It’s a tentative week. We sit on the precipice of an all new format, but first, we have this $10,000 monster looming over our heads.
The Baltimore SCG Open is of course the monster I speak of. And any of you coming here would do well to know your way around. Most parts of Charm City aren’t as bad as “The Wire” or “Homicide” would have you believe, but it’s not exactly difficult to find yourself in those parts of town, so here’s a guide to keep you well-fed with something other than lead slugs (which would most certainly be hollow-point, and full of added danger).
Okay, so The Baltimore Convention Center is located in a fairly nice area, within walking distance of a lot of cool Baltimore sites. I’m assuming you have your sleep accommodations made already, so I won’t cover hotels, this first section will cover attractions within a short-walk or a very-short (and reasonably priced) cab-ride. I’ll list some stuff that’s in the suburbs, but I’ll do that last.
This City is for the Birds
The Con Center is within walking distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. While “dem O’s” certainly had a lackluster first 2/3’s of the season, they are certainly much more intriguing under Buck Showalter. This weekend they play some team called “The Yankees,” which means a helluva crowd, and you’ll be able to yell at (or with) obnoxious New Yorkers who come down for the games. You can literally see one of America’s best ballparks and *choke* best teams for next to nothing. Tix start @ $10. Buy tix to the games here.
Unfortunately, the Ravens don’t have a home game to catch this week, but if Legacy isn’t your thing, you can watch the game at some great local bars (I’ll get to the downtown sports-bars in a bit, and they’ll be noted with an “(SB)” (meaning they are, at least for football and baseball, sports bars).
Check out Pickles Pub (SB) a real Baltimore Institution for pre-gaming before Ravens and Orioles games (especially home games!)
Bars, not just for alcoholics anymore
Baltimore doesn’t have a “club scene,” per se, but there are some really cool bars, depending on your scene.
If you want to dance, I recommend the Federal Hill area. Federal Hill is within walking distance of the Con Center, without tracking you through any rough neighborhoods either. Notable dance-centric establishments are Mad River, Mother’s(SB), Noble’s, MacGerk’s (SB) Ryleigh’s and Ropewalk. The scene is very poppy, with maybe a few too many popped-collars, but it’s a good time and there are plenty of young ladies to co-mingle with. Most of them are in college, so if you don’t have a place to stay, ask them, they’ll probably take you back to their dorm (PROTIP: read between the lines to discover these clubgoers’ moral fortitude). Other cool places to dance include Canton’s (where I live!) Canton Square. The Square is a little older (average age-wise) than Fed Hill, you’re looking at 26-30 yr old Yuppies. Good people, though. For dancing, I’d say specifically Claddagh, Fins, Looney’s Pub (SB), and Coburn’s. A final place to dance downtown, would be Fell’s Point – they’re sorta like Canton Square/Fed Hill, in that there’s a TON of bars in one place, but they’re largely less “dancey”. The scene in Fell’s Point runs the gamut from “Rangy Hobo” to “Snobby with no reason to be.” The places to dance in fells are The Horse, Greene Turtle (SB), Moby’s, and Latin Palace.
The last, and possibly best place to go for a dance is Power Plant Live! Power Plant (the ! is part of the name) is home to the only real “clubs” downtown. If you’ll be in town on Friday, I’d recommend the FREE outdoor show in the plaza – Mr. Greengenes, a pretty unreal talented cover band that brings EVERYONE out. There’s drinks served outdoors via Blue Door Bar, and plenty of talent. Other dancing establishments include Angel’s Rock Bar (a personal fave, they play modern rock, so it’s more of a “jump around and lightly mosh with hot chicks” bar, than a dance club), MEX, Mosaic(this is where the DANCE music is played, not exclusively, but if you like trance, this is prolly the only place you’ll really find it), and Luckie’s [sic]. There’s also Ram’s Head LIVE if your into live music. They’ll feature the Dark Star Orchestra Saturday night.
I should probably not exclude our gay friends, so Mt. Vernon (colloquially called “The Gayborhood”) is home to Grand Central, The Hippo, and The Baltimore Eagle. As I understand it, the Eagle is more for undercover gentlemen of the gay persuasion, but I’ve only ever been to Grand Central, and only to pick up a girl I was dating. I can’t really speak to the quality of these places, but Mt. Vernon is incredibly gay-friendly so you wouldn’t do too bad to just go and walk around (it’s also a pretty nice neighborhood, as if you couldn’t guess).
But I can hang out at bars too, right?
Of course not everyone dances, so for those who just want to hang, or grab some great bar grub, I recommend the following:
- Mother’s for the game, otherwise, Fed Hill is probably not as “chill” as you’re looking for.
- Max’s on Broadway has an unreal selection of Beers on tap, and is a genuinely cool spot.
- RA Sushi has a dance floor, but kinda has an ultra-lounge feel. Good sushi, just not great sushi.
- Kooper’s one of the best burgers you can have, bar none. A cool environment.
- Nacho Mama’s: They have the best wings in town, and they have something called a “hubcap” of margarita. This is literally a 50’s car hubcap with like, a pitcher of pretty great margarita in it. Comes with like 9 straws to share, and is a very reasonable $17ish. Also, pretty much everything on the menu is delicious and the servers are TOP NOTCH.
- Mama’s on the Half shell: This place is a real Baltimore establishment. Great joint if a little pricey, everything is delicious (you MUST try their mac n’ cheese if you eat there). Try a crush, I personally like the John Daly – an alcoholic Arnold Palmer.
- Matthew’s Pizza: unreal good pizza, just off the square.
- Claddagh Pub: the downstairs is a pretty chill spot, and the food here is certainly above average
- Speakeasy: Great burgers, reasonably priced drinks.
- Brewer’s Art – amazing micro-brewery. Decent food too.
Where to eat:
Aside from the bars I just listed, there are some fine places to grab grub in bmore.
Within walking distance, we have Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, and Sullivan’s is also nice for steak. If you really want steak though, we have a Fogo de Chao which is just about the best place ever.
The steak enthusiast is obviously someone who wins the $5K’s , so for those on a little stricter budget, there is Hooters (right on the harbor), Cheesecake Factory, and P.F. Chang’s. We have a Hard Rock Café, a Dick’s Last Resort , and a Hoolihan’s. There are a bunch of little places too, that I’ve not been to that you’ll see while walking around the Inner Harbor.
For those of you with almost no money, there is a McDonald’s within walking distance, and at the Inner Harbor a Chipotle, and a Five Guys. For the uninitiated, Five Guys is a burger joint that is really great, but very “low frills” – almost like a Mid-Atlantic In N Out (I wish!). The fries are also killer.
There are a couple Vegetarian/vegan-friendly places that have been recommended to me, but I enjoy the murder of animals so that I can be sated, so I’ve never tried them. They are:
If you want to travel a little bit outta town, there are a couple good places to eat or hang in Towson and Nottingham. Specifically,
Towson is a college town, home to Towson University. There is a concentration of bars on York Rd. which are near the Roundabout and Towson Mall.
- Bill Bateman’s – Great wings, good bar food, good place to watch the game
- Padonia Station – see Bill Bateman’s
- Rec Room – Decent place to get drinks. Food is “ok.”
- Ryan’s Daughter – great traditional irish food.
- Greene Turtle (Towson) – good bar food, some dancing can be done here too.
- Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar – good sushi, better than Ra.
- Thai One On – really good thai
- Tilted Kilt (SB) – Hooters, but with a fake Scottish deal, @ the Avenue.
- Della Rose’s (SB) - a great place to grab a bite and watch the games @ the Avenue.
- Bombay Nights – Some of THE BEST Indian you can get. I highly recommend um… everything.
- De Santis (SB) – good food, especially the pizza (it’s from Matthew’s). Quaint, but nice.
- Manhattan Grill – good place to hang out, maybe dance.
Seeing the Sights
Downtown has some cool, if not touristy attractions. Aside from the two glorious ballparks, there’s a world of stuff to do, if you’re into snapping pictures and such.
- The Maryland Zoo – it’s a nice zoo, but not in the best neighborhood. Worth a look if you have several hours to kill.
- The Maryland Science Center – a cool place, sort of an interactive museum. A lot of cool stuff to see in here, and right across the way from
- The National Aquarium – a very cool way to kill three or so hours. With a replica rainforest as well as a really awesome Jellyfish exhibit.
- The Edgar Allen Poe House – I have no idea what one does here, but if you’re into it, it’s within a walk (a longish one, but a walk nonetheless).
- The Inner Harbor – home to the Science Center and Aquarium, the harbor boasts a pretty view and a bunch of shops and street performers.
- The American Visionary Art Museum – again, if this is your cup of tea, a cool place to visit.
- The Babe Ruth Museum – he was an Oriole before a Yankee, and he grew up in Baltimore too.
- Geppi’s Entertainment Museum – Also at Camden Yards, a really cool look at the development of American Pop Culture.
I am talking about places to buy and/or play Magic. Those of you coming in Friday, and looking to FNM off-site, could check out the Mega FNM at Games N Stuff, They’ll be giving away a box of Scars of Mirrodin (upon release, yes they’ll ship it if you’re from out of town) as well as a TON of door-prizes. Also, Xanadu Games in arbutus is a fine shop to patronize, they’ll also have FNM (not mega, though the competition here is usually very good) and you could even participate in an ad-hoc fighting game tournament on one of their enormous screens. Both of these places have excellent singles’ selections, dynamic buy-lists, and good trading. Other local stores include Legends in Towson, and Canton Games.
Another place to play FNM, and you might even spot an mtg celebrity is Amazing Spiral in Hamden. It’s not too far from the convention center, and BHJ of YO! MTG Taps! is the host. With the fanbase they have, you never know when someone could show up to kick it in a relaxed tournament environment (run only the way that BHJ could run a tourney)! If you can't make it to their FNM, you should definitely check out their 'cast. It's the best one out there, bar-effing-none.
There are of course, numerous other things to do in Baltimore, but unfortunately many of them involve wearing Kevlar. We are, in case you didn’t know, within a pretty short drive of D.C. so if you wanna see some more notable museums, they’re a day-trip away. You can also feel free to stop me at the tourney and ask what I’ll be doing that evening, or where is good to hang out, and I’ll fill you in.
I look forward to seeing you all there!