This being our hundredth anniversary and all (had you heard?), we’ve been reflecting quite a bit on this magazine and the kinds of stories our readers turn to over and over again. For the past 32 years, every summer, we’ve presented the very popular Best of Baltimore issue. Believe it or not, for a little while there, we actually included the worst of Baltimore, too, but that never stuck, and we think we know why. You see, the Best of Baltimore is all about having the people, places, and services that you already love get a little love from us. (Admit it, you take a certain pride in seeing your favorite breakfast joint make our list.) And, perhaps more importantly, it’s about the places you don’t know getting love, too. Because Baltimore is a city filled with hidden gems: a bar that takes its cues from Houdini; a tiny joint in Waverly that serves up authentic Trinidadian cuisine; an eco-friendly shopping center. We think our Best of Baltimore issue has endured all these years because it opens the doors to new possibilities, to new "old friends." And we’re just getting started.
breakfast The only two things we used to grumble about at Miss Shirley’s, 513 W. Cold Spring Lane, 410-889-5272, were that we could never get a seat and we couldn’t have a mimosa with our mini-waffles, left. But now that this Roland Park spot has moved into a bigger space and acquired a liquor license, we’re free to stuff our faces with all the excellent mascarpone-laced grits, fluffy omelets, and mile-high French toast we want—without having to pause for a single grumble.
burrito Generally, we’re all about giving the local kids credit and avoiding the chains, but darn it, we’ve tried every burrito joint in town and Chipotle, multiple locations including 3201 St. Paul Street, 410-662-1701, is our favorite. For what it’s worth, they’re a good chain, the kind that uses organic beans and naturally raised meats. And those gigantic burritos, filled with lime-cilantro-laden rice and fresh guacamole, are awfully delicious.
cake We always like to have at least one birthday reveler on hand when we dine out at Brasserie Tatin, 105 W. 39th Street, 443-278-9110. Why? It’s an excuse to eat the restaurant’s divine Marjolaine Le Bec Fin. Made by Tatin owner/pastry chef Gerard Billebaut, it’s three decadent layers of almond joconde cake set off by hazelnut meringue, chocolate mousse, and hazelnut buttercream, all glazed with a rich dark ganache. Do half birthdays count, too?
caramels When you bite into a caramel from Mouth Party, mouthpartycaramel.com, you can feel good in two ways. For one thing, you’ll know that founder B.G. Purcell is donating a portion of her profits to cancer research. For another, these soft, buttery morsels taste like caramel should, but so rarely does—like creamy, mouth-coating bliss. The secret? A recipe from B.G.’s stepmother that’s been in the family for four generations. The caramels are available at many local coffeeshops, as well as at a few local groceries.
cheese The local cheese-making community is just starting to develop, with sometimes iffy results, but we’re already fans of the cave-aged cheddar from Broom’s Bloom Dairy, at area farmer’s markets and at 1700 S. Fountain Green Road, Bel Air, 410-399-2697. Pungent and dense, with a thick, almost ashy rind, this tastes nothing like the cheddar you’re used to. Add it to mushrooms for a distinctly grownup omelet, or serve it on your next cheese board full of fancy imports, so you can enjoy your guests’ surprise when you tell them where it came from.
cold remedy According to every Earth Mother we know, both ginger and garlic are good for fighting a cold. And the beef dumpling soup, right, at Nak Won, 12 W. 20th Street, 410-244-5501, is chock full of both. The mild broth is soothing on a sore throat, and a quart of it is filling enough to see you through a couple of days of lying on the couch with a box of tissues. It almost (almost!) makes us look forward to getting sick.
crab soup There are few categories more daunting to us than Best Crab Soup. After all, almost every restaurant serves it up and everyone has an opinion about where it’s best. But put it to ya this way: Go to Mama’s on the Half Shell, 2901 O’Donnell Street, 410-276-3160, and order up a bowl of their soup—laden with an almost obscene amount of crab meat (there’s usually a crab leg sticking out, too, just for good measure) and chunky vegetables swimming in a tangy and addictive red broth—and tell us its not at least among the best you’ve ever tried. We dare you.
customer service Sure, the greeters at Eddie’s of Roland Park, two locations including 5113 Roland Avenue, 410-323-3656, already signal that you’re in a store where customers matter. But it’s the behind-the-scenes acts of courtesy that make Eddie’s stand out. Take this story: One recent Thanksgiving eve, a friend picked up her turkey and sides from Eddie’s only to discover they’d given her a fried, instead of baked, bird. She called the store just as they were closing, and two hours later, someone was at her door to give her the proper turkey (plus a little extra for her trouble). He even refused to take a tip for the service. As our friend puts it, “That’s how you get a customer for life.”
deli Five years after Seymour Attman passed away, Attman’s Delicatessen, 1019 E. Lombard Street, 410-563-2666, is still going strong. We’d worried that his son Marc would fancy up the place, or let the quality slide—or, worst of all, shut the 90-plus-year-old institution down. Instead, Attman’s still cranks out the basics: thinly sliced corned beef on rye, gigantic home-cured pickles, even (be still, our nostalgic hearts) coddies. And we’re happy to see the place still packed at lunchtime. Seymour, we raise a cream soda in salute to your legacy!
doughnut Ocean City institution The Fractured Prune, multiple locations including 8705 Harford Road, 410-661-9999, has begun franchising, and we’re delighted to be able to indulge in the sweet, made-to-order beauties without having to make a trip “downyoshun.” Go crazy and get your doughnuts glazed with blueberry and topped with mini chocolate chips; personally, we’re fans of a plain one, hot from the fryer.
espresso The formula: 18 grams of coffee, 1 ounce of water, 20 seconds. Not rocket science, but certainly the right recipe for the rocket fuel that is a fine serving of ristretto espresso at Artifact Coffee, 2010 Clipper Park Road, 410-464-8000, Spike and Amy Gjerde’s and Nelson Carey’s shrine to caffeine. Featuring organically grown, fair trade beans from around the world, Artifact keeps it pure with just a few variations—none of which involve a load of syrups, or large plastic domes. In fact, don’t ask for an espresso to go—they simply won’t do it. Just knock it back, steamily fresh, and take it away in your tummy.
foodie funland It’s been great to watch Mill Valley Garden Center, 2800 Sisson Street, 410-889-6842, develop over the past year, left. From a gardening shop with just a few dairy and produce items available, the store has grown into a hub of the local-foods movement, with popular weekend dinners and breakfasts and a full range of glass-bottle milk and locally roasted coffee for sale.
French fries After 10 years of eating them, we still haven’t tired of the fries at The Brewer’s Art, 1106 N. Charles Street, 410-547-6925. Tossed liberally with rosemary and garlic, and served with a tub of mayo (don’t blemish them with ketchup!), these golden-fried beauties are the perfect accompaniment to this elegant brewpub’s Belgian-style beers.
import We’ve been going to the Lebanese Tavernas in the Washington, D.C. area for years, and wishing the Arlington-based chain would expand into Baltimore. And with its new Harbor East location, 719 S. President Street, 410-244-5533, our wish has been granted. Now we can enjoy all the crispy falafel, smooth and pungent hummus, and luscious grilled meats we want, all in the comfort of our own city limits.
kid-friendly gourmet Does dinner out with the kids always have to be about sacrificing good-tasting food for game tokens? Not at b, 1501 Bolton Street, 410-383-8600, where adults can dine on sophisticated, reasonably priced Mediterranean fare and kids can be, well, kids. The secret? No balloons or door prizes, just an atmosphere where it’s clear that children are not only tolerated but welcome. The kids’ menu is simple but good, perfect for nurturing the next generation of foodies. Hence, this Bolton Hill bistro is almost always jumping with a comfortable mix of singles, couples, and plenty of families, all enjoying the pleasant neighborhood atmosphere.
lemonade Earth’s Essences, Belvedere Square Market, 529 E. Belvedere Avenue, 410-464-2364, bills its lemonade as the “world’s best.” We can’t vouch for that, but the refreshing concoction—sweetened with grapes and apples instead of refined sugar—is certainly the best we’ve tasted in town. You don’t miss the sugar, thanks to the natural sweetness of the fruit, and you can pat yourself on the back for having a whole fruit salad in your glass!
meatball sub Friendly Italian deli Il Scalino, 313 S. High Street, 410-547-7900, may be tiny, and it may be located in LittleItaly, but its meatball sub is huge, stuffed full of the most tender, flavorful polpette you’re ever likely to find. Add in the zingy sauce and gooey melted cheese, and we’re in a distinctly non-Buddhist nirvana.
new restaurant Its mission alone predisposed us to admire Dogwood Deli, 911 W. 36th Street, 410-889-0952, a street-level gourmet takeout on Hampden’s Avenue with a full-fledged restaurant downstairs. Their pledge: to use locally produced ingredients whenever possible, to use environmentally sound practices, and to treat both customers and employees with respect and care. Once we’d tried Dogwood’s compact but knockout seasonal menu, however, our admiration turned to all-out devotion.
pasta Every time we visit Trattoria Alberto, 1660 Crain Highway, Glen Burnie, 410-761-0922, we can only think of one thing: Will the restaurant have its superlative gnocchi on the specials list that night? If so, we sign ourselves up for a plate immediately. No matter what the sauce or other accompaniments, those tiny potato pastas are always light, tender morsels of culinary mastery that practically melt on our tongues. If you’ve thought of gnocchi as gummy and heavy, it’s time for you to pay a visit to Alberto’s—and pray, like we do, that those babies are on the specials list.
playful cuisine A sense of humor comes in handy in the brutal restaurant business, but it’s even better when that penchant for fun is paired with great chops in the kitchen. Ted Stelzenmuller, chef/owner of Jack’s Bistro, 3123 Elliott Street, 410-878-6542, has both in spades. You’ll never know how much you were hankering for a macaroni and cheese dabbed with melting Belgian chocolate until you’ve tasted his. Likewise, how can you not adore any place that has the cojones to pair tuna salad with Jell-O vinaigrette (raspberry-pomegranate and lemon-confit Jell-O on ahi tuna, that is)? The wackiness works, but timid diners, never fear: Stelzenmuller does the tame stuff (burgers, fries, crabcakes) just right, too.
pre-party stop Rushing to a potluck, but don’t have time to make anything? You’ll still be the hit of the party after a quick trip to Neopol Savory Smokery, Belvedere Square Market, 518 E. Belvedere Avenue, 410-433-7700. Pick up a rustic-looking cheese pie filled with smoked salmon and roasted vegetables, or a simple herbed goat-cheese spread, or their intriguing smoked hummus, or any of their delicious smoked meats or seafood. In need of a hostess gift? Their smoked sea salts, specialty condiments, and jars of honey all fit the bill.
private rooms It’s hard to imagine a more lovely setting than Louisiana Restaurant, 1708 Aliceanna Street, 410-327-2610, with its rococo moldings and gilded grace, left. But we’re particularly enamored of the back room, reserved for private parties. With its grand piano and sweeping staircase, it’s just the place for a big event. There are also lovely, smaller rooms upstairs.
revival When Sotto Sopra owner Riccardo Bosio bought the popular Locust Point trattoria Pazza Luna, 1401 E. Clement Street, 410-962-1212, he resuscitated this recently shuttered local favorite with the kind of smarts and style you’d expect from a successful restaurateur. A sleek rehab and a lower price point signal that Pazza is the perfect spot for casual but sophisticated dining. Even smarter: He appointed Bergamo native Gianfranco Fracassetti as executive chef, a move that places authentic, regional Italian cuisine front and center. You may no longer hear Sinatra nonstop, but you’re sure to get a killer plate of homemade casoncelli, below, the signature pasta of Bergamo. Bravo to fresh starts.
roti Every culture has their version of the burrito. In Caribbean culture, it’s the stuffed roti, and they’re serving up a mean one at Waverly’s Trinidad Gourmet, 418 E. 31 Street, 410-243-0072. The homemade, pita-style bread is stuffed with veggies and meat (like pulled chicken and curried goat). The vegetarian one is a work of art—small pockets of potatoes and chicken, peas, string bean stew, spinach, and pumpkin mash, all folded into the chewy roti. Not exactly portable, but Caribbean comfort food extraordinaire.
sour beef and dumplings You can’t please all of the people all of the time. That’s certainly the case when it comes to picking the best sauerbraten in town. Heck, it started a minor quarrel within our own office—some folks like ginger and a little sweetness, some don’t. We’re going with Dimitri’s International Grille, 2205 Frederick Road, Catonsville, 410-747-1927, because their version reminded us most of the way our grandmother used to make it: sweet without being cloying, tangy without making you pucker, and the dumplings are moist, fluffy clouds of comforting warmth.
teriyaki Yaki is Japanese for “cooked until crispy,” but you wouldn’t know it at most Japanese restaurants around here, where teriyaki tends to be bland, flaccid meat or fish coated in a thick, too-sweet sauce. But at the newly opened carryout Soho Eatery, 1504 Light Street, 410-685-2989, your teriyaki will be properly charred and salty; additional sauce is available on the side, where it belongs, instead of turning your entrée into soup.
vegetable Brussels sprouts have long been the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables. Not so at Hampden’s new hipster haven Rocket to Venus, 3360 Chestnut Avenue, 410-235-7887, where the sprouts are not only expertly cooked—roasted in balsamic vinegar and olive oil—but they are actually a popular appetizer. Yes, we said appetizer. People order these things before their meal—on purpose. This could totally disrupt the order of the vegetable kingdom.
way to die happy We admit there is nothing healthy about the Krispy Kreme bread pudding at Ale Mary’s, 1939 Fleet Street, 410-276-2044. Loaded with sugar and topped with cream of both the whipped and iced varieties, it’s roughly the size of Wyoming and probably more calories than you need in a week. But you only live once, friends—and if you haven’t tasted this gloriously over-the-top dessert, right, you haven’t really lived at all.
wine bar Mitchell Pressman possesses one of the best palates in the area, and populates his wine bar/shop Chesapeake Wine Company, 2400 Boston Street #112, 410-522-4556, with a potent collection of delectables from around the world. It’s a remarkably balanced collection—lots of styles, lots of price points, lots of countries, and all available for consumption with Chesapeake’s light fare menu. There’s monthly live jazz and frequent educational tasting events. Pressman himself is a friendly, approachable source for all manner of beverage-related wit, wisdom, and snob-free guidance.
wings You can keep your hot sauce and bleu cheese—Buffalo wings are so passé. We like the special order Old Bay wings at Michael’s Cafe, 2119 York Road, Timonium, 410-252-2022. Elegant in their simplicity, there’s no breading or drippy, messy sauces. They’re just nicely crisped, meaty wings with a liberal dusting of Old Bay seasoning. We’re calling them “Bawlmer wings.” Catchy, huh?
a.m. talk radio host Yes, we’re biased: we’re frequently guests on his show. But conflict or not, we’re giving our vote once again to WBAL-AM’s Dave Durian. We’re not alone—he’s the number one talk radio morning man in Baltimore, and with good reason. He can speak about any subject with authority, he gives us the news like a human being, and he’s been waking us up through summer heat waves and school snow closings for so long that a morning without Dave is like a morning without sunshine.
cinematic final scene Eisner Communications used to be one of the region’s powerhouses of advertising. For 67 years, they created campaigns for local legends and national accounts. But in the end, things went south for the firm, and vendors began to sue for nonpayment of bills. They shuttered in November 2006—but it was in April 2007 that we saw this sad, epic scene (like Rosebud in the fire!) that tells the whole story about the end of one of the city’s great ad shops. Adieu, Eisner.
criminally free publicity It’s no secret that WCBM’s Rush Limbaugh broadcasts are not a big hit within the overwhelmingly Democratic city limits of Baltimore. So it was no surprise when folks heading into the city on southbound I-83 discovered, in May, that someone had thrown paint all over a billboard advertising the conservative talk show host’s program. National media picked up the story, and Limbaugh mentioned it as well.
guilty pleasure radio show For years, we were big Lovelinefans—and we’ve been searching for something to replace the joys of that show’s sexually confused callers with horribly inappropriate questions. LaDawn Black’s The Love Zone on WERQ-FM (92Q) isn’t quite the same, but it’s captivating for a different reason. The tales of men and women done (and doing) wrong—and trying to figure out what to do next—that we get to hear five nights a week are sad, hilarious, and teach us all a lesson, which is that people are crazy. Don’t believe us? Catch a “Freak Factor” segment.
human interest story It’s one of those tales that’s so strange, it has to be true: B-level (well, C-level) movie actor/hunk Gordon Scott takes the Tarzan/Hercules picture genre by storm, then has a wild time in 1960’s Europe making “sword and sandal” pictures with Steve Reeves. Scott falls on hard times later in the century, and one day decides to visit Betty and Roger Thomas, two rabid movie fans in Baltimore. He ends up moving in with them; the three form a tight emotional bond—and Scott passes away two days before the publication of City Paper’s “The Last of the Strongmen,” by staff writer (and one-time Baltimore contributor) Chris Landers.
investigative series If you’ve ever had the misfortune of trying to sort out the ground rent on a property you own, you know the hair-tugging consternation this bizarre, antiquated land ownership issue can cause. Now imagine that certain landlords are using non-payment of ground rent to evict longtime residents of desirable properties. That’s just some of the disturbing activity surrounding real estate ground ownership that The Sun’s three-part ground rent series uncovered. Lead reporters June Arney and Fred Schulte were so thorough that even Annapolis swung into action: the State Assembly finally passed a bill barring the establishment of new ground rents.
morning TV team Why do we linger each dawn on WJZ-TV’s Morning Edition with Don Scott and Marty Bass? It’s not like the show is smooth sailing—it’s more like the kind of show your Uncle Joe would make in his rec room, given enough money and coffee. The hosts aren’t beautiful to look at—heck, Scott’s got a beard, the biggest no-no in TV! But maybe that’s why we watch. The show is just as disorganized and loose (and comfortable being that way) as we are in the morning—eating oatmeal in our underwear, putting the OJ in the kitchen cabinet instead of the fridge, and getting syrup all over our tie. Oh, and happy 25th, Morning Edition!
Orioles blogWe were trying to narrow this one down and realized we really only need three criteria: 1) Must love the O’s, 2) Must be able to write, and 3) Must hate the Yankees. Congratulations, camdenchat.com! Insightful, knowledgeable, passionate, funny, and they called Roger Clemens a “tub of lard and roids.” Oh, camdenchat.com, you had us at “tub of lard and roids.”
photogenic Baltimore website The photo-sharing website Flickr has long been a favorite of more artsy types—which generally means “better photos.” If you want to show an out-of-towner a great mix of wonderful and weird Baltimore, click over to flickr.com/groups/charmcity/pool. At 13,000-plus (and counting) photos, you’ll see images of everything from all-night club kids to sun-drenched Orioles games, and from freaky festivals to stunning shots of Baltimore’s beautiful landmarks.
publicity stunt Call it what you will: shameless limelight grabbing, cunning P.R. maneuver, or legitimate grassroots movement. When WNST-AM’s “Nasty” Nestor Aparicio led a group of an estimated 1,000 white-T-shirt-clad fans out of an Orioles game at Camden Yards on September 21, 2006 as a protest to the continued ownership of the team by Peter Angelos, the national media bit hard for the spectacle. Of Aparicio, Angelos said, “He is a very unimportant person who has delusions of grandeur.” Still, it was the most press Aparicio had gotten in a decade. On the other hand, as of press time, Angelos still owned the O’s. Let’s call it a draw.
Ravens blogIt’s their almost disturbing obsession with every aspect of the Baltimore Ravens (down to the atomic level) that sets ravens24x7.com head and shoulders above the other sites. In addition to the sort of compulsive discussion of team minutiae that we like, they actually provide some journalistic-ish coverage of the city’s other (some would argue “only”) great sports franchise.
reason to cancel your Sun subscription Well, it’s more than one reason: 7,497 of them, actually (we counted). That’s how many words were in Sun reporter John Woestendiek’s interminable seven-part series about his dog’s lineage. Now, we like dogs, we like John Woestendiek, and we even like lineages. But 7,497 words? The paper ran a great piece covering the violence and homicides surrounding the city’s surging gang problem—but that was a relatively paltry 2,975 words. To quote Janeane Garofalo in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, “It’s okay to love your pet, just don’t looooove your pet.”
reason to keep your Sun subscription Planning to go strictly online with your Sun reading? Have you seen your BGE bill lately? We’re sticking with good ole cheap newsprint. As to the idea of switching to the free Examiner—we’ll just say we prefer our newspapers edited by people with a few less firearms (though we’re big fans of the First and Second Amendments).
sports talk radio show As the Orioles stagger through another bitter summer (and adjust to a new manager and head honcho) and the Ravens begin to rev up for another charge at the AFC crown, you’ve got to have a place to vent your bile and express your optimism. And the place where Baltimoreans get together to do that is The Mark Viviano Show on WJFK-AM. Viviano’s (mostly) objective demeanor and reporting is best served with a heaping helping of the gruff, impatient Damon “The Bulldog” Yaffe, who puts the “I” in subjective.
Sun columnist Why are we once again tipping our quills to Dan Rodricks? Because in a city where homicide rates continue to rise, we sometimes feel like Rodricks is the only person who stands up to say something about it. He cares about regular people, and he helps them. He’s better than we are at that, and that makes us want to try that much harder to give our neighbors a chance.
Sun sports columnist Things we will never accuse Mike Preston of doing: Pulling punches. Dancing around the issue. Caring about what the teams he covers think about him. Preston’s particularly caustic criticism of the Ravens makes football season that much sweeter—even when, like last year, Preston (accurately) pointed out weaknesses of the playoff-bound team. When everyone else is hemming and hawing around a problem in a ball club, we count on Preston to speak up and call a disgrace a disgrace.
TV anchor team Now, we’re not giving this award to WBAL-TV’s Marianne Bannister and Rod Daniels because we think Daniels deserves it after watching him good-naturedly limp around the city (post hip surgery)—though it was like watching a mighty sports hero laid low. Nor are we giving it to Bannister because she is, frankly, a darn good person away from the set. No, we’re giving the duo our pick because they are the model mix of consistency, authority, and humanity. Whether it’s good news or bad, these are two people from whom we most want to hear it.
TV news bloodhound We’ve given our investigative TV reporter award to WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller so many times, we’re pretty sure she’s going to start investigating our methodology (not that we have anything to hide!). So this year we give the nod to WBAL’s young turk John Sherman, who in January scored an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award (the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize) for the 2006 story he and photographer/editor Beau Kershaw did called “Dirty Secret.” That multi-award-winning story was about a company that was supposed to be helping clean up the Chesapeake Bay—but which was, in fact, speeding its destruction through the dumping of tainted soil.
TV weatherduo If this is the summer of sequels, then we’re getting extra butter and plopping down for a long viewing of “Best TV Weatherduo II: The Return”—again starring WMAR-TV’s Norm Lewis as “The Vet” and Justin Berk as “The Relatively New Kid.” Lewis has the demeanor, when he’s talking weather, of that one science teacher in high school who also taught shop, so you could trust him, and he made sense when he talked. Berk is the young protégé, new to the streets of Baltimore, with a few 21st-century tricks of his own. Together, they’re gonna tell us if we need umbrellas or shorts tomorrow!
underappreciated TV anchor WMAR-TV’s Terry Owens isn’t just the nicest, most decent human being on Baltimore’s airwaves—he’s one of Charm City’s most charming individuals. When he smiles—which is often—it’s a genuine sign of happiness and interest. But it’s not just an empty gesture: Harris knows about the city’s ills, and knows how the city works (and doesn’t).
up-from-the-ashes story Yes, he’s got a phoenix tattooed on his back. Yes, he’s the former Baltimore City Police Commissioner, and former head of the Maryland State Police, and convicted felon who’s now a successful talk show host. Ed Norris is proof that America—and Baltimore—is the land of second chances. Two years after walking out of federal prison, Norris is a rising radio star whose show on WHFS-FM has developed a solid, loyal following. Maybe, because he got knocked back down to zero, he gained the ability to speak clearly about what’s wrong (and right) with Baltimore: He calls out politicos, criminals, nincompoops, and cops with equal aplomb.
aromatherapy If the soothing scents of eucalyptus and peppermint don’t lure you into SoBotanical, 1130 S. Charles Street, 410-234-0333, Theresa Cangialosi will.The aromatherapy shop’s charming owner is a treasure trove of knowledge about all things olfactory. List off your favorite perfumes and watch in amazement as she rattles off the natural ingredients needed to replicate them with 100 percent organic essential oils. Formerly Life Smells Good, SoBotanical has occupied a number of different storefronts during its over-20-year Baltimore tenure, but one thing remains constant: you’ll feel better when you walk out than when you walked in.
barbershop If it’s a metrosexual extravaganza you crave, you’d best look elsewhere. But if fresh coffee, ample newspapers, jazz, and local art are more your speed, Peter Babones’s Beatnik Barber Shop, 241 W. Read Street, 410-669-3033, is the place for you. Babones’s approach is refreshingly back-to-basics: Come in, relax, get a good haircut, and be done with it. The small storefront space is unassuming, bright (“I don’t understand how you can get a haircut in a place with muted lights,” Babones says), and decidedly low-key. Oh, and no need to make an appointment, either: They only accept walk-ins.
blowout Let’s call it the post-salon blues: You come home from the salon looking fabulous, only to find that you can’t recreate your stylist’s handiwork. Blowdry Bootcamp to the rescue! Four times a year, Studio 921 Salon & Day Spa, 921 E. Fort Avenue, 410-783-7727, fills with women eager to create that fresh-from-the-salon feeling. For a nominal fee, Studio 921’s talented stylists teach us regular folk how to section off, part, and generally spice up our homebound hair.
body products Willing to travel halfway around the world for a bottle of great face cream? Perhaps it’s time to visit bluemercury, 200 E. Pratt Street, 410-576-9090, Baltimore’s newest one-stop-shop for just about any high-end, hard-to-find body and/or hair product. From Bumble & Bumble to Kiehl’s, the Harborplace shop will leave you slack-jawed at its seemingly endless array of beauty potions and lotions. The place is not a museum, either—sniff and touch all you’d like. And don’t forget to ask for free samples.
body treatments If your body could talk, its first words might very well be “blue grotto.” The unique whole-body treatment—found only at The Pearl Modern Spa & Boutique, 8171 Maple Lawn Boulevard, Suite 100, Fulton, 301-776-6948—is a head-to-toe high-tech indulgence. The Maple Lawn spa is also home to a cornucopia of exotic body treatments—some that read like the contents of a five-star restaurant’s pantry (fig cream anyone?)—designed to moisturize, tone, firm, and relax every part of you.
cheap haircut On a budget? Why punish yourself with a strip-mall chop shop when you can treat yourself to an urban salon with exposed brick, cool magazines, and a trendy soundtrack? At Tenpachi, two locations, including 3003 N. Charles Street, 410-889-9788, walk-ins are welcome and a steady Hopkins student fan base continues to prove that a stylish cut (or color) doesn’t have to break the bank. Be warned, though: Since opening in 1999, Tenpachi has upped the price of its famous $10 haircut to a whopping . . . $11.
facial At 58 years old, Vesna Stojanovic has the skin of a teenager. It could be genetics, but chances are it has a little something to do with her own magic facials at Mt. Washington Spa, 1600 Kelly Avenue, 410-664-3400. Stojanovic prepares everything fresh, depending on her client’s skin type, using ingredients such as carrots, honey, lemon, eggs, and European herbs. And she’s confident she can work miracles for anyone. “I change people’s skin,” she says matter-of-factly. “I make them look 10, 15 years younger.”
green spa Although gargantuan beauty zones are all the rage these days, Renew Organic Day Spa, 843 W. 36th Street, 410-400-2745, is bucking the trend with a jewel of a spa that’s into personal service and saving the earth. Using sustainable building materials (such as corkboard flooring and an earth-friendly Lyptus reception desk), owners Shelley Birnbaum and Sherrie Tennessee decided to transform a plain rowhouse on Hampden’s main drag into a cozy, warm space dedicated to making clients feel good on both the outside and the inside. Visitors begin with a holistic consultation, followed by a wide variety of services that incorporate choice organic products into luxurious treatments.
hypoallergenic salon Does the thought of drugstore shampoo make you squirm? Dread going to the salon for fear of an itchy scalp? No longer will you be stuck on the salon sidelines, thanks to the arrival of Sprout, 925 W. 36th Street, 410-235-2269. Not only will the ultra-hip salon make you look—and feel—like a rock star, but all products used, from shampoo to styling paste, are 100-percent organic and free of allergens. Stylists are even prohibited from wearing perfume! Sprout is also super-green, carrying on its administrative duties without paper and recycling all bottles.
manicure If you want to hear those magic words—“Where didyou get your nails done?”—head to Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, The Village of Cross Keys, #42 Village Square, 410-323-3636. You’ll be pampered by experienced manicurists who take your individual circumstances—such as skin sensitivity and exfoliation needs—into consideration and use the spa’s exclusive line of rich nail colors.
medi-spa Going to a medi-spa doesn’t scream “sexy.” But going to a hospital medi-spa? You’ve got to be kidding. That’s what we thought until we started hearing raves about a little gem of a spa hidden in the lobby of one of Baltimore’s premier hospitals. The Medi-Spa at Mercy, 227 St. Paul Place, 410-332-9540, far exceeded our expectations by not only being 100 percent medically sound but, well, actually kind of sexy. Owned and managed by Donna Chang, a registered nurse and aesthetician, it lets you lie back for that dermabrasion, chemical peel, or laser hair removal—without ever wondering if there’s a doctor in the house.
multicultural salon We’ve always wondered: Why do people with different ethnic hair types go to separate salons? We were starting to lose hope for an all-inclusive shop until we found Zena’s Day Spa and Salon, 1014 N. Charles Street, 410-783-1971. Owned and operated by the gregarious, Moldovan-born Zena Fox, the salon (housed in a historic mansion) may be the only place in the city that feels like, well, the city. An average day at this Mt. Vernon spa and salon reminds you that Baltimore is a place as diverse as it is charming.
pampering for your pooch Why not treat Rover to a day full of mingling at Charm City Dogs, 401 N. Gay Street, 410-637-3647, while you’re toiling at the office? Not only will he make friends in the 3,700-square-foot facility, but he can take obedience classes and even get groomed while he’s there. The canine-loving Charm City team will treat your favorite heavy-breather like a member of the family, and he’ll never be bullied (all Charm City dogs must pass a temperament screening). When you pick him up, he’ll be happy and ready for some one-on-one time with his real best friend: you.
pedicure The drop-dead gorgeous Renaissance Day Spa & Salon, 11121 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-527-1175, offers a plethora of indulgences, but it’s their pedicures that really get us going. The hot stone pedicure features energy-releasing, smooth, warm stones to whisk stress away. A long row of pedicure chairs make it the perfect spot for group visits. (Or, if you’d rather have a little romance, request an intimate couple’s pedicure in a private room.) The best part? In between pedis, clients can stop in for a “mini maintenance” service that will keep toes shiny and cuticles smooth.
pilates In case all those instructional DVDs hadn’t tipped you off, Pilates isn’t just for celebrities anymore. But if you want to feellike an A-lister, splurge for private lessons with Pilates instructor Mimi Sommerville, Maryland Athletic Club, 110 W. Timonium Road, Timonium, 410-453-9111. Whether you’re a novice or more advanced, the friendly trainer is out to make the low-impact conditioning accessible for athletes and cubicle dwellers alike.
salon for professionals Federal Hill’s M Salon, 1131 S. Charles Street, 410-685-0089, had a great first year. Word’s already out about their stellar highlighting and cuts, so don’t be surprised to see the half the WBAL-TV news team walk in for a color, cut, and blowout. Stylist Johnna Sychuk—the genius behind sassy WBAL-ers like Kate Amara, Deborah Weiner, and Melissa Carlson—doesn’t buy into what’s trendy, instead going for a look that reflects her clients’ personalities. “Everyone comes in and they say, ‘What’s in style right now?’” Sychuk says. “But I really try to look at every single person and see what’s best for them.”
spray tan It’s not easy to strip down to your skivvies in front of anyone, but star spray tanner Kate Volpe, About Faces, 110 W. Timonium Road, 410-560-6600, is so friendly and laid-back, you’ll be naked in no time! Volpe is one of four tanning aestheticians at the Timonium location, which features the cutting-edge California Tan, a new method done by hand with an airbrush. Volpe and her colleagues work carefully around even the skimpiest bathing suit, leaving you glowing for the beach without—all together now—exposing your skin to those harmful rays.
up-dos It takes a lot more than an up-do to stress out Joe Eckenrode. After all, the longtime stylist and co-owner of The Escape Day Spa, 1777 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, 410-602-1108, has done a biker wedding—where he managed to wrap actual chains into the bride’s hair—and styled hair for opera singers (they don’t call them divas for nothing), so he can definitely handle your pre-event jitters. Eckenrode takes the entire picture into consideration when designing his ’dos, so bring in those gown photos. And honesty is his policy: If he thinks the look you have in mind won’t work, he’ll tell you. This is your day, after all, and he wants you to look, well, like a diva.
wax The fact that Cindy Turner, Edward Amato Salon, 5722 Falls Road, 410-323-2222, is so vivacious and fun (with a voice that’s a dead ringer for Cyndi Lauper!) only makes us love her waxing technique more. As the salon’s only aesthetician, Turner is trained in facials as well as waxing—and is a massage therapist to boot. She favors hot and cold stone therapy in her massages, and uses this technique to soothe post-waxed skin. The result is skin that’s not only smooth as a baby’s bum, but free of redness and irritation. “Waxing can be very miserable for people, and I’m not about that,” she chirps. So go ahead and plan that eyebrow wax during your lunch break. No one will ever guess where you’ve been.
wellness center When Laurie Novak and Christie Polen-Bonitz entered the space that would one day be home to their dream wellness center, it was little more than a broken-down 19th-century foundry. Many months and a whole lotta love later, it’s a holistic health oasis. Located in the eco-friendly Clipper Mill community, Avalon Wellness, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Suite 110, 410-889-8974, is home to a top-notch team of mind-body wellness professionals, including acupuncturists, psychologists, nutritionists, social workers, massage therapists, and yoga instructors. The center is about “getting back to your core sense of self,” all under the comfort of one roof, Novak says.
baby furniture Shopping for furniture at Lullaby Baby, 9130 Red Branch Road, Columbia, 410-997-8090, is the least stressful part about having a baby. Owner Kristen Hughes or manager Laura Kilpatrick will walk you—big belly and all—through nursery couture collections from Paintbox Designs, Morigeau-Lepine, and Dutailier. The two moms are up on everything from crib mattress safety to which glider will complement your animal-themed room best. They personally schedule all deliveries and always follow up with a phone call. (Now, if only these lovely ladies could get the baby to actually sleep in the crib. . . .)
bath accessories Tucked away in an unassuming storefront in Pikesville, Penny Green, Ltd., 103½ Old Court Road, Pikesville, 410-484-0996, is synonymous with taste, style, and sophistication, and has long been a favorite of area interior designers. Penny Green carries unusual accessories you simply won’t find anywhere else, including delicate porcelain soap dishes, hand-painted decoupage wastebaskets, silky French cotton rugs, Peruvian reverse-painted glass wastebaskets, and Italian hand towels. Your bathroom will beckon even when you don’t need to go.
desperate housewife service After an afternoon of driving carpool, attending lacrosse games, and helping with homework, the last place you want to be is the kitchen. Enter My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, 1425 Clarkview Road, Bare Hills, 410-847-9770, where they do all the shopping, chopping, slicing, dicing, and precooking for you—all you have to do is choose a dish (past faves have included shrimp scampi, slow-cooked pot roast, orange chicken stir fry, and molasses glazed pork) and assemble. For $209 you get 12 meals serving six, which works out to less than three bucks a head.
doggy décorTired of walking past those ugly plastic doggy bowls and ratty, half-chewed canine beds that seemingly populate every room of your home? Well, there’s no need to “ruff” it as long as Pretentious Pooch, 1017 Cathedral Street, 443-524-7777, is in town. The accessories at Pretentious Pooch, such as custom-ordered pet beds in micro-velvet hues of periwinkle and faux leopard, bone china doggie water dishes trimmed in 24-carat gold, and monogrammed Swarovski crystal picture frames, are easy on the eye and will make your dog the most overindulged pup on the block.
electricianIn business since 1961, Winn Electric, 3 Spring House Road, 410-484-5544, is the first phone call for numerous voltage-obsessed VIPs who need complex electrical jobs and renovations. Co-owner Bill Winn (son of the founder, Myer) also supplies the jolt to many of the major restaurants in town, including Linwoods and Gertrude’s. Best of all, he’s more than willing to tell you what you don’t need and how to save money.
fabric store Whatever your fabric needs—be it several yards of boucle for Grandma’s sofa, French toile for your kitchen curtains, or some brushed velvet for a pair of throw pillows—check out the huge selection of textiles at Alexander Blank Fabrics, 2151-A York Road, Lutherville, 410-561-2331. Priced from mid-range to high-end, Blanks carries hundreds of bolts of fabric and a massive library of sample books by Duralee, Scalamandre, Kravet, Lee Joffa, and others. Blanks also has its own design service, an expert staff, and a custom work room on the premises.
framer Framing is almost always a costly endeavor, but at The Great Frame Up, 25 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville, 410-628-2008, you won’t need to take out a second mortgage to protect your keepsakes. In addition to her reasonable prices, the store’s longtime framer-owner Jane Morgan Henry has a history of handling some really unusual jobs—like the time she framed the icing from the top of a christening cake. They also specialize in framing needlework, memorabilia, and anything 3-D.
furniture worth the splurge In this day of mass furniture production, it takes a discriminating eye (not to mention a sizeable savings account) to afford authentic antiques or replicas so realistic that only the folks from Antiques Roadshow can discern the difference. If you’re pining for a Louis XV cherry armoire, a Cuban mahogany ladies writing desk, or a porcelain sink from Rouen—it’s worth a trip to Gaines-McHale Antiques and Home,
700 S. Caroline Street, 410-625-1900. Simply put: It’s 17,000 square feet of furniture heaven.
garden furniture Mother Nature doesn’t care if you own a teak bench designed by Austrian architect Wolfgang Pichler, a Frank Lloyd Wright planter, or a Richard Schultz chaise. But the folks at Garden Architects, 115 West Street, Annapolis, 410-267-1046, certainly do. You see, the staff is knowledgeable about both style and durability—they won’t sell anything that can’t last outside. The Annapolis shop also carries high-end grills such as Kalamazoo’s charcoal, gas, and wood unit.
home accessories It’s hard to pinpoint why we adore Baltimore’s newest shelter boutique Red Tree, 921 W. 36th Street, 410-366-3456. Is it the southern charm of owners Carmen Brock, Ben Homola, Kacey Buchanan Stafford, and Scott Stafford? Is it the imaginative throw pillows from Denyse Schmidt and Working Class Studio? Is it the owners’ soft spot for the local arts community as well as their ever-changing selection of global goods and furnishings from Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and Mexico? However we count the ways, we challenge you to walk out of this store empty-handed.
home stager An interior decorator and veteran of real estate management, Paula Henry, Simply Put Interiors, 410-252-9911, has one niche service that’s getting hotter as the housing market cools down. She goes into homes, rates them for market readiness, then tells the seller how to “fluff” up the house to appeal to the average home buyer. It costs a lot less than dropping the price, and Henry aims hard to reinvent your interior with the furniture you already own. And, yes, she’s honest enough to tell you that while you may love your giant pink flamingo in the living room, it’s not exactly helping you move your house.
house painter So whom does the owner of a paint store turn to when he wants to paint his house? Well, Bryan Koerber, owner of perennial Best of Baltimore winner Budeke’s Paint, counts on Heidar Raschid, Finishing Touch, 9 Twig Court, White Hall, 410-343-0792. Known for his professionalism, honesty, and upscale clientele (including the 2005 Decorator Showhouse), Raschid’s referrals have kept his crews working overtime for the past 21 years.
kitchen gadgets We love the kitchen and housewares selection at Stebbins Anderson, 802 Kenilworth Drive, Towson, 410-823-6600, for its nod to both the past and the present. At this area institution—in business for 140 years—you’ll find not just the latest in new-fangled cooking contraptions, like Kitchen Aid hand mixers and can openers from Zyliss, but also the old standbys our grandmothers swore by, including wooden-handled potato peelers, silver polishes, canning supplies, and crab steamers.
landscape designer We hope that Bob Jackson, Bob Jackson Landscapes, 11436-H Cronridge Drive, Owings Mills, 410-356-1620, is not too busy collecting awards to get down in the dirt. In the past several years, Jackson has won more than 70 regional and national awards, including a clean sweep of every product he has ever entered (18 in total) in the regional Landscape Contractors Association competition. With this kind of track record, Jackson is clearly making the mid-Atlantic one of the prettiest regions on Earth.
lighting store Located across the street from the State Fairgrounds, the 66-year-old Dorman’s Lighting & Design, 2157-A York Road, Timonium, 410-252-6100, is the best place to light up your world. We’d be hard-pressed to find another area store with a bigger selection of chandeliers, ceiling fans, bathroom lighting, lamps, mirrors, and outdoor fixtures. In addition to the merchandise, Dorman gets our vote for a helpful sales staff, well-priced products, expert in-house design services, and a flexible return policy.
linens Tired of scratchy sheets? Rest assured, the finely finished, 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets at Federal Hill’s newest home emporium, Phina’s Luxury Linen Collective, 919 S. Charles Street, 410-685-0911, will turn you into a serial napper. The sheets, as well as plush duvets in linen, silk, and cotton, and hypo-allergenic pillows, not only feel great, but—in somnolent shades of ivory, blue, pink and patterns of damask, jacquard, and herringbone—they look good, too. Sweet dreams.
mail carrier Neither rain, nor snow, nor barking dogs with really big teeth will keep us from anointing Dudley Bradburn, Catonsville Post Office, as Baltimore’s best mail carrier. In his 25 years of service, the former Marine has been known to shovel out snowed-in cars, change light bulbs, take in trash cans, and tote bags of groceries. Years ago, he even helped cops nab some thieves who had stolen a gun from a home on his route. Can you say, “Beyond the call of duty”?
party planner Overwhelmed by the ins and outs of choosing the right centerpiece, cocktail napkins, and theme for your party? Put out a party 911, and veteran party girl Sharlene Sherman, Sharlene Sherman Events, 12104 Hunting Tweed Drive, Owings Mills, 410-963-7033, will come to the rescue. Some of her recent extravaganzas? An intimate, authentic Chinese at-home dinner party that featured beaded Chinese slippers, Zen centerpieces, and custom fortune cookies; and an at-home wedding with hand-embroidered silk napkins, monogrammed truffles, and a custom oak floor installed in the backyard tent.
rugs For 20 years now, Zubair Mohamed of Senneh Knot, 2153 York Road, Timonium, 410-308-3770, has been importing Orientals, Dhurries, tribal rugs, and graphic contemporaries from Iran, Pakistan, India, China, Turkey, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Nepal for his clients in the Baltimore-Washington area. Because there’s no middleman, prices tend to be lower than at many other imported rug emporiums. Mohamed also handles custom orders for Orientals and other styles, typically taking about six months. Cleaning and repair are also available.
secret garden nursery Tucked away along a sleepy residential section of Cockeysville, Happy Hollow Nursery, 12212 Happy Hollow Road, Cockeysville, 410-252-4026, is one of Baltimore’s best kept secrets. One visit to this nursery—with one of the largest collections of shade-loving hostas in the state—and you’ll feel as though you have fallen through the looking glass. Timothy Reuwer, who co-owns Happy Hollow with Sue Bloodgood, has not only a green thumb but an artist’s eye and has gained national recognition for his hand-painted, hand-molded hosta leaves and unique garden statuary.
trendy furniture To add a groovy touch to your living room, bedroom, bathroom, or bar, head straight to Nouveau Contemporary Goods, 514 E. Belvedere Avenue, 410-962-8248. From a Cleopatra-style sofa to the Asian cocktail tables and stainless steel bar stools, they’re rich in the kind of mod furniture, accessories, and art that will make your pad look like Austin Powers himself should take up residence.
upholstererWe get great feedback from interior designers and discriminating area fabric stores alike about Joseph Refinishing & Upholstery, 9176 Red Branch Road, Columbia,
410-997-5550. In addition to their stellar upholstery work, owner Don Cook’s 20-year-old operation is a full-service restoration company that can fix springs, repair broken chair and table legs, and refinish antiques. Just go ahead and send him your whole living room!
water gardens “Ponds are nature’s lava lamps,” says part-time art teacher Todd Fox of Fox Run Ponds, Inc., 2614 Willow Avenue, Halethorpe, 410-247-1378. He’s the pond builder of choice for our favorite landscape architects (such as Carol Macht and Scott Rykiel) and even Ladew Topiary Gardens. Fox builds everything from Zen-like koi ponds to serene streams and waterfalls. “Moving water and even still ponds have a mystery and a life to them that just the landscape alone does not,” says Fox.
all-purpose bar The name alone ought to tip you off to the fact that Carlos O’Charlie’s, 3508 Eastern Avenue, 410-675-1485, is not your average Highlandtown watering hole. It’s like some weird-but-wonderful confluence of eras and cultures. As you might expect, it’s got some fine Mexican cuisine (“Carlos”) and plenty of booze options (“O’Charlie”). But more than that, the décor is the grooviest in town—like an enormous sports bar (with fountains!) shoehorned into the Brady Family’s basement.
art installation Dan Steinhilber’s Front Room installation at the BMA earlier this year was good fun and great art. Using air blowers to lift and drift Styrofoam packing peanuts around the room, it ingeniously utilized common, everyday materials in creating a wondrously random, ever-changing piece of art. Watching the piece elicit wide-eyed surprise, and even shrieks of delight, from BMA patrons was half the fun.
band bookings For consistency and diversity in their offerings, it’s hard to beat Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place, 410-244-1131. Whether it’s a group on its way up, or on its way back down, it’s easy to find a gig for every taste. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a big-time act in a cozy venue, like Lucinda Williams last month. Or maybe you’ll relive high school with an 80’s hair band. Whatever the case, finding acts like The Roots, John Legend, Mastodon, India.Arie, Ice-T, and Marc Broussard in the same place is a pretty good haul for a Charm City club.
batting cages If your youngster looks like a budding Mark Teixeira, get him some batting practice at the cages of Frozen Ropes, 509 McCormick Drive, Glen Burnie, 410-590-1711. This place isn’t your average weathered, coin-operated soft-pitch cage—they’ve got state-of-the-art cages and tunnels. But they also give lessons, covering everyone from youngsters just learning to play to serious college-bound sluggers. The nationwide franchise’s teaching methods have been spotlighted everywhere from ESPN to Sports Illustrated to USA Today.
camping Just try finding a hotel room as cheap as $25 per night—the rate for basic campsites at Cunningham Falls State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, 301-271-7574. Your money won’t get you room service, but it will get you some of the state’s best scenery, including the park’s eponymous 78-foot waterfall.
cd Naxos’ 2007 disc of BSO Music Director Marin Alsop conducting Baltimore native Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 4, “Heroes” speaks to the exciting potential of both contemporary classical music and the BSO’s new maestra (although this recording features Alsop’s other band, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra). Alsop’s choice of this particular Glass piece, a symphonic interpretation of David Bowie’s classic rock record, is indicative of her willingness to embrace genre-mixing compositions that just might make classical music relevant and accessible to a wider demographic.
children’s author Laura Amy Schlitz penned not one, but two of the year’s more interesting children’s books: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair—(about a spunky orphan adopted by spiritualist charlatans) and Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (a collection of Medieval period character sketches). A Park School librarian, Schlitz weds the skill of a master storyteller to unexpected plot twists and offbeat characters. It’s a winning combination that children’s and young adult fiction could use more of.
cocktails What’s that you say? You’re tired of every fool with a shaker and some schnapps adding “tini” to the end of any sickeningly sweet concoction he can think of? Good, you’re ready for the truly inventive (and tasty) cocktails at Nasu Blanca, 1036 E. Fort Avenue, 410-962-9890. Our favorite is the Shiso Fine—10 Cane Rum, fresh lime and lime syrup, shiso leaves, and sugarcane. If rum’s not your speed, the Basil Julep is a nice twist on the old Bourbon standard, and the Thirsty Buddha is a sweet-ish vodka drink.
documentary film Baltimore filmmaker Amy Nicholson’s Muskrat Lovely takes viewers into the hinterlands of Dorchester County for the National Outdoor Show, an annual event that includes a muskrat-skinning contest and beauty pageant. Nicholson’s film, which was shown on PBS and featured in a lengthy BBC Radio segment, examines Dorchester’s traditional culture and values without condescension or prejudice. As a result, a nuanced, very human portrait of the area and its people emerges.
exhibition Developed by MICA and Morgan State Students, At Freedom’s Door takes a multi-faceted look at Maryland’s complex relationship with slavery. A pair of exhibitions at the Maryland Historical Society and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History use artwork and artifacts to examine slavery’s history and contemporary resonance. The work commissioned especially for the show—by William Christenberry, Linda Day Clark, Maren Hassinger, Sam Christian Holmes, Whitfield Lovell, Michael Platt, Joan Gaither, Arvie Smith, and Joyce Scott—is particularly impressive and adds another layer of relevance to the project.
in-store performance venue Baltimore Chop, 625 Washington Boulevard, 410-752-4487, is an unlikely, out of the way venue for live music. A bookshop across the street from Camden Yards, it brews a strong cup of coffee and stocks a solid selection of fiction and nonfiction (which goes deep on baseball-related titles). The shop also hosts an impressive performance series—the shows usually start at 8 p.m.—which has included Nashville’s Elizabeth Cook and Memphian Amy LaVere playing acoustic sets in a cozy, intimate setting.
Irish pub For the record, we love and frequent lots of the Irish pubs in town. But if we could only have one, it’d be Patrick’s of Pratt Street, 934 W. Pratt Street, 410-244-5000. They’ve got the history, being “America’s Oldest Irish Pub” and all (Patrick’s has been in the same location for 160 years, though there’s a rumor they’re expanding to Frederick). And they’ve got a terrific chef in proprietress Anne Rowley. But our favorite part is the warm Irish hospitality and humor you’ll get from her husband, Patrick, the friendliest man on the planet.
new bar If your idea of a great new bar involves the latest edition of Golden Tee and pitchers of Michelob Ultra, you can stop reading here. If your idea of a great bar involves comfy leather furniture and cool music, you’re in luck. Our favorite of the new watering holes in town is Illusions Magic Bar and Lounge, 1025 S. Charles Street, 410-727-5811. And their idea of entertainment beats arcade games and bad cover bands any day: magician (and co-owner) Spencer Horsman performs any number of mystifying magical tricks at 10 p.m., including a Houdini-esque straitjacket escape routine.
parade The Great Halloween Lantern Parade through Patterson Park has become a beloved Baltimore tradition. Conceived and directed by Molly Ross, it combines hundreds of candlelit paper lanterns, costumed revelers, animated projections, and live music into a single, thrilling spectacle. Last year’s event drew upwards of 3,000 people to the park.
producers A few years ago, Darkroom Productions’ Juan Donovan and Jamal Roberts put together a compelling mix of local hip-hop talent called Hamsterdam, named after an infamous drug block in The Wire. The show’s creative team got wind of the disc and signed the duo to provide music for its upcoming season. After inking a deal with MTV and releasing Hamsterdam Vol. 2, a gritty, similarly spirited follow-up to the first disc, Darkroom now seems poised for the spotlight.
rainy day activities for kids There are lots of reasons we wish we could be kids again. But the biggest might just be Gerstung Inter-Sport, 1400 Coppermine Terrace, 410-337-7781. The place has to be seen to be believed. It’s an enormous indoor wonderland of mats and balls and things to climb on, over, inside, and under. Tear your kids away from the video games and they’ll have so much fun, they won’t realize they’re actually getting—gasp!—exercise. Birthday parties and gymnastics classes are two of the biggest draws.
rum selection Finally, we’ve found a place to unleash our inner Hemingways. No, we’re not talking about the big game hunting or the bull fighting (or, er, the misogyny). We’re talking about rum! Lots of it! And if you want to be a serious rum drinker, you need to know about Joe Squared, 133 W. North Avenue, 410-545-0444. At any given time, you’ll find more than 50 different types on hand—some of them regulars, some of them limited time specials. Owner Joe Edwardsen loves rum so much, he’s even considering starting a Rum Club at the restaurant—stay tuned. (Oh, and did we mention that the place serves up some damn fine pizza, too?)
showcase The annual Maryland Masters showcase spotlights traditional artists and artisans in Baltimore and around the state. Put together by Maryland Traditions (a partnership between the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland State Arts Council), it focuses on master artists passing along their knowledge and skills through apprenticeships. Held at the Patterson Theatre in June, this year’s event reflected the depth and diversity of traditional arts, from an Arabber wagon builder (James Cooper) and blues harmonica player (Phil Wiggins) to a Persian santur master (Ahmad Borhani) and a Nepali pop singer (Prem Raja Mahat). Who knew that the Jimi Hendrix of the Persian hammered dulcimer lives in Rosedale?
song “Wham City,” the epic, 12-minute track on Baltimorean Dan Deacon’s Spiderman of the Rings CD, is a sprawling, electronics-drenched party tune doubling as a serious composition. The song moves from its hushed intro to cheery Animal Collective-ish chants to a roiling, repetitive groove that modulates gleefully throughout most of the track. “Wham City” is an unlikely connective thread running from loft shows through the Ottobar to the doors of the Meyerhoff.
swimming pool Tired of this hot, sticky Baltimore summer weather? Want to be transported to a cool, sylvan Mediterranean paradise? Just point your flip-flops toward the new Clipper Mill development, 2031 Clipper Park Road, and their Athens-by-way-of-Woodberry pool. (If you get lucky, you might run into The Wire’s Dominic West.) The only catch? You’ll have to cozy up to any friends or family members who live there, as there are only “limited outside memberships available.” We say you oughta start making friends now.
theater From Brel to Pinter, Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles Street, 410-752-2208, mounts engaging, distinctive productions that have earned the theater critical acclaim and a loyal following. Arts scene-wise, it’s the epitome of smart growth, consistently using local talent and making sensible programming choices. That growth figures to continue after the theater moves to more expansive digs near the Hippodrome in 2009.
vacation golf There are other ways to catch some rays in O.C. besides roasting on a crowded beach. Try the links-style Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, 7000 Rum Pointe Lane, Berlin, 410-629-1414. The 10-year-old P.B. and Pete Dye-designed course boasts bay views on almost every hole and scored four-and-a-half stars from Golf Digest. It’s like playing an auld course in Scotland . . . only with sunnier, warmer weather.
visionary artist Best known as the singer for long-running Baltimore band Lungfish, Daniel Higgs always had a visionary aspect to his work. For years, music critics danced around the issue, calling Higgs poetic, shamanistic, demonic, and even rabbinical. But visionary would have sufficed, as Higgs’ recent paintings (featured in AVAM’s “Home and Beast” show), poetry (included in the recent Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot book/CD), and solo music (2007’s Ancestral Songs) attest.
writer The work of Laura Lippman has long been straitjacketed as “crime fiction,” thanks largely to the success of her Tess Monaghan books. But this year’s publication of What the Dead Know—a finely crafted, Tess-less novel—has changed the conversation, as Lippman finally gets her props for being an excellent writer, period. It’s about time.
zine The zine grew up, sort of, thanks to The Future Generation. Started in the early 1990’s by China Martens, a punk rock mom, it weaved the personal and political into something of a primer for parents with anarchist leanings. A new “best of” book (published by Atomic) chronologically reflects the maturation of mother, child, and publication—what she calls a “mama zine.”
baby destination More and more baby shops are popping up—Bel Air’s Tiny Toes and Annapolis’s L’il Lamb Shop just to name a few—but the best all-in-one baby locale is still Belvedere Square, Belvedere Avenue, 410-464-9773. Shop Raw Sugar, 410-464-1240, for trendy baby duds (we heart Squidfire tees), Bratt Decor, 410-464-9400, for sophisticated cribs and changing tables, Simply Noted, 410-464-1166, for adorable baby announcements and birthday invitations, Daedalus Books and Music, 410-464-2701, for inexpensive books, and The Market itself for family friendly dining and baby’s first sushi roll.
bathing suits Sometimes we think we hold our breath more at the swimsuit shop than at the pool! With its body-conscious staff and diverse collection, Everything But Water, multiple locations including Towson Town Center, 825 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, 410-821-9287, comes to the rescue. Find everything from classic (Liz Claiborne) to surfer (Roxy) to funky (Betsey Johnson). Before you commit, schedule a fit party with a group of friends. You’ll learn exactly what to wear, and it will be painless (we promise).
bras It’s a love/hate relationship when it comes to women and their bras. Mary Jordan’s Bra-la-la, 8180 Maple Lawn Boulevard, Fulton, 301-776-6007, helps you lean toward the love side of that equation. Jordan—formerly a scientific contractor for the government!—is now an expert bra fitter. Most bras are in the $50-70 range and she carries Prima Donna, Grenier, Aubade, and Le Mystere for everyday wear, plus nursing and sports bra lines. She also offers custom-fit bras for mastectomy patients including inserts.
bridesmaid dresses Say goodbye to taffeta, bows, and that weird shiny material. At Mia Isse's Garnish Boutique, 5724 Falls Road, 410-464-0601, the dreaded bridesmaid dress is a thing of the past! Isse carries eight lines including Thread, Simple Silhouettes, and Jenny Yoo that are simple, chic, and modern. Shop hours are by appointment only—so Isse is able to work one-on-one with bridal parties and offer honest and helpful opinions when it comes to colors and shapes. There are also shoes, invitations, cute bridesmaid gifts, and matching ties for the guys.
candles When is a candle not just a candle? When it's a three-wick superstar. Candles Off Main, 162 Main Street, Annapolis, 410-990-0664, is stocked with more than 14 candle lines in 47 different hues—including that three-wick Voluspa candle which lasts a staggering 80 hours. There's also Paddywax—in pillars, jars, travel tins, and votives—with inventive scents like black currant, olive, and rhubarb-nectarine. Other favorites? The soy line (and amusingly named) A Scent of Scandal and beeswax candles from Perin-Mowen, Bee Man, and Lloyd Farms.
comeback There was a triple wallop Monday, April 2 when a backed up pipe in an overhead office caused a debilitating flood in the 1600 block of Thames Street in Fells Point. The retailers suffered major damage and lost a lot of merchandise. Luckily, all three businesses were able to reopen in their original spots within two months. Ten Thousand Villages, 410-342-5568, filled right back up with fair trade merchandise; the toy shop Amuse, 410-342-5000, installed new child-friendly carpet, countertops, and cute storage bins; and The Big Iguana, 410-675-3231, now combines its space with sister clothing store, Driftwood.
dress shirts When Samuel Parker Clothier, Lake Falls Village, 6080 Falls Road, 410-372-0078, was flooded out for the second time last June (do we detect a theme here?) everyone knew the men's shop would come back better than before. It did, but—smartly—in a new location. The customer service—headed up by natty owner Kenneth Himmelstein—is amazing. And an array of shirts from the likes of Ralph Lauren and Hilditch & Key keep the loyal customers coming back—this time without their galoshes.
eyewear We spy with our fashionably bespectacled eyes Paris West Optical, 521 N. Charles Street, 410-528-1877. The chic optical boutique is stocked with an insane amount of frames and sunglasses from Golden Wood, Oliver Peoples, Martin & Martin, Kieselstein-Cord—literally something for every face. There’s even a high tech camera mirror thingy so you can compare frames side by side. The new location—on a busier block closer to the Washington Monument—is bigger and more eclectic with electric purple ceilings, neon yellow walls, red leather lounge chairs, and funky orange columns. But still the same superior service.
fancy shoes We love being buzzed into Vasarri, 1636 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, 410-415-6333—it just seems so very old-fashioned. And true to form, the stately boutique always has ample help on hand. We usually end up in the cozy shoe section eyeing (and trying on) Jimmy Choo, Marc Jacobs, Pollini, and Lily Holt. Peep toe, patent leather, flat, heel, sparkly, snakeskin—we do not discriminate. It all seems almost too fabulous for Baltimore. Can we wear our Bruno Maglis to Trader Joe’s?
fashion-forward men’s shoes One of the best things to come out of here since Natty Boh—J Shoes, an Owings Mills based shoe company that is now an international success story. Sure, they have fabulous women’s shoes, too—but this is about the guys. The autumn/winter line is especially impressive. Inspired by the rugged outdoors, the men’s line is earthy yet urban and very manly. You can find J Shoes at Benjamin Lovell and Dan Brothers in the city and at Nordstrom in the ’burbs.
green goods Conscious Corner, Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville, 443-535-9321, is made up of four businesses that support fair trade, organic living, socially responsible companies, and pets. Roots Market sells everything from seasonal produce to bulk almonds to gourmet cheeses; Bark, a natural pet shop, stocks home-style treats, healthy dog chow, and loads of toys; Nest (Natural Elements Selected Thoughtfully) has items for the home, including recycled glass tumblers and vegan cookbooks; and Great Sage is the vegetarian and organic restaurant next door.
handbags (cheap) We mean “cheap” in the nicest way possible—especially since $300 bags seem to be the norm these days. One of the things doubledutch Boutique, 3616 Falls Road, 410-554-0055, does well is offer leather, canvas, and cloth bags that are unique, funky, eye-catching, and affordable. A recent visit found Bungalow 360, Bang Bags, and Queen Bee Creations all for under $33. (Local designer Ali Dryer’s Pistol Designs line starts around $65—but all well worth it.) That means plenty of money left over for clothes!
jewelry (cheap) It feels like a French candy shop at For Love 21, The Mall in Columbia, 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, 410-730-0529, what with its acrylic candelabras, mirrored displays, and black-and-white-checkered floors. But instead of jelly beans and chocolates, this place is filled with scrumptious jewelry. The sister store to Forever 21, the accessory-only shack houses necklaces, bangles, undies, bags, sunglasses, earrings, and shoes—most for under $10.
jewelry (expensive) Baltimore does not lack for great jewelry stores—Radcliffe and Smyth are institutions—but Bijoux, The Gatehouse at Greenspring Station, 10749 Falls Road, Suite 102, Lutherville, 410-823-5545, feels like you’re raiding your grandmother’s jewelry box (albeit a really wealthy grandmother with amazing taste). The antique, designer, and estate jewelry ranges from Edwardian to Arts and Crafts. Owner Renee Wilson (and her stellar staff) can also steer you to their master jeweler’s custom designs.
knitting shop Every Saturday, Lovelyarns, 846 W. 36th Street, 410-662-YARN, hosts an all-day sit-n-knit. Knitters of all abilities are invited to come "stitch and bitch" (as the insiders call it). The shop has comfy chairs, homemade muffins, and peace and quiet. They also offer tons of different level classes including casting and binding, fixing knitting mistakes, and a beginner class specifically for lefties. With the mega assortment of yarn and accommodating workers, no wonder no one ever wants to leave.
museum gift shop At the American Visionary Art Museum’s Sideshow, 800 Key Highway, 443-872-4926, you can look and touch. This inspirational store is stocked with a little something for everyone: hand carved sculptures, alien necklaces, and holographic 3-D pictures. Plus, a wicked selection of greeting cards, paintings from the staff’s own resident artist Shawn Theron, and a whole wall of kooky gizmos. There is some reason to their rhyme—often merchandise will coincide with the museum’s displays. We love to hit the shop even when we don’t have time to peruse the galleries.
nifty toy store Barry and Flora Stelzer opened Shananigans Toy Shop, 5004-B Lawndale Avenue, 410-532-8384, along with their (adult) son David because his enthusiasm for all manner of playthings was infectious. Located in the Wyndhurst Village Shopping Center, the packed shop—literally floor to ceiling—will have kids and parents giddy. Find everything from Ugly Dolls to My First Fashion Design Kit to “Imagine” John Lennon action figures, plus loads of games and toys for newborns on up. Overwhelmed? David, a Lego enthusiast, has great suggestions.
non-cutesy pet store This is the kind of pet store where big dogs can show their faces: Not a lot of frills, just good solid products. Dogma—Life, With Your Pet, 3600 Boston Street, #20, 410-276-3410, co-owned by Virginia Byrnes and Scott Stanton, has dog and cat beds from Bowser’s (in patterns like toile and leopard-print), toys from Ruff Wear, an assortment of bulk and gourmet treats, and cute food bowls. There’s the occasional Yappy Hour for pet-and-people socialization and—because real dogs play in the dirt!—there are even DIY bath stations.
party dresses Because sometimes the little black dress is too ho-hum, Cloud 9, several locations including The Can Company, 2400 Boston Street, 410-534-4200, houses boldly colored prints, embellished frocks, and fun designers like Free People, Lucky Brand, Tulle, and Miss-Me. Try your luck with a neon green, floor-length dress or perhaps a mod inspired black-and-white-printed mini. The shop also carries those perfect party frock accoutrements: shoes and accessories.
shopping neighborhood Is it just us or does Hampden get better by the day? It’s the first place we take out of town guests. Sure, it’s still a little rough around the edges, but that just adds to the charm. Old favorites like Shine Collective, In Watermelon Sugar, Ma Petite Shoe, and Hometown Girl—all along 36th Street—are only enhanced by the new kids: Chellé Paperie, Atomic Pop, and Form. There are too many shops to mention here—but the perfect number for a Saturday afternoon stroll.
tot bookstore Independent bookstores still flourish in Baltimore—Ivy, Red Canoe, just to name a few—and that makes our big-box-averse hearts sing. The aptly named The Children's Bookstore, 737 Deepdene Road, 410-532-2000, is especially good at what they do because they've been doing it forever (well, since 1978). They carry the timeless (Green Eggs and Ham), the modern (Flotsam), and the obsessed-over (Harry Potter). The book-infatuated staff has great recommendations for all readers—from picture books to young adult fiction. And there are regular readings and book signings for little fans.
tween frocks “Yuck!” is the best way to describe those awkward tween years, but Synchronicity Boutique, 25 Hooks Lane, Suite 105, Pikesville, 410-486-8866, makes being an 8-to-12-year-old at the very least fashionable. Designers such as BCBG, Lily Pulitzer, and Jessica McClintock are designing clothes that mom and daughter will both like. The boutique is known for their Bat Mitzvah attire and prom dresses. And owner Karen Mazer is especially mindful of in-between and plus-size girls.
unexpected place to find last-minute gifts We went to Harbor News, 1010 Aliceanna Street, 410-244-5140, for a magazine and came out with a birthday present: a leather-bound atlas from Graphic Image. We used to raid Whole Foods for our “of course we remembered your birthday” loot, but that was before we found Harbor News with its Original Crown Mill vintage journals in yellow, orange, and blue; Japanese and Italian treats such as sodas and sparkling waters; and crème-filled wafers and Pretz snacks. Plus, the bawdy and hilarious Naughty Betty, Sock Monkey, and Selfish Kitty greeting cards rival those at any stationery shop.
urban boutique All our praying to the shopping gods paid off. Urban Outfitters, Light Street Pavilion, 301 Light Street, 410-685-3115, has finally arrived! And it rocks. The two-story shop is like a hipster's one-stop shopping mecca: shoes, tees, wallets, stackable bowls, raunchy books, belts, shower curtains—you name it. And it added some much-needed cool factor to Harborplace. At last, the locals and tourists can shop as one.
weekend clothes You’re headed out for a quick weekend getaway and Holly G, 1018 S. Charles Street, 410-962-1506, the Federal Hill uber-chic boutique, is like the AAA of clothes. Denim-For-Immortality jeans for easy travel, Alice & Trixie flirty top for dinner out, Wendy Hill eyelet mini for sightseeing, and a Dutchy buttery, leather bag to tote home souvenirs. Now, if only they sold traveler’s insurance!