Review: Parkside Sports Bar in Canton
Canton bars fall into two basic types. There's the O'Donnell Square, sports-centric watering holes (Looney's, JD's Smokehouse, Claddagh's), and there's the low-key neighborhood haunts that exist in semi-obscurity on the streets between O'Donnell and Eastern.
Parkside Sports Bar is a little of both. Located on the corner of Fleet and Milton, Parkside is a sports bar that's off the beaten path, one that's decorated almost entirely with Ravens regalia.
But does it offer anything new to the sports bar concept? Not yet it doesn't. Nor does it feature the kind of charm that a comfy neighborhood bar needs to develop a loyal clientele.
There isn't any food, for starters. While plenty of smaller bars do not have a kitchen (Baltimore Taphouse and Butte's and Betty's come to mind), a sports bar is generally a place to sip cheap brew and enjoy pub grub like nachos and wings. It would seem that Parkside is missing half of the equation.
That leaves only alcohol as their draw, and that they have in large supply. The bar advertises $1.75 PBR drafts and $5.00 pitchers daily, and on Sunday, the special was $12 buckets of domestic bottles. There are also four taps, with Guinness and Shock Top available in draft in case you don't want to spend your entire Sunday drinking the cheap stuff.
Parkside's strongest feature is that it is more spacious than most corner bars. There's plenty of space between the bar top and the tables lining the window, so you don't have to squeeze your gut just to get in the door. A second room in the back offers ping pong, cornhole, and Big Buck Safari.
But the bar's size also highlights its shortcomings. A smaller bar can feel alive or even crowded with a dozen or so patrons, but a place as big as Parkside feels empty with just a few customers. Maybe most of the crowd leaves after the game is over. With fans gone, even the disco ball at the back of the bar looked extra lonely with no one to bask in its glitz.
As the clock ticked down in the Eagles vs. Redskins game, only a few Philly fans sporting Michael Vick jerseys remained. A speaker system blared the broadcast from several flatscreen TVs. The speakers were easily audible from across the street, but inside, ESPN's echo made the place feel unpopulated.
Parkside has some potential to be more than a hangout for ping pong players and PBR drinkers, especially given its size. But to attract a less transient crowd, the owners will probably have to do more to create a neighborhood atmosphere.
A sports bar on the square could get away with a disco ball, loud speakers, and cheap drinks. Neighborhood bars have to do more to cater to a more loyal crowd.
Parkside is at 2501 Fleet Street. They are currently without a Web site.
- Jay Trucker
Jay Trucker is a frequent Midnight Sun contributor. He teaches at Community College of Baltimore County and writes about the Orioles for WNST.net. Occasionally, he wanders the neighborhoods of Canton.
Photo: Erik Maza