Henninger’s Tavern (#45)

5 02 2011

Henninger’s was another one of those bars to which I had trouble convincing people to go.  No one had heard of it, even though the reviews I read suggested that it was a cool spot with pretty good food.  The List describes Henninger’s as “fiercely idiosyncratic,” and I think that’s pretty dead-on.  It’s in Upper Fells Point (whatever that means), and it’s basically a neighborhood bar.  It seemed to be mostly regulars and, by the end of the night, employees/owners/staff.

There is a lot to take in when you walk into Henninger’s- every available wall and surface is covered with kitsch.  But it’s not the same kind of kitsch as Paper Moon Diner, no plastic toys and dolls.  It’s more old-school, vintage, classy kitsch.  If there is such a thing.  My partner in crime on this evening immediately pointed out a picture of Jesus, the Pope, and John F. Kennedy above the bar.  He noticed that even before he noticed the plethora of naked lady pictures all over the walls.  I can’t really do it justice with words, so take a look at these:

Jesus is blocked out by the glare, but you can see the row of naked lady pictures at the top!

Um….  art?

Nurses For Sale and a reading nook?

Oh my!

The women’s bathroom- complete with leopard-print walls.

Henninger’s was cozy and eclectic, and I would definitely stop back in for a drink if I ever happened to be in the neighborhood.  But it was a little slow for a Friday night, and my friend and I decided to venture onward and see if we could make some Bad Decisions…


Natty Boh!

5 02 2011

This week I made the long journey across the pond to Muggsy’s Bar in Federal Hill in an effort to find a critical mass of Maryland fans for the MD/Duke game.  The wound is too fresh for me to talk about the game, but the atmosphere was great.  The owner played the Maryland fight song during the commercial breaks, and gave out free shots to those of us that would sing along with him.  But as the game spiraled into disaster, the highlight of the night became the fact that they tapped the first keg of Natty Boh during the second half!  The official “tapping of the keg” was supposed to happen the next night, at Nacho Mama’s- so, whether it’s true or not, I felt like we were getting the first draft Bohs in the City!

I was super-stoked when I heard that Natty Boh was going to be on tap in Baltimore bars.  Yes, I know that it isn’t even brewed in Maryland, and I know that there are many delicious beers that actually are.  But to me, Natty Boh is more Baltimore than the word “Hon” or The Wire.  The “Natty Boh Guy” is everywhere, despite the fact that he looks exactly like the Pringles guy, but with one less eye.  I don’t usually like mustaches, but I have the hots for Mr. Boh- and I can see him from my bedroom window every night!  I feel like everyone in Baltimore has a story about the first time they saw him wink- I almost got into a car accident driving in circles trying to see him do it again.

I actually enjoy the beer, too.  Seriously.  It’s not that bad.  So it’s cool that it’s on tap, but I realize that I probably won’t switch over.  Because for a huge nerd like me, the best part about Boh is the puzzles under the caps (rebuses, to be exact).  When the bar is too dark (translation = I am too drunk) to solve the puzzles, I hoard the caps in my purse so I can do them the next day.  Nothing says “drinking problem” like finding 4 bottle caps in your purse the next morning.  It is my secret dream that my rebus-solving skills could be translated into some sort of income-generating endeavor.  Does anyone want to pay me to solve beer cap puzzles?  No?

Midtown Yacht Club (#46)

22 01 2011

So, after a long hiatus, I am finally back on the bar circuit.  I have actually been ready to start up again for a few weeks, but I had trouble convincing people to go with me to a place called “Midtown Yacht Club,” no matter how much I insisted that the name was ironic.  And when I walked into the bar and saw at least three different customers drinking Natty Boh in a can, I knew I would feel at home.  The few people I know who were familiar with the Yacht Club, had already told me about the peanut shells on the floor.  Most establishments that used to do the peanut thing have long since stopped, due to the fear of being sued by a felled customer (Important Life Rule: Lawyers Suck the Fun out of Everything).   But Midtown Yacht Club obviously doesn’t care, and that is fantastic.

Midtown Yacht Club is tucked away on a side street in Mt. Vernon, and the Happy Hour crowd was a diverse mix of chill people who probably all work close by.  If this bar was walking distance from anywhere I worked, it would certainly be in my heavy rotation.  I met a couple of regulars, including a woman who arrived there by segway (oh, how I wanted to ask her to take it for a spin).  I ordered a Loose Cannon draft, before realizing that it was $6.00, and immediately wished I had just ordered a can of Boh.  (Another Important Life Rule: Order what the Regulars Order- They Know Something You Don’t).  I later switched to Woodchuck Cider, which they have on draft (with a cute little apple for the tap handle).

The best way to describe the experience was comfortable.  The bar food was decent, the service was pleasant, the music was never too loud.  We even got a bell ring for our tip, which I love.  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that the Yacht Club wasn’t filled with collar-popping dudes named Blake in boat shoes, but instead was a little hidden Baltimore treasure.  I read in The List that the name wasn’t always ironic, and I am now very curious as to the history of the place.  Either way, I just read that they have a meat-lovers Sunday brunch, so I will definitely be back.

Next up: Henninger’s in Upper Fells, described by the Baltimore Sun as “fiercely idiosyncratic.”  Can’t wait.

#47- Holy Frijoles

22 01 2011

Wayyy back in the first weekend of November, I visited bar #47, a Mexican restaurant and bar in Hampden called Holy Frijoles.  We went up early to check out “First Fridays” in Hampden, an event for which many of the stores on The Avenue stay open later and provide free food, alcohol and music.  I pretty much detest shopping, but I must admit that adding food, booze and a DJ definitely increases the appeal.  We developed a buzz at Doubledutch, and thoroughly enjoyed the free guacamole and weird tequila-beer drink they were serving at Red Tree.

Finally we headed over to Holy Frijoles.  I have actually been here before, and it was pretty much as I remembered- delicious cucumber margaritas, decent food and mediocre hipper-than-thou service.  And just when I was thinking the night would be devoid of any memorable story whatsoever, I ran into our tour guide from the Joe Squared trip, who promptly accused me of stalking him (possible).  We hung out with him and his friends for a bit, while Holy Frijoles slowly cleared out (a sure sign that it leans the way of restaurant over bar).

It would have been fun to sing karaoke at Cafe Hon next door, but we were pretty much ready to get back to the neighborhood bars that we know and love.  Yes, this blog is about getting outside of my comfort zone and trying new things, but sometimes you really do just want to go where everybody knows your name…  and where home is walking (stumbling) distance.

Halloweekend Hiatus

2 11 2010

I realized today that while I have been busily drumming up readers for this blog, I haven’t actually written anything in a week.  Shameful.  Due to the confluence of UMD’s homecoming, Halloween festivities and a pretty nasty cold, I am relatively certain that I haven’t been to any bars on The List over the past week (although Sunday is a little fuzzy, to be honest).  But who wants to visit a new bar on Halloween weekend anyway?  Don’t get me wrong, Halloween is one of my absolute favorite holidays, but it’s also one of those holidays that brings out the amateurs.  You know, those people who don’t go out to bars except on St. Patty’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Halloween and the night before Thanksgiving.  No, thank you.  I prefer talking to regulars, and they are usually smart enough to take cover on amateur nights.  Of course, I still went out- I just tried to avoid the places that would be absolute mayhem, like Fells Point on Saturday night.

Starting at 9am on Saturday, we had a “fancy” themed tailgate for UMD’s drubbing of Wake Forest.  Yes, those are cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.  When we pick a theme, we commit.

In the evening some friends and I went on a bar crawl in Locust Point.  It was definitely the right decision- the streets were just empty enough for a constant dodgeball battle while walking between bars, but not so empty that we didn’t find random parties to crash and firepits to dance around.

My Sunday Funday started with football & shots at the local spot, and somehow ended in Fells Point with a yellow Teletubby.  Fells was definitely much busier than an average Sunday night- but not completely out of control.  Just good costumes, police on horses and people-watching.  My favorite.

Oh, wait, actually our evening ended back at the local bar, with the Teletubby doing the worm- apparently it is easier with a pillow as part of your costume.

Next up, #47, Holy Frijoles in Hampden.

Joe Squared (#48)

27 10 2010

When I saw that Joe Squared (voted “Baltimore’s Best Pizza”) was on The List, I figured that it would be another “Is it a bar or is it a restaurant?” discussion.  But that was before I saw on their website that they have a Tuesday night Funk-Soul-Break Dance Party.  Yes, they have free live music every single night of the week.  But they have break dancing on Tuesdays.  I am sold.

We got there around 9:15 so we could eat some of the famous pizza before the DJ went on at 10.  The bar was pretty full, so we sat at a table with a good view of the dance floor, and ate some delicious pizza.  The DJ started playing right at 10, so we waited for the dance party to begin.  And we waited.  And then we waited some more.  This was our view:

But as the lights gradually grew dimmer, I saw people lurking around the edges of the dance floor, nodding their heads to the beat, slowly starting to get into it.  Then I noticed the giant orange Gatorade cooler in the corner, set up to provide water to thirsty dancers (you can see it on the left side of the picture above).   People didn’t come here to mess around.  They came here to dance.  And dance they did.

Right around 10:45, the dance party pretty much exploded.  A very eclectic crowd made for some interesting dance partners.  An older couple did a little two-step.  One woman commanded a large area of the dance floor because her modern dance moves included a lot of wide arm movements and high kicks.  And oh yes, there was break dancing.  It took me back to my elementary school days, watching my classmates dance at recess on flattened cardboard boxes.  There was popping.  There was locking.  It was fantastic.

But of course our adventure didn’t end there.  It didn’t take long for me to start chatting up a regular, who, as it turns out, is a member of a “hackerspace” located across the street, called Baltimore Node.  I couldn’t even begin to describe what that means, but please click on the link if you are curious.

My new friend took us over for a tour of the place, including the adjacent art gallery, Load of Fun, AND the roof.  Behind the building is an alley covered in graffiti, the only place in Baltimore where graffiti artists can legally do their thing.  It was amazing in the dark, but I will definitely go back to check it out in the daytime.  This is the view from the fire escape above:

And here is the view of the lovely motel next door, rumored (by our friendly tour guide) to be the scene of a murder in an episode of The Wire:

As we walked back to our car at 1:30am, our tour guide headed back over to Joe Squared, where the dance party was still going strong.

Tuesday nights in my world are usually a little slow.  Half of the local bars are closed on Tuesday.  Most people are at home recovering from the weekend’s debauchery that spilled into Monday Night Football.  I sensed more excitement from my friends about an impending episode of Glee than about going out and hitting the town.  But if the rhythm ever does get you on a Tuesday, you should really go to Joe Squared and shake your ass.

Randomness Abounds

25 10 2010

I didn’t visit any of The List bars this weekend, but here’s a few pictures of what I did instead.

I started Friday with wayyy too many shots at Johnny Rad’s, the new skater-themed bar and pizza place on Eastern Avenue.

I like this place- the staff is really nice and the crowd is pretty chill.  Plus, they have chalkboards on every surface in the bathroom AND a clever sign out front:

Saturday included an 80s-themed Halloween party, complete with a guy dressed as a pants-less Tom Cruise from Risky Business.  I decided to post this nice picture of jelly bracelets instead.  You’re welcome.

And then Sunday Funday happened.  I will spare you all of the blurry details that I can remember, but the highlight had to be singing karaoke at Walt’s Inn.  There we were, with all the other stumbling idiots leftover from a football Sunday, wearing jerseys, taking jello shots and singing Billy Joel, and in walks…  well, this chick:

…along with a large crew of other people who just didn’t quite blend.  I found out later that they are all on tour with Andrew W.K., the party rocker best known for his one “hit” wonder, “Party Hard.”  The woman in the picture is actually his wife, Cherie Lily, who performs in her own musical genre known as Houserobics.

You can’t make this stuff up, people.  It’s Baltimore.