Whether you're new to Baltimore or you've been here for a while, it's common knowledge that there are a few dozen bars that everyone talks about. Regardless of which side of town you live, chances are that you know spots all over the city.
The problem is that everyone else knows them, too. In a city of 800,000 (not to mention a metropolitan area of two million), this can be problematic. Here are three, well-kept secrets of great places to grab a drink, meet new people, and, generally, rediscover the reason why they call it Charm City.
3. Nobles (Federal Hill)
Unpretentious, straight-forward, and accessible. It's a renovated row home with classic, Baltimore quirks (see: Narrow) and more wood walling than a ski lodge. Great drink specials (Friday Night = $10 bottomless cups) and ways to get the most out of it (more often than not, there will be multiple, beer pong games happening).
In case you're feeling said drinks, there's a dance floor upstairs that's always in use. You probably won't meet your soul mate for life here, but there's a decent chance you'll meet your soul mate for the night. If you don't want the usual bar fare, across the street is a French-Mexican fusion place (yes, burrito crepes... they're great).
Song that reminds me of this place: "After the Party" by Little Brother
2. Mick O'Shea's (Mt. Vernon-ish)
There are few things more cliche than an Irish bar, but Mick O'Shea's is an original. Offering a solid menu of bar favorites, as well as some unique dishes (try the Grand Marnier Pit Beef). True, the inclusion of a lot of live music (something of an understated, Baltimore quirk, which, given the day and quality, can be awesome) and horrible parking (Mt. Vernon is not car friendly) make for a minor annoyance, but the fun ambiance (what's better than drunk, white people dancing to Flogging Molly?) and drinks (40 different types of whiskey and 10 different taps) more than make up for it.
Plus, they usually have pretty waitresses (that's gotta be a plus, right?). If the night creeps up on you, there's always Never on Sundays up the street for late night food. Unless, of course, it's Sunday. Then you're out of luck.
Song that reminds me of this place: The Flaming Moe's Song from "The Simpsons"
1. Bad Decisions (Fells Point)
While it is hard to call a place that was featured on Food Network a secret, Decisions still flies under-the-radar. The place is clinical. It's as if the science kids from your high school opened up a bar with formulaic precision on their cocktails. Adding to the mythology of the bar is an old book filled with handwritten drinks that are all made to perfection (there's a small staff which ensures the quality doesn't drop off).
In addition to the standards, there are such epic events as a "Beer and Bacon" pairing night as well as "Sake from all over the world," to name a few. Even the Natty Boh taste better there. The quirks don't stop there as the walls feature interesting artwork and there are plenty of board games. Not ideal to watch a game or dance, but you wouldn't be in Fells Point for either one of those (or, at least that part of Fells Point), anyway.
Always a great ratio of guys to girls and nothing is a better icebreaker than "So, which cocktail are you drinking? I just can't decide." As for other food options, Ale Mary's, and its Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, are across the street.
Song that reminds me of this place: "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo