Write On
Ryleigh's Oyster (pictured, top)
We shot the cover for today's Live! section at the slate-topped oyster bar at Ryleigh's Oyster. The bar leaves sticks of chalk lying out so customers can sketch while they slurp down some tasty shellfish. Rumor has it that people have even proposed by scribbling on the bar top. Aww.
Best place to spend your leftover euros
When the uber-swanky restaurant/lounge Milan opened, it listed menu items in dollars and euros. Though Milan didn’t accept euros at first, after catching some heat from critics, management rejiggered the computer system to take both. So if you're just back from vacation with some spare euros jingling around your pockets, head to Milan.
Where's your other award? Award
Last year, MaGerk's won the Biggest Meathead Magnet award. Since then, I've been to MaGerk's a couple times but haven't seen the award anywhere. What's the deal, MaGerk's? Put it on the wall for all to see, and put this one next to it. Don't hate, celebrate!
Best secret bar
Side room of the Charles Carryout, near 25th and St. Paul St.
If you know about the Atlas Bar, you know about the Atlas Bar. Otherwise, you might never find it. Tucked away in the side room of the Charles Carryout, the Atlas Bar is one of the Baltimore bar scene’s best-kept secrets. The decor is dark, mysterious and fun, and you can sip one of manager Angela Devoti’s inventive cocktails while ordering some spicy Indian food from the carryout. Yum.
Best Dundalk Bar
No other Dundalk bar I've been in compared to Hops Inn. It was one of a kind, and now, after owner John Martin was murdered, Hops may be closed for good. That's a huge loss for Dundalk's nightlife scene. Rest in peace, John.
Jiffy Lube Live, formerly Nissan Pavilion
It seems Live Nation is willing to name its amphitheaters after just about anything, if the money's there. That’s how Nissan Pavilion in Virginia became Jiffy Lube Live. Yuck. Hey, at least it's not 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater at the Florida State Fairgrounds, which actually exists. I'm not kidding. Look it up.
Best tequila bar
A fancy lounge? In a strip mall? In Columbia? Yes, and it’s a hit. Tequila fiends will love Azul 17’s more than 100 different shots of the South of the Border spirits, but the margaritas are fiery, too. If you like a little spice in your sip, order La Raspa, a margarita garnished with a serrano pepper boat.
Craziest bar namesake
Larry Gross of Captain Larry's
All kinds of legends and lore have been spun about this South Baltimore bar. Turns out, the truth was stranger than fiction. "Captain" Larry Gross, a former city cop and private detective, used to shoot holes in the ceiling as part of a game he called Follow the Hole. He also had an alcoholic parrot and pierced people's ears in the bar with poker darts (sterilized in vodka first, of course). Now retired, The Captain is living in West Virginia and thinking about opening a new bar out there. Here's to you, Captain!
Best social-networking hustlers
Few — if any — other Baltimore bars have jumped on the social-networking bandwagon like Bad Decisions. Heck, owner John Reusing is practically steering the thing himself. Anybody who's anybody on the Baltimore Twitter scene follows @bad_decisions. I even had to retire Bad Decisions from my polls on Midnight Sun because it kept trouncing the competition. Reusing's drink lists always boast some wacky new ingredient, and folks compete to be the mayor of Bad Decisions on Foursquare.
Best new bar(ge)
By far the biggest thing to happen to Baltimore’s nightlife scene this summer, Tiki Barge is everything you’d want on a sweltering day: a pool, two bars and shade from half a dozen real palm trees. I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.
"Coolest bar" and other bad puns
Since Minus5 Igloo opened in Power Plant Live's plaza several weeks ago, it's been bad joke central. Since the bar, walls and furniture inside Minus5 are made of ice (and tipsy tourists aren’t the wittiest people out there), it's second nature for folks to say something like, "Oh man, this place is cool. Get it? Har har har." Thanks, Minus5.
Best Marina Bar
Hard Yacht Cafe
Nestled at the end of a curvy county road sits one of my favorite summer spots: the Hard Yacht Cafe. Though it's been around for only a handful of years, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better waterside hangout, especially during the warmer months.
Best bar with more than 100 taps
Because 70-something drafts were just not enough, Max's Taphouse redid its tap system this year, and it now offers a grand total of 102 draft beers. That's more than any other bar in Baltimore by a long shot, and possibly the most of any bar in the region. Cellar master Casey Hard has a knack for obtaining rare brews and knows how to put together a beer tasting.
Most underrated beer list
This Canton eatery gets a lot of love for its tasty grub, but the beer list is just as impressive. The roundup of about 70 selections (eight drafts and the rest bottles) is split into groups such as "Lager-ish," "Trappists" and "Smoke/Rauchbier." More importantly, all the beers are served in the proper glassware. If beer flights are your thing, three six-ounce draft pours is $8.
Swankiest happy hour
B&O American Brasserie
The throwback vibe at B&O American Brasserie’s bar makes having a drink seem more like hobnobbing. Bartenders know their drinks, classic and contemporary, and many of the patrons are dressed to impress. Given the decor, the drinks are more affordable than you might think: Every day, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., select draft beers, wines and champagnes are $3 a glass, and one of the house specialty cocktails is $5. You couldn’t ask for more down-home prices in such an upscale setting.
Best happy hour buffet
Every Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Taco Fiesta lays out a spread of chicken and steak burritos, enchiladas, flautas (which are like taquitos) and salad. Buy two drinks and you get a plate to fill with as much food as you like. And it’s better than the crab-less crab dip you see at most happy hour buffets.
Best infused vodkas
Yes, it might seem odd that a wine bar has the city's best infused vodkas, but any doubts you might have will be swept away with one sip of Vino Rosina's Strawberry Rhubarb Martini ($12). This cocktail is so fresh and aromatic, you don’t even have to lean over to smell it. Vino Rosina lets vodka steep in a big glass vat, along with basil, rhubarb and strawberries. If you're a more traditional martini drinker, go for the olive-infused dirty martini.
Best dance parties
It's certainly no secret that Lithuanian Hall is home to some of the city's best dance nights, but this Pigtown club deserves all the recognition it can get. How many other old ethnic clubs have connected so successfully with people in their 20s and 30s? For years, DJ Pablo Fiasco has been holding Tighten Up! there on the last Friday of every month, and local DJ collective Charm City Summit runs Save Your Soul, a night of '50s and early '60s tunes. Newcomers must pony up $10 for a yearly membership, but after that, cover is only $5, and drinks are cheap. If you love old vinyl and wish dance clubs spun more of it, hit up Lith Hall. You won't be disappointed.
This can be broken out into a box
Best activist journalism
Pub Dog’s Baltimore location used to have the world’s wimpiest hand dryers — little white boxes that let out this pathetic wheeze when you placed your hands under them. They might have had emphysema.
Ever one to champion a just cause, I whined about them on Midnight Sun, which caught the attention of Excel Dryer, the company that makes high-powered hand dryers such as the XLerator.
These hand dryers are powerful enough to blow all the moisture off your hands in seconds. They even push the skin around on your palms.
Excel Dryer offered to send Pub Dog a free XLerator, with a custom-designed cover. After checking to make sure the bar’s power grid could handle the voltage, Pub Dog owner Steve Osmond ordered four for its Baltimore location.
"Oh gracious blogmaster, oh Wizard of the Interwebs, I cannot begin to express my gratitude," Osmond said. Or something like that.
Now, with four brand new XLerators on the way, I've decided to give myself the Best Activist Journalism award. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pat myself on the back with a warm, dry hand.
(All photos by Baltimore Sun staff except the XLerator hand dryer image, courtesy of Excel Dryer)