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August 4, 2010

The early review: Johnny Rad's

Johnny Rad'sJohnny Rad's, the new pizza pub where Fells Point meets Highlandtown, is the only Baltimore bar I've seen that pays tribute to the skate punk culture of the '80s and '90s.

Given the number of skaters, skate rats, skate punks which grew up then, you'd think there would be more bars like Johnny Rad's, which opened last week.

Done in black and red, Johnny Rad's is a drastic 180 from Kelly's, the dark, old school bar which used to be there. The owners knocked out the old glass blocks in front and installed proper windows and overhauled the interior.

Johnny Rad's honors the skate culture without seeming gimmicky or patronizing. The bar's sign is an appropriation of the Black Flag logo, and street signs and skateboards (sans wheels) hang inside on the walls ...

The beer list is small but mighty. I had a draft Acme IPA, which cost $3.25 at happy hour. There are five drafts, and all of them are good: Victory Prima Pils, Oliver's Blonde Ale, Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat.

There's an old Wurlitzer jukebox in the back, wired to the rest of the overhead sound system. Last night, they were playing Arcade Fire and the Postal Service.

Normally, I don't generalize, but I'd like to think Johnny Rad's would appeal to all the folks who spent time skateboarding in Broadway Square in the '80s and '90s (when you could still do that) and then put roots down in the surrounding community. They're older now, but they're always game for a funky little spot to sit and sip good brews. Johnny Rad's is just that.

(Photo by me)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:11 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


This is a great new addition to the 'hood. I wish them much success.

Did you try the pizza?

"Normally, I don't generalize"

Don't you mean "Generally, I don't generalize"?

I've seen like 4 reviews of this place now that only mention the beer and the decor. Is the pizza that bad? I thought they were supposed to have really good, coal fired autherntic NY style pizza?

Skate rats and beer are a dime a hundred in Baltimore but good pizza is very rare.

@Dalper -- I didn't. I wasn't there long last night, and I had just gorged myself on delicious Chipotle.

Wait, what am I saying? Food is for the weak.

@Devlar -- I'm just the nightlife guy. You'll have to wait for Richard Gorelick or John Lindner or someone else to review the food.

$3.25 is an annoying price for a beer. But I guess if the bartenders don't mind 75 cent tips instead of a dollar, it works out okay for me, though I feel cheap tipping in change. Beers ending in .50 are more annoying though -- fifty cents is too little for a tip and $1.50 seems like too much. So that leaves me with quarters, then getting rid of quarters, then quarters, etc. Please round to the nearest dollar and not get coins involved. My two cents. (D'oh!)

What are their happy hour deals/hours, outside of $3.25 Acme IPAs?

JR's needs a little more 80s skating memorabilia, like some vintage skate deck reproductions:

@Rad -- Stated this in an earlier post, but probably should have tacked it on here, too:

Johnny Rad's is open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. every day. The happy hour, which features $3 drafts and rails, is 5 p.m.-8 p.m. weekdays.

Does a cop come by every hour or so and tell people to move on?

Also, are posers welcomed at this establishment?

And...oh wait...I'm out of skater references.

For those not sure what ACME IPA is, it's an IPA (India Pale Ale) brewed by North Coast Brewing, located in Fort Bragg, CA

Haven't actually had it myself, but most west coast IPAs are pretty damned good.

Looking very forward to checking out this place soon.

@Brad -- The Acme was delicious indeed. Hints of chocolate, strawberries, cheese and ripe bananas. And when I stuck my tongue in it, the bubbles tickled!

Brad, you've never had Acme?
For shame. For shame.

Sam, call me crazy on this one, but did you detect a hint of iced or green tea in the Acme?

And in an amusing bout of "synergy" here, did you lift the spirit of the line "appropriates Black Flag's logo" from me???

Skate punk, pizza, beer.

I just may have to mourn the passing of Derf from Fear there tonight...

@Brad -- Actually, I did notice a bit of a tea-like aftertaste, similar to the one I get after drinking green tea or iced tea. Funny you mention that. It stuck with me on the way out to my car. Weird.

Actually, I didn't lift the bit about appropriating the Black Flag logo from your piece, because I haven't read your piece yet. I'm assuming you used the same phrasing. Sometimes there are only so many ways to write something, I guess. I'll check out your review, and make sure that, for print, I use different verb-age.

Not Brad, Sam, just the commenter on that link!

I kid, because I care.

@Stagger Lee -- Doh! That's what happens when I'm doing five things at once and decide to fire off a quick comment. You might say that, in my previous comment, I appropriated the wrong name. Zink!

A friend pointed out to me that using the bars is like playing with fire - Greg Ginn of SST/Black Flag is one of the most litigious people in punk rock!

Pizza is real good.

I just went to this place. The food, service and margaritas were terrible. I will never go back. Real disappointing for an old punk rock kid.

I just went down and got the A-1 Pizza, it was excellent. Very nice crust, great atmosphere, and an excellent staff.

@FHT, if you're tip depends on the change you get back from your payment, you're cheap. No two ways about it.

Got the El Gato white pizza. Solid. Lots of good beer on draft. Not the cheapest place to have a drink, but damn good. Plus nice atmosphere and staff. Check it out.

We stopped by after a heartbreaking loss in the first round of softball playoffs on Thursday. Cheap Bohs, fantastic service, a delicious burger for me (I was unsure about prosciutto instead of bacon but it was great) and my friends' pizza looked fab although I didn't try it. Decor is great, but my only complaint is the bar stools weren't super comfy. I will definitely be back.

A friend pointed out to me that using the bars is like playing with fire - Greg Ginn of SST/Black Flag is one of the most litigious people in punk rock!

Do you di'int! Oh damn. Copying the Black Flag logo for a place that claims to have a skate punk, uh, aesthetic? That is textbook trademark infringement. Trading on a band's image/name/logo for profit is a slam dunk for a BF lawyer. Bad move to pick a bad with a small but rabid fan base with THAT logo tattooed on them. Or maybe they will take it as a loving homage. You never know.

Yeah, Greg Ginn is as rabid a protector of BF's name and logo as anyone on Earth. Eh, the publicity will be good.

We went Saturday two times to check out the dinner scene as well as the nightlife scene. We had the Pepe pizza (pepperoni, fresh mozz, basil, cracked pepper) and it was delicious, but too small! 11" or 15" seems a bit awkward for sizes. The shots were a little pricey ($5 Jager) compared to other bars in the vicinity. We really enjoyed it and the staff was very nice. It seems quite family-friendly, and there were a lot of kids there around dinner time.

Owl Meat Garvy, I remember thinking the same thing when a business that shall remain nameless used a Raymond Pettibon drawing for one of their products - I asked the proprietor how he managed to get permission and he said "What makes you think I asked?" All I could think was "Jeez, that's Greg Ginn's brother, you could find yourself in court."

Anonymous, I'd be very suspicious of any "old punk rock kid" ordering margaritas.

@BaltimoreGal -- I thought the same thing. Anon, we're pulling your punk rock card.

@Anon/Nicole: Margaritas at a pizza and beer joint? Also complaining all over the Sun and Google is not punk rock.

Ya'll need new Humor Detectors.

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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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