Best of Baltimore 2011

Is it just us or does this town keep getting better and better?

NOTE: This is our 2011 Best of Baltimore feature. The 2012 Best of Baltimore list is here.

It seems silly, but there are certain markers in life—birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays. For us, the Best of Baltimore issue has always been one of those markers. It's our way of reflecting back on another great year and seeing just how far we've come. We get to celebrate old friends, anoint new favorites, and basically bask in the greatness that is our city. Of course, we always have to change things up a little, just for fun. So this year: Top-10 and Top-five lists! Yup, as an example, we don't just tell you Baltimore's best cupcake, but Baltimore's 10 best cupcakes.

You're welcome.

Arts

By John Lewis

Acquisition: MICA Purchases Globe Collection

Late last year, Globe Poster announced it was closing after 82 years, and it seemed the city would forever lose a beloved institution. Over the years, Globe designed and printed day-glo saturated posters for virtually every African-American musician of note—from Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown to Prince and Tupac—and that legacy and design aesthetic, which was developed right here in Baltimore, was in danger of extinction. At the eleventh hour, MICA purchased Globe’s extensive collection of printing materials for use by their printmaking and design students. And they went one better by hiring Globe co-owner Bob Cicero to teach a graduate printmaking class, thereby ensuring that Globe’s style will be passed along to future generations of printers and posters designers. MICA, 1300 W. Mount Royal Avenue, 410-669-9200

All-Star Curatorial Team: Matt Groening, Gary Panter, and Rebecca Hoffberger

AVAM’s Rebecca Hoffberger scored a major coup when she got Simpsons creator Matt Groening and artist/comics legend Gary Panter to co-curate the What Makes Us Smile? show with her. Besides bringing some very real star power to the exhibition, Groening and Panter contributed some out of the ordinary (even for AVAM) curatorial choices that added a few extra smiles. The dynamic duo’s inclusion of artist Pedro Bell (best known for his classic Parliament/Funkadelic album covers) and a tribute to MAD magazine were particularly inspired and dovetailed nicely with witty and whimsical paintings by local visionary John Root Hopkins and other knee-slappers. Topping it off, Rev. Aitor’s “unflattering” portraits of the all-star curators were quite a hoot, too. AVAM, 800 Key Highway, 410-244-1900

Arts Showcase: Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival

There may be arts showcases that are bigger or fancier, but none of them can match the diversity and scope of the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival. Held at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown, it features a staggering array of artists and musicians from around the state. This year’s event included Native-American, jazz, blues, Greek, Irish, doo-wop, rock and roll, and Persian music—the Persian National Music Ensemble is based in Rosedale!—along with dancers, screen painters, storytellers, bakers, decoy carvers, weavers, boat builders printers, and arabbers. They’re all incredibly accessible, giving performances and demonstrations and answering questions from festival-goers. It’s impossible to leave this event without gaining a deeper appreciation of the arts and the important role artists play in all of our communities. www.marylandtraditions.org/festival

Top Ten: Bands & Musicians

Wye Oak: The most resourceful duo on the local indie scene upped its game with a superbly elegant disc, Civilian, and extensive tour. www.wyeoak-music.com

Celebration: The band split from major indie label 4AD and began releasing new music via its website with stunning results. www.celebrationelectrictarot.com

Michael Formanek: A formidable presence at Peabody, the bassist/composer put together an all-star band for his fantastic ECM debut, The Rub and Spare Change. www.amibotheringyou.com

J Roddy Walston & the Business: They’re still the hardest-working rock band in Baltimore—or anywhere else for that matter. www.jroddywalstonandthebusiness.com

Rye Rye: The catchy “Never Will Be Mine” single with Robyn was a summer highlight that should rekindle interest in her much-delayed full-length disc. www.ryeryemusic.com

Ponytail: This is something of a two-fer, with the band crafting its gleefully spazzy art-rock and guitarist Dustin Wong emerging as a compelling solo act, as well. www.myspace.com/ponytailtunes

Manuel Barrueco: One of the greatest classical guitarists in the world, Barrueco releases consistently excellent recordings on his Tonar Music label, including this year’s Tárrega! CD. www.barrueco.com

Shodekeh: The city’s premier beatboxer continues sharpening his skills through a wide range of artistic collaborations that include Ethel Ennis, Towson University’s dance department, and the BSO. www.myspace.com/shodekeh

Arbouretum: You’ve got to love a band that can play a stellar set at the Zappa statue dedication and record a transcendent version of the Jimmy Webb classic, “The Highwayman,” that would make Johnny Cash weep. www.arbouretum.blogspot.com

Dan Deacon: Deacon hasn’t put out much new music lately, but if you’re scoring the new Francis Ford Coppola film, as Deacon is, you make the list. www.myspace.com/dandeacon

Boutique Gallery: End Times Trading Post

Artist Adam Stab has a great eye for detail, and it’s on full display at his Fells Point gallery. Virtually every surface is a piece of art in itself, from the ceiling and floor to the wall stencils, display cases, radiator covers, and counters. Even the locks on the display cases are attention-grabbing, with figures of Indian deities on each of the lock heads. End Times specializes in wearable art—the racks are filled with limited edition T-shirts (some by Baltimore native Aaron LaCrate) and one large case is loaded with custom-painted sports shoes. More of an installation than a commercial space, the shop itself is a work of art. 1709 Aliceanna Street, endtimestrading.tumblr.com

Coffee-Table Book: Making History/Marking Art/MICA

This book is an inside job, in that it was produced by MICA to commemorate its long history, which stretches back to 1826. As such, it could be little more than an elaborate promo piece, but this volume far exceeds any narrow-minded expectations. In fact, it raises the bar for all future institutional history books. Doug Frost, MICA’s vice president for development emeritus, did his homework to craft a well-researched, highly readable narrative that traces the school’s evolution from the Industrial Revolution to the digital age. And he examines that evolution within the context of the city’s history, which broadens the scope of the book to make it a must-have for local history buffs. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s lavishly illustrated with tons of archival photos and gorgeously designed by MICA’s Abbott Miller and Jeremy Hoffman. www.mica.edu

Exhibition: Material Girls

Featuring work by eight contemporary black women artists, this delightful show at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum succeeds by repurposing everyday objects and materials into stunning artwork. Its many highlights include Chakaia Booker transforming strips of rubber tires into captivating sculpture that coils, curves, and twists into the imagination; Renée Stout turning commonplace furniture, knick-knacks, and charms into sacred spaces and shrines; and Baltimore’s Joyce Scott beading, weaving, and assembling pieces that exude both political awareness and personal truth, pictured. And Maren Hassinger does wonders with pink plastic shopping bags. Reginald F. Lewis Museum, 830 E. Pratt Street, 443-263-1800, www.africanamericanculture.org

 

Top Five: Theaters

Everyman: After 20 years, Everyman continues to change and grow—Shipwrecked! was particularly impressive last season—which bodes well for its upcoming move to the Westside. 1727 N. Charles Street, 410-752-2208, www.everymantheatre.org

Centerstage: Longtime artistic director Irene Lewis went out triumphantly with an excellent production of Pinter’s The Homecoming, and a new era begins. 700 N. Calvert Street, 410-332-0033, www.centerstage.org

Single Carrot: Excellent ensemble acting and bold programming have made Single Carrot an essential part of the local theater scene. 120 W. North Avenue, 443-844-9253,

www.singlecarrot.com

Hippodrome: This gorgeous venue is still the city’s mecca for Broadway musicals. 12 N. Eutaw Street, 410-837-7400, www.france-merrickpac.com

Strand: With its emphasis on female playwrights and relevant social issues, this company adds another dimension to Station North’s flourishing theater scene. 1823 N. Charles Street, 443-874-4917, www.strand-theater.org

Mixtape: Blaqstarr The Mixtape

Blaqstarr hasn’t fully lived up to his potential over the past year, collaborating with M.I.A. on underwhelming tracks like “Lemme Hump You” and exhibiting a penchant for Prince-like overindulgence as a solo artist (see the Divine EP). But the musician got his groove back with this dynamic mixtape featuring M.I.A., Talib Kweli, Diplo, Mos Def, and Rye Rye, his protégé. It was a welcome return to form that showcased his amped and ample skills as producer, solo artist, collaborator, and DJ—all in one, hour-long blast. www.blaqstarrmusic.com

Museum: The Walters Art Museum

At a time when museums don’t have the cash to mount blockbuster shows, The Walters collaborated with the British Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art to produce a sparkling gem, Treasures of Heaven. Comprised of Christian relics and reliquaries dating to the 17th century and later, the exhibition, which recently closed, used these ornate and precious objects to explore notions of faith and devotion, as well as the powerful connection between religious figures and their followers. Visitors were encouraged to share thoughts about their own sacred objects—written on postcards that were collected and displayed in a binder—and those writings added a contemporary context by showing how our personal treasures (from locks of hair to old cigarette lighters) evoke similar connections to those from the past. This is the kind of thought-provoking and innovative show that makes The Walters a must-see museum. The Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles Street, 410-547-9000, www.thewalters.org

New Hire: Kwame Kwei-Armah

When Centerstage announced that artistic director Irene Lewis would be leaving after nearly two decades on the job, speculation swirled about who could fill her shoes. After an extensive search, the theater smartly settled on Kwei-Armah, a British playwright and actor who has had work produced at Centerstage (most notably, Elmina’s Kitchen in 2005). Because Lewis is a champion of his work, he brings some degree of continuity to the job, and, unlike his predecessor, he plans to aggressively engage the community at large with a wide variety of artistic and outreach initiatives. Kwei-Armah just might make Marin Alsop look like a slacker. Centerstage, 700 N. Calvert Street, 410-332-0033, www.centerstage.org

Online Graphic Novel: Steve Ogden’s Moon Town

As the pages and panels of this serialized novel mount, Ogden’s drawing skills, as well as his mastery of lighting and scale, give Moon Town its sumptuous look. Ogden, who’s studio art director at Firaxis Games, sets his story in 2087, when mining companies have reduced the Earth to little more than a shell and turned their attention to the moon. All their high-tech equipment and ships can’t seem to safeguard their ore shipments—or their future, for that matter—but maybe Cassie Quinn, a new security guard, can. The story is still playing out online, as Ogden posts new panels every few days, but Cassie has potential heroine written all over her. With any luck at all, the finished novel will find its way to print sometime next year. www.moon-town.com

Photographer: Sofia Silva

Sofia Silva’s recent exhibit at the C. Grimaldis Gallery, Meditations on the Landscape of Desire, was one of the best photography shows in recent memory. Devoid of all people and focusing on the artificiality in the environment around us, her panoramic shots of parking lots, shopping centers, housing subdivisions, and industrial parks underscore the beauty and banality of consumer culture. And, like William Eggleston’s best work, they’re simply gorgeous photos, well composed and thoughtfully chosen shots that show us our world in ways that allow us to stand back and actually see it. www.sofiasilva.com

Prize Winner: Gary Kachadourian

During more than two decades working for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, Kachadourian oversaw the city mural program, planned Artscape exhibitions, coordinated numerous public art projects, and championed local artists with unflagging enthusiasm. Kachadourian, an artist himself, earned the respect of pretty much everyone in the local arts community, before leaving city government in 2009 to further his own artistic ambitions and attend graduate school at UMBC. That move paid off, as Kachadourian refined his large-scale drawings and meticulously designed wall coverings. That work won him one of this year’s $25,000 Baker Artist Awards, a prize that couldn’t go to a more deserving recipient. www.bakerartistawards.org/nomination/view/GaryK

 

Top Five: Writers

John Waters: Waters put a witty and intelligent spin on the memoir with Role Models, a multi-faceted look at his influences. www.dreamlandnews.com

Laura Lippman: She just keeps getting better, as her new novel, The Most Dangerous Thing, attests. www.lauralippman.com

Madison Smartt Bell: The Goucher prof crafted an unsettling novel, The Color of Night, that wedded the underbelly of 1960s counterculture to contemporary America’s proclivity for mythic violence.

Michael Kimball: One of the funniest guys around wrote Us, one of the saddest and most poignant books that you’ll ever read. www.michael-kimball.com

Stephen Dixon: What Is All This?, an enormous, and enormously gratifying, short-story collection proved, once again, that Dixon is a master of the art of fiction.

Public-Art Project: Lighting the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower

You might have noticed something strange and wonderful happening at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in June. As part of the iconic building’s centennial celebration, artist Kelley Bell projected a fantastic array of shapes and colors onto the clock faces at night. Bell’s piece turned a fixture on the local skyline—one that lots of folks likely take for granted—into an arresting piece of public art that will hopefully inspire similar projects in the future. Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, 21 S. Eutaw Street, 443-874-3596

Public Programming: Enoch Pratt Library Central Location

Where else could you, over the course of three months, hear financial guru/philanthropist Eddie Brown, Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, rapper Prodigy, poet Andrei Codrescu, National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon, and Senator Barbara Mikulski speak? For free! Mix in films, family events, music, and various public forums and you have a vitally important community resource, one that’s consistently entertaining and educational. 400 Cathedral Street, 410-396-5430

Tribute Band: Technicolor Motor Home

For years, Steely Dan didn’t tour because their songs were too darn difficult to replicate onstage. And when they did tour, they had something of an orchestra in tow. So it was surprising to learn that a local group was tackling such elegant and beloved pop music. Led by Crack the Sky keyboardist Glenn Workman, the band not only plays selections from every Steely Dan album, it does so with the necessary precision and passion, horns and back-up singers included. TMH proves you can buy a thrill—just check out one of their shows at The Recher or 8x10. www.technicolormotorhome.com

 

Food

By Suzanne Loudermilk

Barista: Allie Caran, Woodberry Kitchen

Allie Caran makes a mean cup of Joe, but she’s not your typical coffeehouse worker. She’s the head barista at Woodberry Kitchen and knows her beans and blends—the essentials for great coffee. She has the nose and palate of a wine taster and leads coffee lovers, or wannabes, through free weekly “cuppings”—sampling coffees for fragrance, flavor, and more—at the restaurant. In no time, Caran will have you sniffing the grounds, “breaking the crust,” and slurping coffee with the best of them. 2010 Clipper Park Road, No. 126, 410-464-8000.

Breakfast: Pete’s Grille

When you’ve got a hankering for an old-fashioned morning meal, Pete’s Grille in Waverly is the place to go for eggs, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and more. It’s been dishing out hearty food you can count on since the 1960s. Waiting for a seat at the counter may take a while, but your patience is rewarded with a satisfying plate of food to rev up the day. 3130 Greenmount Avenue, 410-467-7698.

BYOB: Restaurant Sabor

Chef/owner Roddy Domacassé has found the right formula for his neighborhood restaurant, tucked into a suburban strip center in the Mays Chapel area of Baltimore County—classic food preparations with Latin-American and Mediterranean influences and no liquor. Of course, diners have the option of bringing their own adult beverages, and, if they forget, there’s a wine and spirits shop a few doors away. The best part, though, is that the restaurant only charges one $5 corking fee. “It doesn’t matter if we’re opening one bottle or eight bottles,” we were told. 12240 Tullamore Road, Lutherville-Timonium, 410-628-7227.

Ceviche: Talara

There’s a little corner of Miami right here in Harbor East. Talara, a Nuevo Latino bistro, pulsates with sexy beats, tropical colors, tapas, and large plates. But it’s the dazzling ceviche bar that really puts you in a South Beach mood. There are 10 seafood selections that can be prepared in five different ways. We’re particularly enamored with the Fire and Ice, dolloped onto white ceramic spoons, for the bite of the habaneros paired with the mellowness of the ruby pearls of tuna. Or try the avocado-and-corn ceviche with crab. Don’t stop there. You can mix up the combos every time you go. 615 President Street, 410-528-9883.

Top Five: Hot Dogs

Haute Dog Carte: The plump dogs ($5), grilled to perfection, come in a variety of styles, from the signature black Angus to a Filipino-style dog with ginger miso sauce. 6070 Falls Road,

410-608-3500.

Polock Johnny’s: A local institution (regular, $2.39; Polish, $3.69), plucked from a flat grill and loaded with sauerkraut and bright neon mustard and wrapped in foil that can barely contain all the oozing goodness.Lexington Market, 400 W. Lexington Street, 410-539-8385 (and others).

Stuggy’s: From the bison frank from Gunpowder farm to the sausage from Ostrowski’s, there’s an emphasis on local ingredients. Top the dogs ($3.99 and up) with enhancements like mac and cheese with crab or pulled pork. 809 S. Broadway, 410-327-0228.

G&A: The Coney Island dog ($2) is a no-frills treat. Douse it with homemade chili or sweet relish. 3802 Eastern Avenue, 410-276-9422.

Ann’s Dari-Creme: The footlong dogs ($3.24) are cut in half to fit inside thick sub rolls. Try the chili cheese dog. 7918 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie, 410-761-1231.

Protégé: Patrick “Opie” Crooks, Roy’s

When asked about his nickname, the chef/partner at Roy’s in Baltimore laughs. “It’s the look,” he says of the moniker he’s had since middle school. Indeed, the red-headed chef does look like his TV namesake from The Andy Griffith Show, but this grown-up Opie has left Aunt Bee in his wake when it comes to cooking. The Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta-trained chef started his career at the Roy’s there in 2005. Now, he’s in Charm City, adding his own creative spin to the restaurant’s Hawaiian fusion cuisine. “I got a lot of mentoring from Roy [Yamaguchi, the chain’s founding chef],” he says. “I plan to be here for a good while.” 720 B Aliceanna Street, 410-659-0099.

Chicken Box: Chicken Paul’s

The term “chicken box” may be unique to Baltimore, but, essentially, it just means a container of fried chicken and fries. While KFC offers that very combo, local dives and carryouts have their own versions worth checking out. Chicken Paul’s is just such a place. It’s low-key and unremarkable in appearance, but the crispy chicken and fries satisfy a deep-fried need. The only drawback is that the shop closes at 6:30 p.m., so you have to grab your wings, thighs, and legs earlier in the day. We also like that there is a real Mr. Paul behind the counter, greeting everyone with a friendly smile. 8626 Loch Raven Boulevard, Towson, 410-825-4196.

Chocolate: A. Kirchmayr

The rich aroma of chocolate fills your nostrils as soon as you enter the compact store. Then, your eyes take in the beautiful German chocolates, handmade by Albert Kirchmayr and his staff. Kirchmayr grew up with these candies in his native Bavaria and wanted to share these confections with, lucky us, his adopted home of Baltimore. For more than two decades—he is the granddaddy, if you will, of the gourmet chocolate makers in town—the trained chocolatier has been turning out sensuous truffles and filled chocolates like passion fruit, cognac, and Irish coffee. A four-ounce box ($10) gives you a taste of 11 flavors. 9630 Deereco Road, Timonium, 410-561-7705.

Deli: Toscana Deli and Catering

You may have heard Mickey Cucchiella praise this Italian deli and market on 98 Rock—and rightly so. The subs and salads feature the freshest of ingredients (one of our favorites is the “Al Tomba,” oven-roasted turkey, Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, lettuce, onions, and Italian dressing on a flavorful roll); a couple of shelves are packed with biscotti made in Brookyn, NY, De Cecco pasta, and myriad Sun of Italy products; and the deli case is stocked with Boar’s Head meats, colorful olives, and delectable cheeses like the made-in-store mozzarella. There are tables if you want to sit and schmooze, or an efficient carryout service from a pleasant staff. 9946 Harford Road, Parkville, 410-661-3089.

Exotic Meats: Corner BYOB

Chef Bernard Dehaene came roaring into town this year with a continental menu—and a penchant for offering specials featuring kangaroo, yak, and python. Black bear and lion may also appear on the menu from time to time. The classically prepared dishes seem a good fit for quirky Hampden, which embraces all manner of eccentricities. The Brussels-born chef has also started an Exotic Meat Club at the restaurant. (E-mail meetme@cornerbyob.com to become a member.) If they’re anything like Dehaene’s “Flintstone Dinners” at his former Philadelphia restaurant Zot, diners are in for an adventure. Thai waterbugs, anyone? 850 W. 36th Street, 443-869-5075.

Farm to Table: The Chameleon

Local, seasonal foods are a calling card at many restaurants these days. But we have to congratulate chef/owner Jeff Smith for being a pioneer in the field, so to speak, as well as making the Hamilton-Lauraville area a restaurant destination. When he opened his modest row-house restaurant 10 years ago, “farm to table” wasn’t even a household term. Yet, Smith was at the forefront of relying on local farms and farmers’ markets and growing his own herbs for his award-winning New American cuisine. 4341 Harford Road, 410-254-2376.

Top Ten: Burgers

Kooper’s Tavern: You can’t beat the Elvis Got the Blues burger ($10) with Creekstone Farms Angus beef, Maytag blue cheese, and apple-smoked bacon on a Kaiser roll. 1702 Thames Street, 410-563-5423.

City Café: Chef Chad Gauss works wonders with his blackened turkey burgers ($11)—two moist, four-ounce patties on cheddar-jalapeño rolls, each topped with a fried-green tomato and chipotle mayo. 1001 Cathedral Street, 410-539-4252.

Hamilton Tavern: Its signature Crosstown Burger ($11) is a six-inch stack of Roseda Farms beef, melted horseradish cheddar cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, and onion, all served on a toasted bun. 5517 Harford Road, 410-426-1930.

The Abbey Burger Bistro: There’s a burger for every appetite here, but we relish Harry’s Bistro Burger ($9.50) for its bacon, fried egg, and the nutty taste of the Lincolnshire cheese—all on an English muffin. 1041 Marshall Street, 443-453-9698.

Mother’s Federal Hill Grille: Move over, Mother’s Heart Attack on a Plate burger. There’s another contender on the menu—the Backyard Burger ($8.99), a grilled, eight-ounce Angus slab bathed in homemade barbecue sauce and layered with cheddar, bacon, and crunchy onion straws. 1113 S. Charles Street, 410-244-8686.

Victoria Gastro Pub: The black Angus burger ($10) gets raves for its juicy texture, brioche roll, house pickles, and smoked-paprika fries. 8201 Snowden River Parkway, Columbia, 410-750-1880.

McCabe’s: This plump mound of Springfield Farm grass-fed beef ($11) is a succulent palette for your choice of cheese and extras like bacon, fried egg, and sautéed mushroom on a brioche bun. 3845 Falls Road, 410-467-1000.

Duda’s Tavern: Build your own by starting with a one-half-pound, char-grilled patty with lettuce and tomato ($7.99), and toss on your pick of cheeses. Keep stacking with bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and onions. 1600 Thames Street, 410-276-9719.

Donna’s Café: The fat turkey burger ($11) is a hit with adornments like roasted sweet red peppers and onions. 5100 Falls Road, Cross Keys, 410-532-7611 (and others).

Alonso’s Restaurant: Alonso’s Famous Burger has celebrated its one-pound girth for decades. It’s still worthy—and, now, you can get an eight-ounce version ($10), too. 415 W. Cold Spring Lane, 410-235-3433.

Food Tours: Charm City Food Tours

What better way to get acquainted with a city than by exploring its restaurants and markets? Charm City Food Tours offers guided excursions through several Baltimore neighborhoods, including Fells Point, Federal Hill, Little Italy, and, soon, Mt. Vernon. Participants get to eat and dish about the history of each location they visit. The cost is $53 plus a $2 ticketing fee. Jeff Swedarsky, president of Food Tour Corp., started the walking tours in D.C. in 2007, and has since expanded to eight cities, including ours. “It brings happiness,” he says of learning about local food. “It makes you appreciate what a place is like.” www.baltimorefoodtours.com

Grown-up Place to Bring the Baby: V-NO

Some local wine bars chase their infant-toting customers out the door at 6 p.m. That doesn’t happen at V-NO, where owners Mark and Kristina Bachman encourage young moms and dads to roll up to their waterfront haven with strollers and young’uns in tow any time of day. It’s a regular baby hub as the kids gurgle and play while the grown-ups munch on cheeses, pâtés, and French bread while sipping wine. “I’ve seen a child take his first step,” Mark says. “And eat the first solid food with a baguette.” 905 S. Ann Street, 410-342-8466.

Ice Cream: Prigel Family Creamery

For more than 100 years, the Prigel family has been dairy farming in the Long Green Valley. Yet, only recently did they come up with the genius idea of using their cows’ milk to make delicious ice cream. But it wasn’t an easy road to open their retail shop last year. They faced zoning hurdles and legal fees and are still working out some issues. For now, though, visitors can savor ice cream, milkshakes, and ice-cream sandwiches, all made with organic milk on the premises. There are baskets of blankets on the front porch, so you can take one, spread it on a grassy patch, and get sticky with flavors like peachy peach, good ol’ vanilla, and—our pick—butter pecan ($2.95, one scoop). 4851 Long Green Road, Glen Arm, 410-510-7488.

Indulgence: Red Velvet Doughnuts, B&O American Brasserie

On its website, B&O American Brasserie lists its desserts under “The Last Stop” on the menu. Honestly, we think the red-velvet doughnuts with sprinkled sugar on top may be better noted as a first stop. They’re guaranteed to make a good day even better or a bad day suddenly good. The three warm doughnuts ($7) would be fine by themselves, but placate your inner child and dunk them in the satisfyingly sweet potato-cashew milkshake that accompanies the dish. Happy days are here again. 2 N. Charles Street, 443-692-6172.

Menu Makeover: Pazo

The menu at Pazo has been evolving since the Harbor East restaurant first opened in 2004. In the beginning, tapas (almost four dozen choices) were the focus. Over the past year, chef/co-owner Tony Foreman has tweaked the list to include a slate of dinner courses (as well as a selection of hot and cold tapas). “It’s what people wanted,” Foreman says. His chef de cuisine Mario Cano-Catalan turns out Mediterranean-inspired dishes like leg of lamb steak from the wood grill, branzino, and a seafood rice plate that includes heads-on shrimp, mussels, lobster, and more. 1425 Aliceanna Street, 410-534-7296.

Mexican: Miguel’s Cocina y Cantina

Maybe it’s the sangria—a hefty pint glass of Pinot Noir, brandy, and fresh fruit—talking, but Miguel’s backs up its sultry drinks with authentic Mexican food, too. Tucked away in Silo Point, a developing property in Locust Point, the restaurant translates owner Michael Marx’s time spent in Mexico into a fiesta of fresh flavors and colors. From the complimentary chips with two sauces (tomatillo and salsa asada) to the Baja tacos with grilled tilapia to the warm cinnamon churros for dessert, the kitchen strives to please your palate. 1200 Steuart Street, 443-438-3139.

Macaroons: Bonjour Bakery

These classic French cookies are as delicate and flavorful as they look, sandwiching a variety of delicious fillings between two wafers. At Bonjour, you’ll find homemade lemon curd in the lemon, raspberry jam in the raspberry, chocolate ganache in the chocolate, and pistachio buttercream in the pistachio cookies. Gerard Billebault, who co-owns the shop with his wife Gayle Brier-Billebault, has been making macar oons since he was a child in Paris. Today, the pastry chef turns out special orders to keep the sweet confections fresh and crisp. The minimum order is two dozen ($12) for one flavor. 6070 Falls Road, 410-372-0238.

Top Five: Sushi

Joss Café and Sushi Bar: Kobe-beef sashimi and salt-packed salmon nigiri are just two of the intriguing selections, all prepared with speed and aplomb. 413 N. Charles Street, 410-244-6988.

Sushi Hana: This longtime favorite offers perhaps the largest maki sushi selection we’ve seen. Chefs bestow careful treatment to every piece of fish. 6080 Falls Road, No. 11, 410-377-4228.

Matsuri: A user-friendly menu (complete with glossary) and good sushi are why this spot remains popular after all these years. 1105 S. Charles Street, 410-752-8561.

Yama Sushi: Generous cuts of fish and the use of interesting ingredients, like mango and soy paper, make Yama special. 4725-G Dorsey Hall Dr., Ellicott City, 410-997-3688.

Green Leaf Restaurant: Southeast Asian influences and a rotating list of daily sushi specials produce a mélange of flavor and textural combinations. 11313 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-771-0030.

New Chef: Tae Strain, Demi

The Howard County native hadn’t planned to become a chef. He was anticipating going back to school to become a social worker after he graduated from McDaniel College with a sociology degree. But he started working in the kitchen at Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia and found he was drawn to cooking. He eventually headed to New York. “I wanted to be challenged,” he says. “It’s the premiere cooking city in the nation.” But Dan Chaustit, chef/owner of Crush, had worked with Strain and wanted him to head up his new restaurant, Demi, located inside Crush. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” says Strain, 28. “I feel fortunate to establish my identity.” 510 E. Belvedere Avenue, 443-278-9001.

Pastry Chef: Aja Cage, SALT

On her path to becoming a graphic designer, Aja Cage got a job in a restaurant, working in Mt. Airy, then Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Along the way, she attended Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh. Today, the Columbia native is showcasing her baking skills as the pastry chef at SALT near Patterson Park. You’ll find tempting sweets like a chocolate angel-food cake with salted-caramel sauce with milk-chocolate sorbet and poached pineapple. (Yup, that’s all one decadent dish!) She’s also known for her homemade ice creams in flavors like strawberry jam and white-chocolate lemongrass. “I’m really happy,” she says. “I get to do the pastries on my own.” 2127 E. Pratt Street, 410-276-5480.

Reinvention: The Point in Fells

For a while, it looked like the former tavern called Miss Irene’s was going to join Baltimore’s phalanx of jinxed restaurant buildings. Then, Erica Russo and her parents Edie and Jimmy Chin swooped in a year ago to save the troubled spot. They brought in accomplished chef Jacob Raitt and fashioned a New American menu that appeals to diners with its emphasis on local, seasonal foods. Now, they’re packing them in, whether in the upscale, second-floor dining room, the downstairs bar, or the outdoor tables. Irene Glyphis, the beloved proprietor of the original Miss Irene’s who was known to single-handedly break up barroom brawls, would be pleased—even if she wouldn’t recognize the place! 1738 Thames Street, 410-327-7264.

Sandwich: Cubano, Havana Road Cuban Café

At Havana Road Cuban Café, owner/chef Marta Ines Quintana has turned a suburban storefront into a tiny, tropical oasis with lively music, photos of her home country, and wonderful renditions of her native food. While we are always happy with the arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and ropa vieja (braised brisket), we return for the Cubano sandwich ($9): Chunks of slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss, mustard, and pickles are pressed on crunchy bread. Traditional mojo (a citrus, olive-oil-based sauce) is served on the side with fried plantain chips. Delicioso! 8 W. Pennsylvania Avenue, Towson, 410-494-8222.

Smoothies: Zia’s Cafe

Everyone is getting in on the smoothie craze these days—even McDonald’s. But we’ve found our favorite, thank you, at Zia’s Cafe. Watch as a young staff member cuts up organic fresh fruit and twirls it around in a blender with ice until it’s a smooth, cold, thirst-quenching concoction. The Lucky 13 smoothie ($4.48, 16 ounces)—pineapple, mango, organic shredded coconut, and apple-lemon juice—is just the boost we need after several sun salutations at the nearby yoga studio. 13 Allegheny Avenue, Towson, 410-296-0799.

Soup: Dan Dan Noodle Soup, Sam’s Kid

Sam’s Kid is a California-casual bistro serving an array of Pan-Asian tapas, sushi, and large plates—from Vietnamese spring rolls and vegetable dumplings to pad Thai—in the heart of Fells Point’s pub zone. The menu also lists several noodle soups, including our favorite, dan dan ($8.95). The fragrant broth (for some weird reason, you pay $1 extra for the liquid!) is laden with shreds of spicy Szechuan pork, peanut-sesame flavors, spinach, napa cabbage, bok choy, bean sprouts, and tender egg noodles. 811 S. Broadway, 410-522-3663.

Top Ten: Cupcakes

Midnite Confection’s Cupcakery: These confections ($2.75-3) are rife with whimsy, like the cream-filled “Hostess” cupcake with its white squiggle on top or the dollop of strawberry jam in the PBJ cupcake. 1051 S. Charles Street, 410-727-1010.

Hamilton Bakery: These cupcakes ($2.95) are decorated to hint at what’s beneath the frosting: a tiny buttercream carrot on the carrot cake; a pink rose on the red velvet. 5414 Harford Road, 410-254-0797.

Dirty Carrots: These dense and rich cupcakes ($3) are frosted with finger-lickin’ flavors like salted caramel, and cinnamon with a punch reminiscent of Red Hots. Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar.

Woodlea Bakery: The “gourmet cupcakes” ($1.95), available on weekends, come in such tempting varieties as “s’mores,” (topped with marshmallow and dusted with graham crackers) and “éclair” (cream-filled with chocolate frosting). 4905 Belair Road, 410-488-7717.

Sweet Sin: The gluten-free cupcakes ($2.75)—made with a blend of rice, tapioca, and potato flour—are dense and delicious, especially the chocolate with peppermint frosting or raspberry-filled with a swirl of ganache on top. 123 W. 27th Street, 410-464-7211.

Charm City Cupcakes: We’re charmed by these sweet morsels ($2.75), like the Black-Eyed Susan (a yellow cake with a chocolate-mousse center and fondant flower on top) and a black-bottom cupcake with cheesecake and a smattering of chocolate chips inside. 326 N. Charles Street, 410-244-8790.

Caroline’s Cupcakery: The cupcakes ($3) come in festive colors like pink (strawberry flavored) and lavender-buttercream, depending on the whim of the staff. Or enjoy the “death by chocolate,” which needs no explanation. 1433 E. Fort Avenue, 443-220-0070.

Oh, What a Cake: We love the jumbo yellow cupcake ($3.25) with swirls of strawberry filling and lemony frosting as well as the almond-cream-filled cake with white buttercream icing. 6656 Dobbin Road, Suite K, Columbia,

410-381-3131.

Roland Park Bagel Co: These oversized cupcakes ($2.25) come wrapped in paper cups that barely contain the mounds of frosting: mocha drizzled in chocolate sauce, a chocolate-chip cookie wedged into a “cookies and cream,” and a tangy Key lime slice on a yellow cake. 500 W. Cold Spring Lane, 410-889-3333.

Sugarbakers: A cupcake ($2) here is the perfect way to get your small fix of red velvet, carrot cake, or yellow cake. Special ordering is best. 752 Frederick Road, Catonsville, 410-788-9478.

Salumeria: La Scala Ristorante Italiano

When La Scala’s chef/owner Nino Germano closed his tiny grocery Il Scalino a few years ago, he thankfully continued to sell the imported meats and cheeses at his Little Italy restaurant. His salumeria menu tantalizes the palate with cheeses taleggio and formaggio di capra and hand-cut meats like prosciutto di parma, pancetta fumigata, and mortadella. You can eat them there or get carryout to enjoy these delicacies at home. 1012 Eastern Avenue, 410-783-9209.

Tapas: Centro Tapas Bar

Whenever we go to this charming Federal Hill restaurant run by owner/chef George Dailey, we vow to return more frequently. Its Spanish and South American tapas are always delightful—from the sautéed spinach studded with chickpeas and dates to the succulent, heads-on Marvesta Farms shrimp with ajillo mayo. You get off to a good start with fresh-baked bread (beg for the raisin) and an assortment of wines served in short glasses, reminiscent of a Spanish tasca, or pub. It’s this Latino flair and hospitality that makes you want to stick around for another glass of sangria. 1444 Light Street, 443-869-6871.

Tater Tots: Sticky Rice

Remember Tater Tot Day in the school cafeteria? Well, even if you don’t, these golden nuggets seem to stir up excitement when available at local restaurants—especially at Sticky Rice, where they’re served in a large bucket ($8) for noshing with friends. This may seem like an odd offering at a place that has Pan-Asian dishes, noodle bowls, and sushi, but it works. There’s something fun about grasping a hash-brown tot with chopsticks and coating it with the restaurant’s “world-famous, secret” sauce. Even though Sticky Rice isn’t sharing the recipe, we’d compare the dip to a spicy, Thousand-Island dressing. We’ve certainly come a long way since Ore-Ida introduced the kid favorite in 1954. 1634 Aliceanna Street, 443-682-8243.

Up-and-Coming Food Blogger: Eli Knauer

Last August, Eli Knauer, now 10, sat with his laptop at his Parkville home and penned his first post: “I want to be a food critic when I grow up so that’s why I created this blog.” Then, he excused himself: “Dinner’s going to be ready soon. So, bye, for now!” He’s been writing about food and restaurants ever since at Adventures of a Koodie. And he’s not shy about his assessments, giving stars for quality and kid friendliness. Eli, who will be going into fifth grade at Oakleigh Elementary School this fall, says he doesn’t have favorites: “Everything is good.” But if he has to choose a place for dinner, it’s Pizza Hut—for its stuffed-crust pizza with bacon. If Eli likes it, it must be good. adventuresofakoodie.blogspot.com

Vegan: Great Sage

Meat lovers, pay attention. You will enjoy this Howard County vegan restaurant, too. On our last visit, we devoured the Southwest ranch “bacon” wrap ($10)—a marinated portobello mushroom with roasted corn, chopped romaine, avocado-ranch dressing, tempeh “bacon,” and tomatoes in a grilled flour tortilla—never missing animal protein. Other menu items include fare like the Maryland crab cake with an artichoke-tofu “crab” patty and the adult mac and cheese, an exquisite mix of rigatoni and veggies in a vegan Mornay sauce. Even the kids have their own menu, complete with a “pepperoni” pizza. Just don’t tell them it’s made with soy “pepperoni.” 5809 Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville, 443-535-9400.

Welcome Back: The Grille at Peerce’s Landing

Marylanders love a comeback story. And Peerce’s­—with its storied tradition of hosting birthday celebrations, prom dinners, and special occasions—couldn’t have been better poised to tug at nostalgic heartstrings than with its rebirth under owner Joe Bivona. Now called The Grille at Peerce’s Landing, it’s bringing in the Valley crowd—this time with a more casual menu and most entrees under $20. The place, which reopened as a restaurant last October, has been spiffied up with a classy wine rack, new carpet, and bare tables, but diners will find a comforting old-fashioned feel from the white brick walls to the wood bar. 12460 Dulaney Valley Road, Phoenix, 410-252-7111.

Worth the Drive: Soup ’R Natural

This sweet restaurant in the Hereford zone is a family affair for the Heneghans. You’re likely to find mom and dad overseeing the kitchen and seating diners and their four daughters waiting on tables. They take pride in serving dishes using herbs and vegetables from their garden or eggs, meats, and ice cream from area farms. The menu changes seasonally, but there’s usually one constant—carrot cake, a freshly made version of Dan and Nell Heneghan’s wedding cake. Other regular items include the portachoke salad with diced portobellos, artichoke hearts, green beans, and mixed greens tossed with a tarragon Dijon vinaigrette, and the Proud American, a classic grilled cheese sandwich. 17114 York Road, Parkton, 443-491-3464.

 

Fun

By Jess Blumberg and Amy Mulvihill

Bar Makeover: Red House Tavern

The Red House Tavern’s crimson building has been a staple in Canton for decades. But when Ron Singer bought the space and reopened it earlier this year, he turned it into a sleeker version of itself. Singer restored the bar and fireplace, adding comfy armchairs, polished high-top tables, and an electric jukebox. He also renewed the live entertainment license, and the bar now features jazz and blues performances. The menu is more upscale, too, with fare like duck nachos and glass noodles. But Singer hasn’t gone all fancy: During Orioles games and happy hours, Natty Boh drafts are just $1.50. 2239 Essex Street, 410-522-0015.

’Burbs Bar: An Poitin Stil

The Stil will celebrate its 12th anniversary in September. To last that long among the transient strip-mall establishments of York Road in Timonium means you must be doing something right—and, in fact, the Stil does many things right. Looking for an evening of drinks with friends? The outdoor patio is always hopping and the nook-and-cranny-filled inside rooms will provide cover for furtive tête-à-têtes. Want to celebrate a special occasion? Grab a table near the fireplace and enjoy surprisingly sophisticated pub fare like venison au poivre. In the mood to kick up your heels? There’s live music every Wednesday through Saturday, and an open-mic night every Monday. And, oh yeah, it’s an Irish bar, so you know the beer is good. 2323 York Road, Timonium, 410-560-7900.

Cocktail: Strawberry Martini, Vino Rosina

Drink trends come and go, but the fad of infusing liquors seems here to stay. The process—letting ingredients steep in alcohol for days at a time—keeps popping up at our favorite bars. The best example we’ve found is Vino Rosina’s Strawberry Martini, a blend of chopped rhubarb, sliced strawberries, and basil leaves that is immersed in Prairie organic vodka for 3-5 days. The result (served in a chilled martini glass) is a perfect balance of tart and sweet flavors with an aromatic punch of basil. The infusion subdues the alcohol taste, letting all of the flavors really shine. But be careful, this one goes down a little too easily. 507 S. Exeter Street, 410-528-8600.

Top Ten: Festivals

Artscape: The July culture-palooza—now celebrating its 30th year—manages to unite our diverse city with its joyful mix of art, music, crafts, theater, food, art cars, and more. Plus, it’s free! Mt. Vernon and Station North, 1-877-BALTIMORE.

Maryland Renaissance Festival: For nine consecutive weekends, you can let ye olde freak flag fly at this massively popular late-summer event, which recreates a 16th-century British village complete with jesters, jousting, and jugglers. 1821 Crownsville Road, Annapolis. 410-266-7304.

Maryland Film Festival: What started as a humble regional film fest has blossomed into a major destination on the indie circuit. Wrote The New Yorker’s Richard Brody: “The center of cinematic gravity had shifted from wherever you’d usually look for it (Hollywood, New York, Paris) to Baltimore.” www.md-filmfest.com

Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ: What better way to kick off spring than with two whole days of beer guzzling, bourbon sipping, barbecue grubbing, and music listening? Timonium Fairgrounds.

Hot August Blues & Roots Festival: This music festival gets special props for its pastoral setting, relaxed vibe, and stellar lineups, which have included everyone from John Hiatt to Keb’ Mo’. Oregon Ridge Park, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, 877-321-FEST.

Greek Heritage Festival: Of all the city’s ethnic festivals, this one feels the most authentic—with delicious gyros and dolmades, costumed dances, and tours of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. 520 South Ponca Street, 410-633-5020.

HampdenFest: This feels like the quirkiest fest on The Avenue, with toilet races, mustache championships, and live local music all day. 36th Street and Falls Road.

The Baltimore Book Festival: Since we are “The City That Reads,” it’s only fitting we should have a superb book festival—and we do. Year after year, The Baltimore Book Festival attracts local and national talent in genres ranging from Maryland romance writers to children’s lit. Mt. Vernon Place, 410-752-8632.

EcoFest: To kick off Baltimore Green Week, EcoFest annually promotes local organizations that provide sustainable goods and services. But it’s fun, too, offering free belly-dancing and yoga classes, a children’s play area, and lots of yummy food. Franklin and Calhoun Streets.

Transmodern Festival: The Transmodern Festival is where the city’s counter-culture comes out to play—through live concerts, experimental art, and cutting-edge performances. transmodernfestival.org

Dance Night: Save Your Soul, Lithuanian Hall

If it’s the first Friday night of the month, chances are that MICA students and dance lovers alike are making their way down to the Lithuanian Hall in the Hollins Market neighborhood. The hall has hosted various dance parties throughout the years, but Save Your Soul seems to have it all. First off, it’s cheap—admission is $5, shots of the honey liquor Viryta are $2, and drafts are a buck. Second, the music is perfect dance-party material. DJs Action Pat, King Gilbert, and Robert Fearless spin ’50s and ’60s R&B, rock, and soul. (Think Little Richard and Otis Retting.) And finally, the party has a fan in John Waters. Hard to top that. Lithuanian Hall, 851 Hollins Street, 410-685-5787.

Day Trip: St. Michaels

If some vacation destination hasn’t already trademarked the slogan “So close, but a world away,” we totally think St. Michaels should call dibs. Just on the other side of the Bay Bridge, St. Michaels is as quaint a bayside hamlet as you could hope to find, full of history, yes, but also a progressive culinary scene that is embodied in establishments like Bistro St. Michaels, 208 Talbot, Harbor Lights, and the town’s annual springtime food and wine festival. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum celebrates the region’s ties to the bay with numerous exhibits and events all year long, and the picturesque Inn at Perry Cabin provides world-class accommodations and the pampering services of the Linden Spa. Just knowing that all this is a mere 90-minute drive away is comforting. www.stmichaelsmd.org

Eccentric Sport: Bicycle Polo

Baltimore loves its quirky sports. From roller derby to duckpin bowling, people in this town are all about finding weird and wonderful ways to entertain themselves. We thought we’d heard it all, but even we were perplexed when we found out about the hardy souls playing bicycle polo at Northwest Park in Mt. Washington. Bicycle polo? Is that even a thing? Turns out, it is. The sport—pretty much exactly what it sounds like: polo on a bike—is over 100 years old and was even an exhibition sport in the 1908 London Olympics. Interest stateside has picked up in recent years as young urbanites look for further usages for their mountain bikes. The Mt. Washington club—the only one in the area—currently fields about 13 players who scrimmage on Sundays from early spring right up until Thanksgiving. Giddyup! 2101 W. Rogers Avenue.

Fitness Class: Body Jam at Merritt’s Downtown Athletic Club

It’s good for you! You’ll feel better afterwards! It boosts endorphin levels and metabolic rates! We’ve heard it all—and we know it’s true—but exercising still always feels more like a chore than a pleasure. The bi-weekly Body Jam classes at Merritt Athletic Club’s Mt. Vernon gym might be the exception to the rule though. There are no medieval contraptions to wrestle with, no grueling routine to memorize: All you need to do is bring your inner 16-year-old self and dance. That’s right, remember how you used to boogie to your favorite tunes in your bedroom after school? This is a slightly more productive version of that, with (hopefully) less hairbrush singing. 210 E. Centre Street, 410-332-0906.

Top Five: Off-Leash Pet Parks

Downs Park Dog Beach: Yes, dogs allowed! At Downs Park Dog Beach, Fido can romp and swim to his heart’s content. 8311 John Downs Loop, Pasadena, 410-222-6230.

Locust Point Dog Park: Baltimore City’s newest dog park is friendly, fun, and clean. Southeast corner of Latrobe Park, near 1627 E. Fort Avenue.

BARC Park at Hannah More: A godsend for suburbanites, this park consists of a 1.5-acre park for large dogs and a .75-acre park for smaller ones. 12035 Reisterstown Road, Reisterstown, 410-887-1142.

Quiet Waters Park: There’s plenty of room for pups to play in fenced-in areas at this Anne Arundel park. 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, 410-222-1777.

Canton Dog Park: Plans are afoot to update the city’s first canine park with new surfacing, improved drainage, a water feature, and added shade and benches. But, in the meantime, the dogs are still having fun. Toone and S. Bouldin Streets.

Karaoke: Nevin’s Cross St. Station

There is nothing fancy about Nevin’s, but that suits us just fine. We don’t necessarily want pristine surroundings if we’re going to do something as potentially embarrassing as sing karaoke. We want the lights low. We want the bar to serve cheap, strong drinks. And we definitely want our fellow revelers to be as loopy as we are. Nevins ticks all those boxes and more, offering karaoke six nights a week. The staff and patrons are so used to amateur warblers singing everything from Sinatra to Journey that they won’t bat an eye when you hit a bum note—or two. 31-33 E. Cross St., 410-468-4078.

New Bar: Johnny Rad's

When this skate-punk tavern opened last year, it was obvious that it filled an Upper Fells Point void: a chill spot to grab a good, inexpensive meal and stay for drinks. Johnny Rad’s has unique bar fare (try the fried edamame!) plus an eclectic selection of beers, from canned Dale’s Pale Ale to hearty Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout. Combine that with the delicious pizza, pop-punk soundtrack, artsy skateboard décor, and easygoing staff, and it’s hard to remember where we ever went before Johnny Rad’s. 2108 Eastern Avenue, 443-759-6464.

Nightlife Victory: Tiki Barge

In March, things were looking shaky for Tiki Barge, the harbor’s popular floating pool bar. Residents of the nearby HarborView and Ritz Carlton condos appealed to the liquor board to revoke the bar’s license due to the allegedly disruptive behavior of the clientele. Complaints ranged from illegal parking to one patron’s “simulated sex with a potted palm tree” (!). In April, the board ruled to suspend the bar’s license. But, one month later, it reversed its decision, providing the bar pay a $3,000 fine and beef up its security. The Tiki Barge promptly posted on its Facebook page: “Come on down and celebrate with us . . . but please remember to be respectful!” 500 Harborview Drive.

Oriole: Matt Wieters

Talk about pressure. When Matt Wieters came up to the majors in 2009, fans acted like it was the second coming of Christ (or at least Cal Ripken Jr.). And with all of that build up came an inevitable let down. (Baseballprospectus.com even called him one of “the most disappointing prospects of all time.”) But, the naysayers should think again. This season, Wieters—–the O’s lone All-Star—–has emerged as the best defensive catcher in the league. He leads, by far, in caught-stealing percentage, fielding percentage, and is the only catcher to not allow a passed ball. His defensive skills have inspired YouTube montages and T-Shirts bearing his silhouette that read, “Don’t. Run. Ever.” Good advice.

Place For Outside Drinking: Nick’s Fish House & Grill

Sometimes it’s nice to escape the bustle, pollution, and car horns. It’s even nicer when we can do that without actually leaving the city. With its multi-level decks overlooking their marina, Nick’s Fish House in Port Covington is about as scenic as you can get inside 695. On weekend nights, the deck features live music from steel drum, blues, and acoustic acts. But we take pleasure in the little things when we’re at Nick’s, like munching on an order of plump fried oysters, sipping on a delicious version of a frozen rum runner, and watching the sky turn peach during sunset. No wonder they have such a popular happy hour (4-7 p.m.)—there’s a lot to be happy about. 2600 Insulator Drive, 410-347-4123.

Top Five: Happy Hours

RA Sushi: RA is always hopping Monday through Saturday from 3-7 p.m. And it’s easy to see why: sushi rolls are half off and hot sake is $2. 1390 Lancaster Street, 410-522-3200.

Little Havana: A day of stress can be easily washed away at Little Havana’s happy hour (4-7 p.m.). Enjoy a $10 pitcher of margaritas on the waterfront deck and breathe easy. 1325 Key Highway, 410-837-9903.

Jack’s Bistro: We appreciate that Jack’s has a late-night happy hour for we night owls. Appetizers and drinks are $2 off from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. 3123 Elliott Street, 410-878-6542.

J.A. Murphy’s Tavern: With $1 shots, foosball, and a Wheel of Fortune-type drinking game, what’s not to love about this 4-7 p.m. happy hour? 1703 Aliceanna Street, 410-753-4420.

Holy Frijoles: You’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than Wednesday nights at Holy Frijoles, where tacos are $1 and margaritas (strong as ever) are just $3. 908 W. 36th Street, 410-235-2326.

Pool: Swan Lake Swim Club

Wedged on a triangle of land between Perring Parkway and Woodbourne Avenue, this modest neighborhood pool club in Northeastern Baltimore might be one of the city’s best-kept secrets. There’s nothing particularly fancy about the facilities (one adult pool, a kiddie pool, a shaded grove of picnic tables, a sandy volleyball court, changing rooms, and a snack bar), but the place practically oozes a sense of community. Hours are long, particularly on Fridays when the pool doesn’t close until 10 p.m., and the calendar is filled with movie nights, cookouts, and other special events. It is the kind of place where good summer memories are born. 2030 Woodbourne Avenue, 410-426-9887.

Raven: Terrell Suggs

A good friend is there when you need them most—and that goes for great football players, too. Last season, Ravens veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs had one of his best years ever, and he came through when it counted. In the three games against the Steelers, Suggs recorded 5.5 sacks. (Three were in the playoff game.) Including the post season, Suggs compiled 78 tackles, 16 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two pass deflections. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month in November and, once again, was selected for the Pro Bowl. All we can say to Terrell is, thank you for being a friend.

Winery for a Day Trip: Boordy Vineyards

More so than any other local vineyard, Boordy has embraced the concept of Winery as a destination. Of course it offers the de rigueur tastings and tours, but there’s also a summertime farmers’ market on Thursdays, live music every Saturday night, special events like a Father’s Day picnic, and the Autumn Wine Fest on Sundays in October offering grape-pressing demos, wagon rides, and craft vendors. It makes you wonder how they find the time to actually, you know, make wine. 12820 Long Green Pike, Hydes, 410-592-5015.

 

Indulge

By Christina Breda Antoniades

Body Ritual: Chas Spa & Salon

For an invigorating self-service treatment you can enjoy solo or with others—and, surprisingly, without breaking the bank—head to the Oasis Room at the über-luxe Chas Spa. Your 45-minute, $80 journey starts with your choice of therapeutic mud. Slather it on and move to the steam room, where eucalyptus-infused vapors will open your pores and a fiber-optic light show will add a little New-Age kick to the experience. After that, it’s on to the rain-shower room for a refreshing wash with a raw-sugar scrub. Make the most of your visit by relaxing in the meditation garden, which is open to all guests. 801 Key Highway, 410-625-CHAS.

Bridal Salon: Scene 217

If you’re the kind of bride who wants the focus to be solely on you for your wedding day (who better?), Scene 217 will definitely be your scene. The cozy boutique—just enough room for four chairs—means that when your bridal party arrives, the place is all yours. Owner/stylist Debbie Ingrao, who started her career as a makeup artist with Estée Lauder (but has been taming tresses for more than a decade), gets an assist from a first-rate staff, including bridal specialist Candace Parrish, who has a knack for sculpted updos and extensions and whose work has graced the pages of Glamour magazine. And though your party may have Scene 217 to itself, you’re not alone in choosing the place—the salon does 40 to 50 weddings per year. 217 Albemarle Street, 410-244-0647.

Colorist: Jill Turnbull

It’s fitting that No Worries is the name of her recently expanded salon, because it’s also an apt description of owner/stylist Jill Turnbull’s approach to getting clients gorgeous. Calm and cool, the earthy Aussie—who also cuts hair and has her own makeup line—is the colorist other stylists call when they have a dye job calamity on their hands. And while a natural look is her usual aim, Turnbull has a few funky tricks up her sleeve: Her hair and makeup contributions to Fila’s ad campaign and numerous Washington Ballet projects tell the tale . . . in vivid color. No Worries, 29 Allegheny Avenue, Towson, 410-296-8281.

Day Spa: Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa

It may be your mother’s—maybe even your grandmother’s—spa, but saunter through the bright red door at Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa, and you’ll be glad to make it yours. Red Door recently celebrated 101 years in business, plenty of time to perfect its products and services, which include hair, nails, waxing, skincare—including a new oxygen facial—massage, body treatments, makeup, and a bevy of retail products. A separate entrance to the spa keeps the bustling salon world at bay and plunges you into a dreamy, pineapple-cilantro-scented world. When you’re ready to reenter reality, a Red Door makeup artist will send you out in style—every guest ends her stay in the makeup chair for a free cosmetics refresher. 42 Village Square, The Village of Cross Keys, 410-323-3636.

Top Five: Places to Pamper Your Skin

About Faces Day Spa and Salon: Everything from the new plant-stem-cell facial to the organic wild-black-cherry peel, plus a Med Spa. 1501 S. Clinton Street, Third Floor, 410-675-0099 (and others).

Mt. Washington Spa: Vesna Stojanovic can pull off a Brazilian in eight minutes, but she also gives time-erasing facials. 1600 Kelly Ave., 410-664-3400.

Ojas Wellness Center: You can get your body and skin into balance here. Try the personalized organic facial. 9419 Common Brook Road, Suite 104, Owings Mills, 410-356-7080 (and others).

Bee Beautiful: Slip in for an aromatherapy facial, an anti-aging eye treatment, or an herbal-hot-oil body wrap. 11341 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-527-4630.

Spa Santé: The hydra-smooth body treatment, an all-over body scrub and wrap, will leave you with enviably soft skin. 1429 Aliceanna Street, 410-534-0009.

Down-to-Earth Salon: Chop Shop

Set in a deliciously funky strip of shops in Lauraville, the kitschy-cool Chop Shop may be slightly out of the way, but can’t be beat if you’re looking for an experience that’s low-key but still high style. Owner/stylist Lisa Hawks, who thinks of herself as “more of a hair coach,” will teach you how to tame your curls rather than chemically straighten them and, in a nod to Mother Earth, donates clipped hair to help soak up oil spills. Chop Shop also has a few great quirks like Stitch and Bitch Sundays (for knitters) and a 20-seat Art-Deco movie “theater” Hawks opens for viewings and parties. 4321 Harford Road, 410-426-2300.

Green Salon: Sprout: An Organic Salon

Ask salon owner Alan Kolb what makes Sprout: An Organic Salon so green and he’ll tell you it’s more about what they don’t do within its simply stylish walls. “We don’t use any products that are dangerous,” says Kolb. “We’re not putting them on you or putting them down the drain.” That leaves us with what they do do, which is offer first-rate cuts and color, from edgy to office-ready. More eco kudos go to Sprout’s use of reclaimed construction materials, the 100-percent wind credit that offsets electricity use, and its reliance on natural cleaning products. You can take that natural goodness home, too. Sprout sells organic products, including its own brand, which it will relaunch as Organic Chemistry this year. 925 W. 36th Street, 410-235-2269.

Holistic Spa: Apothecary Wellness

When it moved from its old digs to its new, 2,500-square-foot space, Apothecary Wellness didn’t let go of its commitment to offer clients customized wellness services in an eco-friendly setting. The Zen-like spa, with a staff of 14, now boasts five treatment rooms for massage, acupuncture, and more. A membership program means you can mix and match your services—from stress-busting massages to pore-friendly organic facials or reflexology—for just $65 per month. New this summer: A six-month holistic health coaching program by co-owner Christine Cochrum, a clinical nutritionist, who will gently guide you to healthier living. 1200 Light Street, 443-540-4022.

Makeup Artist: Dean Krapf

He’s worked his artistry on the famous faces of Portia de Rossi and Molly Sims and had his hand in a slew of print, TV, and film work, but Lluminaire Salon’s Dean Krapf isn’t all about getting clients camera ready. In fact, the most common request he gets is to help the Average Jane find a naturally gorgeous everyday look—with the help of cosmetics, of course. Krapf, who has an A-plus reputation as a hair stylist as well (he could’ve easily been one of our Top 10 Stylists), obliges with a one-hour makeup bag “editing” session, where he’ll tactfully weed out the five identical shades of plum lipstick you’ve been buying since college and offer tips on a fresher shade. The $125 service includes one masterful application by Krapf himself. Lluminaire Salon, 15 W. Allegheny Avenue, Towson, 410-583-1500.

Manicure: DK Salon & Spa

Known among the ladies who lunch as the spot for a marvelous manicure, DK Salon manicurists Raisa Kolker and Arlene Hidalgo will lavish attention on every inch of your digits, down to the last cuticle. All manicures include a hand massage and DK steps up its game for the highly popular shellac manicures, tossing in hot-towel and hot-oil treatments to ensure supple nails and hands. Best of all, the salon’s two manicure stations are mobile, so you can cut your salon time by getting your locks styled while your hands get gussied up. 5701 Newbury Street, 410-377-4300.

Top Ten: Stylists

Mario Rentuma: He’s worked on movie sets, but even for mere mortal clients, the co-owner/stylist delivers looks that wow. Lluminaire Salon, 15 W. Allegheny Avenue, Towson,
410-583-1500.

Chas Kuhn: A master of the dry-cutting technique, Chas has styled a host of famous heads, including Kathleen Turner and Jessica Lange. Chas Spa & Salon, 801 Key Highway, 410-625-CHAS.

Corbin Grinage: With training from Vidal Sassoon in London, the colorful Corbin is a master of creative cuts that lean classic modern. Corbin Salon, 1422 Clarkview Road, First Floor, 410-494-8888.

Laurie Schroeder: Nearly 30 years’ experience, and a knack for knowing just what her clients need, has made Schroeder a hot hair ticket. Salon Laurie, 5910 Falls Road, 410-464-1500.

Uno Tuluoglu: With delicious Turkish-tinted English, Uno may lull you into a bit of a hair trance, but don’t worry, Uno has more than 25 years of proof that he delivers top-notch contemporary cuts. Uno, the Salon, 10751 Falls Road, Lutherville, 410-821-9080.

Luc Fouquet: Paris-trained Fouquet needs just one look at a client to suss out a sexy-but-sophisticated look. Hudson & Fouquet, 181 West Street, Annapolis, 410-263-9790.

Reuben Kroiz: Aveda trained co-owner/stylist Kroiz has honed his skills at New York Fashion week and traveled as far as Milan and Germany to complete a string of cutting and runway-styling classes. Alpha Studio, 817 S. Bond Street, 410-327-1300.

Marcus Caillet: With past styling gigs that include New York Fashion Week, Caillet, an educator for Rusk, brings très chic looks to his low-key suburban salon. Bren-Dia’s Salon and Day Spa, 10 Crossroads Drive, Owings Mills, 410-902-7222.

Jimie Machniak: He’s been styling Charm City locks for more than 20 years, but recent training with stylist-to-the-stars Oribe has helped Machniak stay on the cutting edge. KCo Design Salon and Day Spa, 6080 Falls Road, 410-377-7727.

Nikki Verdecchia: She earns rave reviews for consistently serving up cuts she calls “classic, with an edge.” NV Salon Collective, 861 W. 36th Street, 410-467-1754.

Massage: Studio 921 Salon & Medi Day Spa

As if it weren’t already pretty enough, Studio 921 Salon & Medi Day Spa underwent a dazzling $200,000 face-lift this spring. New carpeting, wood floors, mood-setting lighting, and a tranquility room enhance what was already an awe-inspiring atmosphere. What hasn’t changed: The magical machinations of massage therapists like Johnny Hein, whose use of the Active Isolated Stretching technique gets hobbled runners painlessly back on their feet; Thailand-trained therapist Kelly Thompson; and West Coast-inspired Rosalinda Herranz, who puts her background in exercise science to work for Ravens players and weekend warriors alike. 921 E. Fort Avenue, Suite 108, 410-783-SPAS.

Newcomer: Laboratorie

Open just under a year, the spare but sleek Laboratorie keeps its operations deliberately small, says owner/stylist Bethany Magliacane. After all, “doing someone’s hair is an inherently intimate thing,” she says. Until recently, it was just Magliacane and senior stylist Rebecca Goodman Dorsey, both of whom honed their skills at Roland Park’s Balance. Two chairs made for an almost-always full book, even with no advertising, but a newly hired stylist has opened up appointments. Don’t expect Laboratorie to change its tune, though. Appointments for basic cuts are scheduled 45 minutes apart (a luxury in the fast-paced salon world) and can even go longer. “No short cuts take place in our salon,” says Magliacane. 735 Deepdene Road, 410-435-0805.

Pedi Parties: Spa in the Valley

If you’re looking to catch up with friends over a soothing foot soak and pedicure, look no further than Spa in the Valley. Want to bring mom, your BFFs, maybe the cubicle mate whose flip-flopped feet are freaking you out? Go ahead! With 12 pedicure chairs—six brightly lit, six in calming low light—there’s plenty of room. Try the Chocolate Brownie a la Mode treatment or the Aveda Caribbean Therapy pedicure for 90 minutes of bliss that will leave you walking on air. 118 Shawan Road, Suite P, Hunt Valley, 410-771-0200.

Place for Men to Spruce Up: Quinntessential Gentleman

Sure, a classic cut, shoe shine, and hot-lather shave in an old-school-meets-modern-man environment is appealing enough. But there’s more to Quinntessential Gentleman than mere barber services. Catering to everyone from downtown businessmen to tourists and suburban soccer dads, the shop aims to be a “men’s lifestyle brand,” says owner Craig Martin. In addition to the usual hair and skin services, QG has an impressive array of retail items that range from preppy Southern Proper ties to Merkur razors to Visconti pens and Allen Edmonds shoes. There’s even a new members’ lounge and a few spa services that cater to women! 31 S. Calvert Street, 410-685-SHAVE.

Top Five: Salon Trends

Keratin-Complex Blowouts: At high-energy Privé, they opt for the non-formaldehyde keratin-complex blowout for fantastically frizz-free hair. Privé Salon and Spa, 1200 Steuart Street, C-1A, 443-388-8170.

Balayage: Spa in the Valley has perfected the all-the-rage hair-painting technique that allows better-than-ever placement of highlights for a natural look that pops. Spa in the Valley, 118 Shawan Road, Suite P, Hunt Valley, 410-771-0200.

Shellac: Zena Fox is the go-to gal for all things nails (Rihanna called on her in June for a pre-performance nail-mergency), so it makes sense to head to her for nail color that lasts. Zena’s Spa and Salon, 1014 N. Charles Street, 410-783-1971.

Feather Extensions: You don’t have to be a rock star to wear feathers. Try La Clinica, a full-service salon that counts high-quality feather extensions among its many stellar services. La Clinica Salon and Day Spa, 1624 York Road, Lutherville, 410-828-7464.

Manscaping: For the smooth-all-over look—and we do mean all over—head to FX Studios, where the estheticians have a gentle touch. FX Studios, 11270 Pepper Road, Hunt Valley, 410-771-1500.

Place to Come as You Are: Padma Salon

Opened in 2008 on the edge of Hampden by esthetician Jennifer Warner and salon manager Kimberly Cincotta, Padma bills itself as “the kind of friendly, attitude-free place that never takes itself too seriously.” That means that whether you’re coming for a Keratin treatment, a cutting-edge cut, or better bangs, you won’t have to glam up to go in. With stylists like California transplant Scout DeBartolo, who excels at the trendiest cuts, the salon has a thriving business among young locals. But its cool-but-chill vibe also has wooed older loyalists such as Gertrude’s John Shields and actor John Astin. 3401 Keswick Road, 410-243-1717.

Salon You’ll Never Quit: Studio 1612

If there’s one salon that breeds loyalty that lasts a lifetime, it’s Studio 1612. Maybe that’s because owners Karen Bialozynski and Judy Weidel, in business nearly 20 years, rarely raise their rates—a cut with Bialozynski is $55; Weidel is $57—or maybe it’s the friendly buzz that flows in, around, and between the salon’s 30 able stylists and the rest of its warm staff. Of course, the salon backs up the love with solid technique on cuts, color, and virtually every hair process imaginable. Stylists undergo continuous education—they’re required to take four classes a year—and a two-year apprentice program fosters talent from within. 1501 Sulgrave Avenue, 410-664-3010.

Waxing: Madeleine Homes

She calls herself the brow whisperer and, we have to agree, it’s a fitting moniker for Madeleine Homes, owner of La Papillon Spa and Gift Boutique. The MAC-trained Homes will work her magic to bring out your brow’s natural curve. And if you’re looking for more, never fear: The bubbly Homes will put you at ease while she skillfully, um, pulls off every feat of waxing wonder, from a simple lip tidy to the go-for-gusto Brazilian. 9642 Deereco Road, Timonium, 410-252-1400.

 

News & Media

By Evan Serpick

Columnist: Jacques Kelly

It's good to know that in the shifting media landscape, there's still room for Jacques Kelly, whose Sun columns are rarely topical, per se, but always brimming with the lifeblood of Baltimore. Whether writing about childhood trips across the Bay Bridge or the history of spies in Charm City, Kelly provides a much-needed long view, giving current concerns some context.

Crusade: Phil Jacobs

While sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been a scandal for years, incidents within the insular world of Orthodox Judaism have mostly been shrouded in secrecy. But thanks to the efforts of Phil Jacobs, editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and a childhood rape victim himself, that is beginning to change. His efforts began with a 2007 story, "Today Steve is 25," which he wrote after participating in a support group for Jewish molestation victims. Although community members accused him of airing dirty laundry, Jacobs wrote several more stories, leading to the conviction of at least one local rabbi. His mission continues with the release of Standing Silent, a documentary about the issue directed by Scott Rosenfelt (Mystic Pizza), which played film festivals this year, and Jacobs's forthcoming book, The Ice Cream Man, about his own history of abuse.

Gossip: Kelson

He's the overnight DJ at 92Q, but Kelson is beloved for his "Urban Informer" spots during The Ricky Smiley Morning Show and his blog, www.urbaninformer.com, where he drops items on everyone from Beyoncé to reality-TV stars, all with unparalleled sass. A recent post: "Stevie Wonder . . . Helen Keller . . . and Ray Charles (RIP) can even see that Fantasia is PREGGERS!" About extra-large rapper Rick Ross's new single, he asked, "Was I the only one who thought the '9 Piece' was an order of chicken?"

Meteorologist: Bob Turk

He's been on WJZ-TV since 1973—longer than much of our staff has been alive—and that's part of the reason we continue to love Bob Turk. He's become a local institution—reliable, charming, friendly—so beloved that he's inspired both a Facebook group, "Bob Turk is the Best Damned Weatherman in the World!" and a rap song, "Crank Dat Bob Turk." Through tornado warnings, snowpocalypses, and heat waves—not to mention county fairs and ribbon-cuttings—we'll always have sunshine on a cloudy day, thanks to Turk.

New Magazine: What Weekly

The online mag's tagline is "Documenting the Baltimore renaissance," and few outlets do it as well as What Weekly, which launched last year. Covering broad stretches of the city's arts and cultural scenes, from the Transmodern Festival to the recent Scapescape, its dispatches are filled with lush photos and front-line accounts from events that are often overlooked by mainstream media. While many of us are quietly proud of Baltimore's reputation as a home for experimental artists and musicians, What Weekly is giving them a broader voice.

Top Ten: Blogs

The Comics Curmudgeon: Baltimorean Josh Fruhlinger’s hilarious dissections of the daily comics make us as happy as Garfield with a pan of lasagna. www.joshreads.com

Scary Mommy: Mt. Washington mom breaks down the messy truths about parenthood—including regrets, resentment, and, of course, joy—with humor and wit. www.scarymommy.com

Z on TV: Sun media critic David Zurawik writes smartly and honestly—never afraid to take a stand—about local and national media types like Kendel Ehrlich, Jon Stewart, and Sean Hannity, who he wrote would “make a great minister of information in a totalitarian regime.” www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/z-on-tv-blog

Bmore Musically Informed: Unless Brett Yale is on an oft-mentioned attempt to “get a job,” his blog is the best bet to stay on top of the music bubbling up from Baltimore’s experimental, ambient, and indie scenes. www.bmoremusic.net

Mobtown Shank: Smart commentary about things like CEO salaries and City Council misconduct, plus listings of cool concerts, reviews of new local music, and “Madam 8-Ball’s Horoscope,” with outlooks for every sign based on, you guessed it, a Magic 8 ball. sugarfreak.typepad.com

The Baltimore Snacker: Not just recipes, but reports on local markets, road-trip food, and videos—some food related, some not—all presented with a heaping helping of spot-on humor. baltimoresnacker.blogspot.com

The Loss Column: No blog covers local sports with as much wisdom. With a decidedly realistic/pessimistic perspective, it asks questions like, “What if the Orioles never win again?” www.thelosscolumn.com

The City That Breeds: A smart site that dwells on dumb things like new menu items at Denny’s (“Nacho Salad!”) and how Steve Urkel was the original hipster. www.citythatbreeds.com

HomeLessCide – Life on the Street: Like other blogs, Dave’s revolves around his daily life. The difference is that Dave is homeless and his days (looking for food, social services, and health care) and nights (in an abandoned shed in Pikesville) are way more interesting than most bloggers’. homelesscide.blogspot.com

Government Names: The definitive blog about Bmore hip-hop, posting events, reviews of more local music than you even knew existed, and endless boosterism for our talented local scene. governmentnames.blogspot.com 

Newcomer: Megan Gilliland

Since joining the morning team at Fox 45 last year, Gilliland, 28, has added new energy, humanity, and depth. Whether covering house fires, shootings, and explosions, or feature segments on local events, Gilliland always seems to be an expert—something especially rare among relative newbies like her.

News Feature: "Ms. HON-derstood"

In most contexts, the cover story of the February 11, 2011 edition of City Paper would have seemed a little too ponderous, too caught up in the details of what, from a certain perspective, was a relatively minor controversy. But although the story was technically about Café Hon owner Denise Whiting and her trademarking of the word "Hon," it was really about the commodification of Baltimore culture, about gentrification, and about our collective identity. To get to the bottom of that, writer Edward Ericson Jr. got deep into the nitty-gritty with Whiting, detailing her various Hon-related businesses, her history in Baltimore City and Hampden, and her charitable giving—both legitimate and questionable. And though it pulled no punches, the story gave Whiting a human face: "She's just like any of the rest of us—except with maybe more gumption, more energy, and more determination to succeed. And that, at last, may be her greatest fault."

Political Analysis: C. Fraser Smith

In his Daily Record column and segments on WYPR, where he's senior news analyst, Smith projects the wisdom gained from years of observing local politics. A Sun vet of the '70s and '80s, Smith's details on the machinations in Annapolis, handicaps of local elections, or reflections on the legacy of William Donald Schaefer have the insight that comes only with experience.

Rabble Rouser: Adam Meister

Meister is a classic Baltimore character of another age, a fast-talking reporter determined to get to the truth about our town and root out corruption wherever he finds it. A reporter for the departed Baltimore Examiner, Meister now rakes his muck for his Politics in Baltimore blog at www.examiner.com. This year, he discovered that Baltimore City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway owns a home in Baltimore County that she listed as her primary address on tax documents—a no-no for City Council members, who are required to, you know, live in the city they represent. Conaway insists the filing was an error and is suing Meister and examiner.com for $21 million.

Radio Reporter: Scott Wykoff

The high-energy voice of WBAL-Radio vet Wykoff means that you're hearing a well-reported, sound-filled story of vital interest to Marylanders. This year, he won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Feature Reporting—his fourth—for "A Harrowing Experience," his profile of the maintenance crew at Pimlico. The three-minute story, typical of Wykoff's work, mixes colorful interviews and ambient sound from hoses, trucks, tools, and overheard conversations to present a classic Baltimore story and provide new insight into a treasured institution.

Top Five: Twitter Feeds

Jeremy Guthrie (@JGuthrie46): The O's ace lists "1990 Oregon 5th Grade Chess Co-Champion" in his profile and gives sneak peeks at the recesses of Fenway Park and his massive shoe collection, comments on The Bachelorette, and quotes Katy Perry lyrics.

Owl Meat Gravy (@OwlMeatGravy): Local blog fixture OMG is full of random, witty rejoinders like "Nil is a word U only hear in soccer, a game where U have to invent words 4 nothing happens., #Futbol!"

Justin Fenton (@Justin_Fenton): The Sun crime reporter's feed is the go-to place for accurate info on breaking news like the Hopkins shooting or the Fourth of July mayhem.

Downtown Diane (@DowntownDiane): Diane wins on quantity as well as quality, with more comprehensive info about events, deals, and people in Baltimore than you'll ever need.

Steve Fogleman (@BaltoBeerBaron): The Baltimore City Liquor Board Chairman tweets about going out, tipping back, and his favorite craft beer. ("Framboise is the best girl beer in the world.") 

Reporter: Justin Fenton

Fenton is a one-man gang at The Sun's metro desk, digging up important stories that so few do in the Internet age. This year, suspicious of the city's low rape incidents, he looked into the way the Baltimore Police Department reports rape cases and found that many were wrongly classified as "unfounded." His reports prompted a City Council audit that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said "forever changed and improved the way sexual-assault cases are investigated in Baltimore."

Send-off: William Donald Schaefer

How could any farewell possibly be appropriate for the former mayor and governor, the very embodiment of Baltimore, beloved city-wide? The planners pulled it off, sending Schaefer's hearse, accompanied by longtime aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs, on a tour of locales near and dear to his heart, from City Hall, where he received a send-off from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin; to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor, both of which he helped develop; to Jimmy's in Fells Point, where he ate breakfast; and Little Italy, where he attended spaghetti- dinner fundraisers at St. Leo the Great Church.

Tumblr Feed: Maryland Historical Society

Every day could use a little dose of history and the perspective that comes with it, which is why the Maryland Historical Society's broad feed of photos from the state's past is a daily must-visit: Whether it's a portrait of the Baltimore Bicycle Club, circa 1898, or a snapshot of a roller coaster loaded with screeching young women at Carlin's Park in 1938, these photos provide instant insight into our collective history. mdhsphotographs.tumblr.com

TV News Department: WBAL

No TV news operation in town comes close to WBAL for consistent, comprehensive coverage of the big stories. Led by local treasure Jayne Miller, middle, 'BAL is often first to report breaking news like the deadly Hopkins shooting last September, the fire on Baltimore Street, or the fake robocalls on election night. During the confusion after the Hopkins shooting, for example, reporters Jennifer Franciotti, left, and Dave Collins, right, sorted out the facts on the scene, talking to police officers, hospital staff, and witnesses, while anchor Sarah Caldwell put the flood of info into context for viewers. It was clearly the work of a smart, experienced TV news team, the best in town.

Web Videos: Sam Sessa's "Weekend Watch"

When Sun entertainment editor Sessa handed the reins of his beloved nightlife blog Midnight Sun to reporter Erik Maza, some of us worried that we'd miss his unique blend of earnest enthusiasm and wry humor, along with his near total lack of shame. Boy were we wrong. Sessa's weekly "Weekend Watch" videos are theoretically a guide to weekend happenings, but mostly they're an attraction unto themselves: A hilariously kitschy, charming, homemade pastiche—try to figure out which Sun department each prop came from—which sees our intrepid reporter impersonating Preakness mascot Kegasus, donning a feather boa and high heels to promote Baltimore Pride, and wearing a mullet wig and writhing on the hood of a Toyota to talk about the M3 rock festival. 

Top Five: Newsmakers

Denise Whiting: Whether she's Good Hon, the campy queen of Café Hon and Honfest, spreading Hampden charm, or Bad Hon, the greedy grinch who trademarked local culture to line her pockets, Whiting is an endlessly fascinating—and polarizing—Baltimore original.

Tom Kiefaber: The former owner of The Senator, who fought valiantly—and, often, erratically—to keep the family business going, kicked "zealous" up a notch since the city took over the theater, storming the dais at a City Council meeting and announcing a run for council president.

Felicia Pearson (aka Snoop): No one walks the line between the real Baltimore and the fake one (The Wire) like Snoop. She turned her (real) gig as an East Baltimore drug dealer into a (fake) gig playing a smart-mouthed hitman on The Wire. But worlds collided when Snoop (nickname in both worlds) was really arrested earlier this year for drug-dealing.

Luke Scott: The O's need hot bats, so we generally overlook left fielder Scott's occasional lapses into loony land, as when he lays out his "birther" conspiracy theories—which he stuck to even after President Obama produced his official birth certificate.

Kegasus: If ever there was an image not to use to represent Baltimore to the world, it was the drunk, hairy, nipple-pierced centaur introduced by the Maryland Jockey Club to lure drunk, hairy, nipple-pierced humans to the Preakness infield. Despite concerned glances from The New York Times and The Week, it worked! Attendance was up! Stay classy, Baltimore. 

 

Service

By Ken Iglehart

All-Natural Dog Food: Dogs Gone Wild

What are really the best vittles for Bowser? That would be what the industry calls Biologic Appropriate Raw Food (yes, B.A.R.F. for short): fresh raw meat and vegetables with no additives or fillers. There are national firms that ship it in dry ice, but British native John Seabrook and wife, Stacey, manufacture their own in meal-sized pouches right here in Baltimore, and, uniquely, it’s made from fresh, not frozen, ingredients. It’s healthier than what most humans eat—it’s USDA-certified—and you can purchase it locally at such places as Dogma—life, with your pet, Howl, MOM’s Organic Market, and Whole Foods Market. www.dgwrawfood.com, 410-960-8667.

Appliance Repair: Chesapeake Appliance Service

When our fridge thinks it’s a toaster, we call Chesapeake Appliance Service, which, for 30 years, has earned a solid reputation with its fast, expert service at reasonable prices. One-man show Craig Grauer fixes all makes and models, and even offers seniors a discount. He also spends some time on the phone with clients whose appliances aren’t worth fixing. Says Grauer, “They call me all the time to ask what they should buy.” 3315 Rosalie Avenue, 410-252-2562.

Car Wash: Auto Spa

Why the long line of loyal customers here? It starts with the 12-foot wide conveyor belt that can handle bigger vehicles and even soft-tops. (There’s no high-pressure water or brushes.) Next is the intense inside cleaning. Then, there’s the expert car-detailing, polishing, and odor removal. And best of all, they’re green, with biodegradable cleaners and a closed-recycling system. Oh, and don’t worry about those lines: There are four conveyors, so they move fast. 10117 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-683-7222.

Clockmaker: R. Mark Mitchell

If your antique clock no longer chimes, you can count on R. Mark Mitchell to put the tick-tock back in your favorite ancient timepiece. The only remaining certified master clockmaker in Baltimore City, he’s been doctoring clocks for 35 years. He’s a good source for finding a unique piece, too: Customers claim he can “smell a good clock.” 206 W. Read Street, 410-837-7055.

Computer Service: Chesapeake Systems

For 20 years, Mark Dent and George Brecht’s Chesapeake Systems has been the answer to computer challenges, especially with Apple products, as well as the science of getting PCs and Macs to talk to each other (system integration). They also handle retail sales, saving business and residential clients an extra step. And now they’re even a little closer to God: They just moved into a completely renovated former Methodist church (including new stained glass) at 33rd Street and Chestnut Avenue in Hampden, giving them more space for their growing flock of both retail and service followers. 801 W. 33rd Street, 410-243-1023.

Contractor: Greenbuilders

What can a Ph.D. with a tool belt do that other contractors can’t? If it’s Polly Bart of Greenbuilders, she can undertake expert home construction, remodeling, and additions using all the latest eco-friendly materials and strategies, including straw-bale products, maximum use of passive light, solar panels, green roofs, and heat pumps. The brains behind countless LEED-certified projects for commercial and government clients, Bart gets rave reviews for her award-winning green solutions to construction. 4027 Osborn Road, Reisterstown, 410-833-4814.

Top Ten: Auto Repair

Comprehensive Car Care: Can a service center be beloved? Trust us, this one is. For 20 years, this family-owned shop has achieved near-cult status for its expert service on Asian, domestic, and some European models. 923 Cathedral Street, 410-539-1069.

Brooks-Huff Tire & Auto Centers: How popular is this family-owned Goodyear tire and service center? When they offered a Living Social coupon in May, they got 838 takers. www.brookshuff.com, 410-527-1000.

Sisson St. Automotive: Domestic and Japanese imports are the specialty of the Hampden-based Millman brothers who run a green shop and are assisted by a menagerie of pets: Rhodesian Ridgeback, Mildred, rescue Doberman, Annie, and rescue cat, Shadow. 2720 Sisson Street, 443-919-7770.

Central Service: A great answer for downtown workers, owner Len Young and his crew are honest as the day is long and do great work (including Jasper engine and some transmission jobs). 1026 Eastern Avenue, 410-685-4298.

Hollenshade’s Auto Service: Tom Hollenshade’s 72-year-old family business and its staff of nine will work on just about anything. 1501 E. Joppa Road, Towson, 410-828-5750.

KC Automotive: Owner Chris Lawrence and his staff will service most makes and models, with specialties in computer diagnostics and engine and transmission replacement.
1117 Berrymans Lane, Reisterstown, 410-833-1193.

Eakle’s Auto Care: When it comes to sick cars, the Eakle brothers aren’t intimidated by much, get top ratings from customers, and perform state inspections, as well. 3275 Bethany Lane, Ellicott City, 410-465-2044.

Brentwood Automotive: Neighborhood vendor lists give high marks to Ed Nemphos’s 35-year-old operation, whose nine staffers service all makes and models and do inspections, too. 1035 W. 41st Street, 410-889-6748.

D&J Auto Care: Don Rapp’s 40-year-old garage is known for quick work and fair prices on most makes and models. They do body and paint work, too, as well as detailing. 1100 W. 41st Street, 410-889-6536.

Ankers Automotive: One-man show Pete Ankers has made a name for himself in just four years, fixing VWs and Audis. 6426 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, 410-788-5553.

Decorative Painter: Dee Cunningham, Deelite Design

Unlike some of her fellow artists, Dee Cunningham of Deelite Design, has staying power (the recession has a lot of faux finishers pumping gas), and there’s a reason why. She does some truly cool tromp l’oeil work, below, as well as expert faux finishing. Her name has been in lights at places like the Ritz Carlton Residences and the recent BSO Decorator Show House, and she works regularly with Baltimore interior designers. But you don’t have to take our word for it: Check out her portfolio online. www.deelitedesign.com, 410-707-9246.

Electrician: Milton Electric

John Borz, president of third-generation Milton Electric, likes to say that his multiple crews and trucks serving the metro area have “rewired half the city.” That’s quite possible: After all, in the 61 years they’ve been sticking their fingers in socketsglass fuses have given way to breakers and cloth-covered wiring to high-speed Internet and gigando media centers. From little stuff like fan installation to whole-house rewiring, they get high marks from owners of homes (both old and new) for courteous, professional, and reasonably priced service. www.miltonelectric.com, 410-625-0423.

Jewelry Repair: Towson Jewelry & Repair Center

Talk about a couple of gems: Owners Eddie Khusid and Daniel Glazer have been a steady presence at the Towson Town Center for 12 years, pleasing customers with their skilled, lightning-fast work. (You often get your piece back the same day.) They buy and sell diamonds and gold and even fix watches. 825 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson Town Center, Towson, 410-823-6688.

Framing: Nancy Graboski

Because you can’t take the whole wall with you when you go shopping, framer Nancy Graboski comes to you. She has access to a huge selection of frames (she partners with suppliers in the region) and also does expert conservation work and frame repairs. Picture that. 410-366-6711.

Top Five: Paint Stores

Stebbins-Anderson: Stebbins, a perennial winner for best hardware store, is also the best place to get top-quality Benjamin Moore paints and terrific service from a knowledgeable staff. 802 Kenilworth Drive, Towson, 410-823-6600.

Budeke’s Paints & Decorating: Fifth-generation Budeke’s has a wide range of products and even a design center. 1862 Reisterstown Road, #A, Pikesville, 410-602-5060 (and others).

Home Depot: For price and its top-rated Behr paints, go to the big orange place. 125 Industry Lane, Cockeysville, 410-667-8200 (and others).

Duron Paints: The convenience of 10 locations, and the service here are the draws. 1524 E. Joppa Road, #D, Towson 410-296-1040 (and others).

Lowe’s: For the olfactorily challenged, we like their Olympic zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) interior paints. Yup, no airborne toxins. 19 Texas Station Court, Timonium, 410-683-8500 (and others).

Glass Repair: Baltimore Glass Co.

If you can see through it, this family-owned outfit has been fixing it since 1928. They’re fast, tidy, and do great work, plus they help homeowners find solutions to tricky problems, from sliding glass for the patio and shower doors to weird-sized table and picture-frame glass. Plus, they can do a rush job on glass repair that is critical to home or office security. 2700 Remington Avenue, 410-338-1880.

Locksmith: Easter’s Lock & Security Systems

Easter’s 39 crews have been breaking into stuff (legally) for 58 years, from low-tech locks from the 1950s to systems with lights and buzzers from Silicon Valley. You can count on a professional job on everything from lock and door hardware and safes to card access and alarm systems, and camera systems. And that’s 24 hours a day. 1713 E. Joppa Road, 410-825-3535.

Personal Organizer: Simplify Organizing

Feel like you’re losing your grip on life because of your own stuff? Might be time to call Amy Rehkemper, who for 12 years has helped clients bring order to where there was once chaos, whether it’s a bedroom, an office or an entire home. www.simplifyorganizing.com, 410-828-1212.

Top Five: Nurseries

Valley View Farms: Always our first stop for its unparalleled selection, competitive prices, and good service—and, of course, those awesome holiday displays. 11035 York Road, Hunt Valley, 410-527-0700.

Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses: Draws on several of its greenhouses to offer an unbeatable selection of plants and flowers. (In fact, some end up being bought by places like Valley View.) 120 E. Burke Avenue, Towson, 410-825-4300.

Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping: Its strength is the expertise of manager Peter Bieneman and his staff, who can help guide you through the jungle of tree, shrub, and flower choices. (The free gardening classes are great, too.) 5424 Falls Road, 410-323-3444.

Papa Johns (Schillinger’s Farm): Look for the big farm at I-97 and New Cut Road that grows its own plants from seed, including annuals, perennials, and produce, and keeps at least nine hot houses chock full of selection. 8065 New Cut Road, Severn, 410-969-8810.

Watson’s Garden Center: Offers the range of trees, plants, ornaments, and other outdoor stuff you’d expect, but has a stronger indoor-plant selection than most. 1620 York Road, Lutherville, 410-321-7300.

Pet Motel: Reisterstown Boarding Kennel

If you need more than a dog sitter for a day, it’s worth the 40-minute haul into the boondocks for this “pet resort and spa.” We’re talking A.C., swimming, grooming, 24-7 vet availability, medications and shots, daily treats and playtime, adjoining or two-up “suites” for pet pals, and a genuinely doggie-loving staff. 14454 Old Hanover Road, Reisterstown, 410-833-2090.

Redesigner: Paula A. Henry, Simply Put Interiors

She’s made a name for herself as a home stager for folks trying to sell, but Henry is also an ace redesigner for those who don’t want to move, largely by using their own furnishings. She’ll hunt down interesting pieces from all over your house, scouring basements and garages for treasures that can be repurposed to have the place make a whole new aesthetic statement. Says Henry, “I’ve had many HGTV moments when my clients just hug me and cry happy tears.” www.simplyputinteriors.com, 410-252-9911.

 

Shop

By Janelle Erlichman Diamond, Shabdiece Esfahani, and Jessica Hargest

Accessories: Sassanova

Here’s the thing about this ultra-girly Harbor East boutique—you don’t really need anything in the store, but you want it desperately. There’s Oscar de la Renta and Loeffler Randall shoes, Anya Hindmarch handbags, and Marlyn Schiff and Citrine by the Stones jewelry. These are the kinds of trimmings that simply elevate a wardrobe—and the limited quantities ensure no repeats. If too much accessory envy is wrong, we don’t want to be right! 805 Aliceanna Street, 410-244-1114.

Architectural Finds: Second Chance

Second Chance is like Disney World for the DIY homeowner. The nonprofit organization gives new life to often discarded and forgotten antiques. Its four warehouses are filled with thousands of special finds like ceramic drawer pulls, stained-glass windows, and gilded faucets from historic Baltimore mansions. 1400-1601 Warner Street, 410-385-9939

Best-Kept Secret: Couture Closet

Nestled in the bottom of a converted row home in Federal Hill, the aptly-named Couture Closet is stocked with to-die-for pieces from the likes of Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Tom Ford (all commandeered from owner Jessica Atkins’s frequent jaunts to New York showrooms). And with price tags discounted up to 85 percent (!), Couture Closet is Baltimore’s secret weapon in the war against fashion banality. 1003 Light Street, 410-528-2999.

Bra Fitters: Lingerie Lingerie

We only trust our, um, assets to a few people and Barbara Bianco, owner of Lingerie Lingerie, is one of them. Bianco and her highly trained staff have but one goal in mind when you step behind that curtain—to find the perfect brassiere for your body. Bianco puts you at ease as she first measures, then fetches different bras for you to try on, depending on your needs. (Her bras range from va-va-va-voom sexy to the bra equivalent of the mom jean.) Repeat purchases are a breeze due to a database, which catalogues measurements and style preferences. 800 Kenilworth Drive, Towson, 410-296-8808.

Top Five: Bookstores

The Ivy Bookshop: The savvy staff is up to speed on every single book in the store and rarely steers a reader wrong. 6080 Falls Road, 410-377-2966.

The Children’s Bookstore: The go-to place for wee Charm City readers. This shop has been around so long—over three decades—that once-new books are now classics. 737 Deepdene Road, 410-532-2000.

Red Emma’s: This collectively managed and worker-owned bookshop/coffeehouse lines its shelves with books about radical politics and hosts interesting readings and performances. 800 St. Paul Street, 410-230-0450.

Atomic Books: A Hampden staple. Find zines, comics, and books ranging from the latest New York Times bestseller to Matthew Thurber’s epic comic 1-800-MICE. 3620 Falls Road, 410-662-4444.

The Book Escape: Expect to find gently used reads tucked away neatly in winding corridors. Their specialty? Rare and out of print gems. Two locations including 805 Light Street, 410-504-1902.

Boots: Poppy and Stella

One reason we look forward to the summer ending? A bangin’ pair of boots, of course! With styles ranging from functional flats and fashion-forward heels to bohemian weathered leather, Poppy and Stella is more than prepared to give you the boot. 728 S. Broadway, 410-522-1970.

Conversation Pieces: Home On the Harbor

If we were a couch, we’d be a sleek leather sofa by American Leather. Or Knoll’s classic, comfy womb chair by Eero Saarinen. Or a reclaimed Turkish rug. Really anything at the amazing Home on the Harbor’s light-filled showroom in Federal Hill. Owner Karen Graveline manages to find the pieces that people will talk about long after they’ve left your home. Let her good taste be yours. 1414 Key Highway, 410-433-1616.

Custom Clothier: Jill Andrews Gowns

When you close your eyes and dream up the ultimate dress—whether it’s for your wedding day or the red carpet—Jill Andrews Gowns should be the first clothier you call to bring your fantasy to life. With serious fashion cred—she counts British royalty among her clients and was the master draper at Centerstage—Andrews, along with partner Sara Mathes, has brought custom-atelier service to the next level in Baltimore. 3355 Keswick Road, Suite 101, 410-338-2525.

Earth-Friendly Toys: aMuse Toys

We know kids will play with just about anything (remotes, empty boxes), but when it comes to buying them toys, we’d always rather go green. And no one has a better selection of eco-friendly toys than aMuse. We love the lines from Plan Toys, Educo, and Green Toys but also covet stuff from the smaller companies, like Topozoo and Blue Orange Games. And because everyone who works at aMuse is so knowledgeable, we can literally walk in and mutter, “earth-friendly, birthday party, four year old” and within a matter of minutes, we have something wrapped and ready to go. Two locations including 2576 Quarry Lake Drive, Pikesville, 410-415-0000.

Estate Jewelry: Bijoux

There is just something about jewelry with a history—and that’s why we’re mad about Renee Wilson’s well-edited estate and antique pieces. You can shop by period—Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Victorian, and more. Or just view the inspiring collection of rings (engagement and wedding, especially), necklaces, bangles, charms, watches, and earrings. Wilson’s staff is helpful without being pushy and the location—a little gatehouse in Green Spring Station—feels more special than shopping at the mall. 10749 Falls Road, Lutherville, 410-823-5545.

Top Ten: Weekend Wear

Doubledutch Boutique: Modern brands, including Knitted Dove and BB Dakota, provide just the right mix of retro-inspired apparel and accessories for any girly hipster’s casual side. Reasonable prices are just an added bonus. 3616 Falls Road, 410-554-0055.

Lori K: Offers unique weekend essentials—like suede blazers and tissue-thin knits for layering—and something for everyone. Browse among racks of designer apparel with labels like Sachin + Babi, Lafayette 148, and Vince. 10411 Stevenson Road, Stevenson, 410-580-0081.

Urban Chic: DVF and Vince begin the laundry list of upscale contemporary brands in this spacious Harbor East boutique, known for its fabulous designer denim wall. Male counterparts can also shop—with a selection of separates for guys. Four locations including 811 Aliceanna Street,
410-685-1601.

Cupcake: For a weekend that involves champagne—Lisa Schatz’s Fells Point boutique stocks sparkly party frocks from Parker and Maria Bianco Nero, and sinewy Hy & Dot blouses. 813 S. Broadway, 410-522-0941.

Babe.: The new Fells Point location has the same great casual sophisticated styles we love like BCBGeneration’s swinging dresses and Chan Luu’s crochet blouses. 1716 Aliceanna Street, 410-244-5114.

Ellie Boutique: Can a prepster make it through a weekend without a little Lilly Pulitzer? Probably not. Find her brightly colored frocks, along with Milly’s casual separates and Splendid’s soft jersey tees, at this prep haven. 7701 Bellona Avenue, Towson, 410-823-8544.

South Moon Under: Boho-chic doesn’t miss a beat at the multi-location retailer. Find getaway-gear like maxi dresses and knit sweaters at reasonable price points—plus one of the area’s biggest selections of designer denim. Several locations including 822 Kenilworth Drive, Towson, 410-337-7484.

L’Apparenza: The trendy mother-daughters team has curated a hotbed of designer wear for any weekend activity. Tibi and Alice + Olivia party dresses and Joie separates are a small sampler of their chic stock. 6080 Falls Road, 410-372-0350.

Milagro: Kimry Perrone’s eclectic gem is the place to add a touch of sustainability to your wardrobe with brands like Synergy organic cotton and Maca Traders fair-trade clothing line. 1005 W. 36th Street, 410-235-3800.

J. McLaughlin: Choose from dresses, sweaters, and separates from the preppy private label’s signature colorful line. 7623 Bellona Avenue, Towson, 410-825-5485.

Flower Shop: Crimson & Clover Floral Design

Amy Epstein’s move from Canton to Roland Park has breathed new life into her shop. Her new space is adorable, bright, and a little silly—much like Epstein herself. She decorated the place with soothing colors, jars of candy, and funky vases. Her walk-in cooler houses buckets of blooms—and the smell. We could seriously live in that cooler (although we’d need a sweater). Epstein’s crew can whip together a bouquet or arrangement that will fit any personality or budget. We especially love her Friday afternoon half-price floral happy hour. What a great concept! 733 Deepdene Road, 410-534-5459.

Handbags: Handbags in the City

Glamorous is George Sakellaris’s middle name—or at least it should be. Stocking the latest styles from Rebecca Minkoff, MCM, Tory Burch, Mulberry, Longchamp, and Jack Spade, his chic handbags are often seen in current issues of Vogue, Elle, and Lucky magazines—and later on the arms of Baltimore’s biggest fashionistas. 840 Aliceanna Street, 410-528-1443.

Heels: The Little Shoebox

Certainly no woman ever felt über sexy in a pair of . . . flats. When we want to channel our inner glamazon, we head to this Ruxton Station boutique for the most comprehensive collection of high heels in the city. Owners Janie Griffin and Emilie Blaze line their posh shop with pumps from Badgley Mischka, Butter, Bettye Muller, Pour La Victoire, and Delman. We especially love the line Something Bleu—it takes the ho-hum bridal shoe to a whole new level. 7625 Bellona Avenue, Towson, 410-825-3191.

Jeans: Jean Pool

Let’s face it, shopping for jeans can be a traumatic experience. But once you achieve that Holy Grail of denim—the so-called “perfect pair” (they exist! really!)—it’s all worth it. Josh Dunkin and Scott Wable of Jean Pool want to help you skip the trauma and go directly to a pair that makes your butt look good. How do they do it? By providing in-house alterations, shoes for accurately gauging hem lengths, tons of jean-friendly tops and belts, and a compassionate (but brutally honest) staff. Your butt will thank them. The Village of Cross Keys, 92 Village Square, 410-466-1177.

Kid Clothes: Wee Chic

Owner Bridget Quinn Stickline has taken the baby boutique to the next level—with hard-to-find lines like Mayoral, Egg, and Llum mixed in with staples from Ella Moss, Tea, and Splendid. She says she always coveted pieces that were not sugary sweet (or covered in skulls) for her own daughter. So she’s filled her shop with contemporary and age-appropriate pieces. She and her staff know almost every kid customer by name and highlight many of them in her annual Little Characters Search. Green Spring Station, 10751 Falls Road, Lutherville, 410-878-7400.

Men’s Store: Sixteen Tons

Every girl has experienced that heart-stopping crush on the super-hip guy who has effortless style. Now, Daniel Wylie (totally that guy) has brought a little of his mojo to Hampden. Located in the historic Augusta Bank building on The Avenue, Sixteen Tons stocks items like Naked & Famous jeans, Spiewak jackets, and Wolverine boots, all carefully displayed among vintage industrial leather goods and raw wood. The shop cultivates an environment of laid-back cool, making the atmosphere just as swoon-worthy as the threads
(and owner). 1100 W. 36th Street, 410-554-0101.

New Home Decor Store: Curiosity . . . Intriguing Objects For the Home

Owner Katie Destefano has channeled her creative talent for interior design into a quirky space upstairs from Whimsy’s Federal Hill boutique. Everything in the store inspires, right down to the reproduced celestial map mounted in the entranceway. Look for home-décor items with rich textures and colors—everything from an abstract watercolor in a navy blue lacquer frame to petite silver crab forks. 1033 S. Charles Street, 2nd Floor, 410-727-6262.

Top Five: Antique Stores

GoreDean: One-of-a-kind pieces—including a 19th-century jockey chair and a collection of late-18th-century engravings—contrast with the clean linear space. 5100 Falls Road,
88 Village Square, 410-464-1789.

Halcyon House: An old farmhouse situated on a sprawling estate sets the mood to browse the well-curated assortment of home antiques—from furniture and fine china to gilded frames. 11219 Greenspring Avenue, Lutherville, 410-828-8889.

Paradiso: Art Nouveau prints and contemporary-inspired furniture fills this Hampden treasure. If you can’t shop during the Fri.-Sun. hours, call and set up an appointment. 1015 W. 36th Street, 410-243-1317.

Antique Exchange: This two-story townhouse, just off The Avenue and packed with pristine home goods and gifts, is not your father’s antique store. Young collectors will appreciate its relaxed vibe. 3545 Chestnut Avenue, 410-532-7000.

Cockeysville Antique Row: Shop a half-dozen stores in the easy to reach and historic part of Cockeysville—full of finds like vintage brooches, sterling-silver condiment cruets, and crystal candelabras from decades past. York Road between Warren Road and Wight Avenue.

New Store: Urban Baby Runway

Urban Baby Runway is what’s been missing from the local baby scene—hip clothes. No ruffles, no bows, no cheesy onesies. In particular, owner Cara Schrock has one of the best boy sections we’ve seen—mini fedoras, vintage sweaters, stylish tees—all made to withstand real play. (And for the girls? Look no further than the adorable Joli petal shoes.) There is also a great selection of books and toys from some of our favorite lines—P’kolino, Seedling, and Kid O. No doubt kid-tested by Schrock’s very own little boy. 3608 Falls Road, 410-366-2270.

One-Stop Shopping: Trohv

Is it weird to love a store? Like really love it? Because that’s how we feel about Trohv (formerly Red Tree). We love the thoughtfulness they put into the window displays. We love that every time we go into the shop (which—gulp—is a lot), there are new items to peruse. We love that no matter what we are celebrating—a new baby, a birthday, a hipster wedding—the perfect gift is there. We love that the staff is crazy friendly and helpful. And we especially love that we can buy a leather sectional, a handmade necklace, and bacon bandages—all in the same place. 921 W. 36th Street, 410-366-3456.

Pet Store: Howl

Robin McDonald opened Howl in 2003 so we would stop feeding our pets things that look like freeze-dried sausages. McDonald stocks her shelves with all-natural pet foods (dry, canned, and raw)—made from ingredients you’ve actually heard of. Come for the food, but stay for the leashes, toys, beds, grooming, doggie training sessions, and excellent customer service. 3531 Chestnut Avenue, 410-235-2469.

Prom Store: Synchronicity Boutique

This ever-evolving Pikesville boutique has now firmly established itself as the teen-special-occasion shop. Owner Karen Mazer focuses on dresses for those big milestones—proms, bat mitzvahs, Aunt Betsy’s wedding. When prom season gears up, Synchronicity is buzzing with giddy girls trying on dresses in a huge variety of sizes. And her meticulous binder—a catalogue of which dress is being worn at which school—helps keep repeats (and teen angst) to a minimum. 25 Hooks Lane, Pikesville, 410-486-8866.

Runway to Reality: Ruth Shaw

Baltimore has a significant notch on its fashion belt thanks to Ray Mitchener. The longtime fashion maverick has established Ruth Shaw as the place to go for fresh, off-the-runway pieces. Featuring a well-curated selection of designs from New York City heavy hitters like Jason Wu, Rag & Bone, and Narciso Rodriguez, the shop provides ample options for any woman with a sartorial soft spot. The Village of Cross Keys, 68 Village Square, 410-532-7886.

Shopping Experience: Whimsy

Of course, we love the clothing at Whimsy—especially their wonderful dress selection—but sometimes we just pop in to say hello. It feels like shopping with friends—the kind who will gently tell you the truth if an outift looks bad and will even call you when they see a top you simply must have! Credit mother/daughter owners Patty Pearson and Jennifer Solomon and manager Joanna Weymont, who keep the customers smiling. 1033 S. Charles Street, 410-234-0204.

Sporting Goods: Princeton Sports

It’s impossible to go to Princeton Sports and not get geeked about some sport. That’s probably because the family business—now in its 75th year—is positively fueled by passion. They started with an intense love of cycling—and still conduct those Sunday morning rides for customers—and have since spread the wealth to include skiing, snowboarding (the largest selection in the area), tennis (they offer custom stringing), and swimming. Two locations including 6239 Falls Road, 410-828-1127.

Teen Threads: Fells Point Surf Co.

Wanna stop the eye roll? Take the teens here. Whatever their preference (shredding, tearing it up, or just advanced loafing) brands like Roxy, Quicksilver, Hurley, Reef, and Element might actually make them smile and mutter a small (but coherent) thank you. 1631 Thames Street, 410-276-7873.

Issue date: August, 2011
12 issues for $18!