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July 9, 2010

Midnight Sun's 2010 Best of the Best of the Best Awards

midnight sun's best of the best of the best awardsResplendent 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 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!

the atlas barBest secret bar
Atlas 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
Hops Inn
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.

Silliest re-naming
Jiffy Lube Live, formerly Nissan Pavilion
a flight of tequilas at azul 17It 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
Azul 17
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
Bad Decisions
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.

the upper bar at tiki bargeBest new bar(ge)
Tiki Barge
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
Minus5 Igloo
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
Max's Taphouse
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.

jack's bistroMost underrated beer list
Jack's Bistro
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
Taco Fiesta
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.

vino rosina's strawberry rhubarb martiniBest infused vodkas
Vino Rosina
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
Lithuanian Hall
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

the custom cover of pub dog's new XLerator hand dryer, courtesy of  Excel DryerBest activist journalism
Midnight Sun
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)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:45 AM | | Comments (12)


I'm pretty sure magerks award should be named Meat-Jaw Magnet and not Meat-Head Magnet.

I'm so excited for Azul 17! I hold work functions there and I think the female owner is so awesome-- they have done a great job with that place!

Seems like the Milan euro conversation happened such a long time ago.. made me smile to see the outcome.
Ditto on Samatha's comment re: Azul 17, love that place!!
See you all on the 15th, and excited to see the Tiki Barge!

Best infused vodkas should go to Queen at Mothers. I demand a recount!!!

Bad Decisions is by far the best bar in Bmore.

OFTLOG would you please shut up about that hand dryer already

the B&O bar is swell and all, but the amazing food and brilliant ser5vice are no joke either... no i dont work there.

Aaaw Jason, you are sweet. But mine are just ok.
I am dying to get over to Rosino Vino. Now even more reason to go. And sad face- Im going to miss the shindig/situation. I won't get out of work in time. But I am sending my people! Have fun for me!

Lithuanian Hall. Drinks are REAL cheap. Bring cash though. $4 big bottles of Kalnapilis, Utenos, and Svyturys - great imported Lithuanian beers. It's a good place to pregame O's and Ravens games. Just call ahead to see if they are open.

@Drunk Richard -- I won't stop until justice is served, and the voice of the voiceless has been heard.

@TS -- Truth.

@Greg -- See what I mean?

One minor correction - the Lith Hall isn't in Pigtown, it's in the Hollins Market neighborhood.

Try Svyturys beer, i was pleasantly surprised - amazing beer!

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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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