Tag Archives: Beer

N is for Nick’s Fish House

I am an advertiser’s dream — short attention span and highly suggestible. So when I see a sign advertising half-price burger night and another for $1.50 Miller Lite, that is what I will order, even if I am in a fish place with lots of deliciousness on tap. Le sigh.

That said, my burger at Nick’s Fish House was delightful, cooked perfectly rare and served by the friendliest bartender I’ve met in a while, and all for $5.50. (That’s including the beer.)

Nick’s Web site hilariously describes the location as “the beautiful Middle Branch adjacent to the historic Hanover Street Bridge and just south of the Inner Harbor. ” I would call it a waterfront bar on the edge of the industrial section of South Baltimore, wedged between I-95 and the Port Covington Wal-Mart. Of course, if you want a place where you can dock your boat, I guess that’s where your bar has to be. (There are slips outside of Nick’s.)

The decor is beachy, stopping just shy of Jimmy Buffet-esque escapism, with pretty palm-frond looking fans circulating overhead and nice wood gleaming everywhere. This time of year, they have a great-looking Christmas tree, but obviously Nick’s is a summertime place. I scurried past the outer deck to get inside, but even so, there are precious few places in Baltimore with good outdoor dining and the sunsets out there in nice weather must be beautiful.

Because I was so overeager to order a burger, I had to ask for the menu after I ordered to check it out. I actually really like oysters, so I was disappointed in myself for obeying my cruel overlords, the Monday Night Specials signs, and not getting some briny goodness. Everything else was pretty typical bar food with a slant toward seafood. Prices skewed a touch high, but there are lots of daily specials, so if you choose judiciously, you’ll probably get out without too much damage. If a summertime kinda place left me this pleased in December, I’m sure I’d be floating on air

M is for Mama’s on the Half Shell

Mama’s on the Half Shell! Oyster power!

I never hear the name of this watering hole without hearing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to visit this Canton Square stalwart. The happy hour is quite good — specials on oysters and drinks, including Clipper City drafts for $2.50. The specials are only good at the actual bar, though, which is a shame when the weather is so nice. Mira and I stole a seat on the sidewalk on MotHS’s cute patio beneath flower pots rocking gently in the late summer breeze. It was worth the extra money for my $3.10 Clipper City and Mira’s extra-strong mojitos. We shared a plate of oysters (mostly delicious except for the dry Chincoteagues, which was weird since they were more local than the PEIs or Long Island mollusks) and crab dip. The dip was heroic in size but gluey in texture — if I had it to do over again, I’d just order more oysters. Of course, “order more oysters” is my solution to a lot of problems.

When the mollusks were slurped and the pints were drained, Mira and I trekked to Safeway to buy flowers and then walked to Polly’s house. We were two unwise women, bearing the gifts of a mixed bouquet and tipsy good wishes, going to visit the blessed child. Polly’s son, whose coming was foretold at the first Alphabetical Happy Hour back in January, was born in early August. He is quite small and deeply uninterested in his parents’ friends, but he has amazingly soft little feet. Most importantly, his parentsĀ  are lit up like candles to have him in their home. He is a lucky young man, and I am a lucky (less) young woman to have such nice friends to drink with and vist with. M is the halfway point of the AHH, which is not too bad, all things considered. I should probably be up to R by now, especially considering that Polly MADE A WHOLE PERSON since I started this blog, but all things considered, it’s not a bad pace.
So where should the AHH go next?

H is for Hamilton Tavern

Hamilton Tavern like walking into a Dorothea Lange photo, only everyone’s skinny because they’re Lauraville hipsters instead of starving Dust Bowlers. The walls are strewn with artfully arranged saws and farm equipment that allude to the tavern’s commitment to locally sourced and seasonal foods. You won’t find tomatoes on the burgers, because tomatoes in May are worthless. You won’t find stout on tap until autumn, because the summer is better suited to Resurrection and IPAs. While the Ham Tav is a haul from my hood, it’s a carefully designed restaurant with a clear idea behind it, one that I can respect and admire. It’s a nice marriage a modern concept with an antiqued decor.

Hamilton Tavern has a limited menu — about eight appetizers and six sandwiches. The kitchen has wisely limited itself to things it does well. This week’s dip of the week was spicy black bean; I do wish I’d had the chance to try the smoked salmon dip from some weeks past. Mmm, smoked salmon. (Note: if anyone has any local smoked salmon dishes to recommend, please put them in the comments!)

Genny and I ordered fried pickles, which were the best I’ve ever had, although I think fried pickles are a contradiction in terms. While I love pickles and I love fried things, pickles are just too soggy to really achieve the crispness that defines fried food. (I feel the same way about Black Velvets. I adore champagne and Guinness, but can’t imagine them mingling.) Hamilton Tavern’s goat cheese side sauce is a tasty addition to the fried cukes. I still preferred the buffalo tofu — the creamy dullness of the tofu compliments the spicy of the buffalo sauce well.

In any case, Genny was pleased with the vegetarian options. There were some meatier things that I would have tried if we’d been there for a full-on dinner (namely the pulled duck BBQ sandwich, since I’ve had duck on the brain lately). Service was serviceable, but not special. Kudos goes to the designer, though. The farm equipment, pressed tin ceiling and fairy lights on the railing give an unearned patina to a very new restaurant. The ladies room is neatly papered in torn pages from authors like Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin. As an affirmed bookworm, I WILL do this to my powder room some day, even though I often come home from work so exhausted by words I want revert to pictograms and smoke signals.l

Restaurant owners would likely weep on a review that ends with a praise of the bathroom decor, and the Hamilton Tavern deserves better than that. I’ll have to go back sometime soon, and try that duck sandwich and check out the intriguing but as-yet-neglected-by-me wine list.

Incidentally, the people have spoken in regard to the Hamilton Tavern — it edged Heninger’s for AAH honors. Apparently no one has any love for Hull Street Blues in Locust Point. I have my I spot (iSpot?) all picked out, but start thinking about J places. Thanks.

C is for Clipper City

If you’re looking to entertain out-of-towners, the Saturday tours at Clipper City are a deal at $5. Drink, learn how beer is made, drink more. Support local businesses. Generate neutral topics of conversation for your visiting in-laws. Drink.

Clipper City official site

Note: Clipper City doesn’t count towards the official total, because I visited in 2008.

B is for Bartenders

Today was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm in a way that February in Baltimore has no right to be. I’m used to this lion-and-lamb stuff in March, but in early February it’s premature and inappropriate. For example, it briefly seemed counterintuitive to huddle in a dark wood bar and drink dark beers at Bartenders.

I considered rearranging my plans in favor of something sunnier, but that was an exercise in futility. B was a star-crossed letter. The highly flexible rules of the AHH are that the bar must fit into alphabetical order (duh) and ideally be a place I have not been before. These criteria eliminate crowd favorites such as Brewer’s Art, Bertha’s, Birds of a Feather and the Brass Elephant because I’ve been there many a time.

On the flip side, there’s an unlikely preponderance of crappy bars beginning with b in Baltimore — Bay Cafe, Blarney Stone, Bert’s, Bar, Bad Decisions, and Babalu Grill — that I was perfectly fine with never having visited. So with the help of the fine people at the chow.com boards, I zeroed in on Bartenders in Canton. It was a perfect fit. Dark and quiet on a Monday night and staffed with knowing bartenders, it was the perfect place to fill up on beer and pizza with two friends and gossip incessantly about the other two who did not show up. For the rare lulls in conversation, there was Big East basketball on the TV. Perfect.

Bartenders features $6 pizzas on Monday night, a steal any day of the week, especially if you’re pinching pennies during the Economic End Times. My cohorts and I chowed down on a Garden Pie (regularly $11) and were satisfied. If we’d been feeling greedy, another one might have been in order, but we chose to guzzle our calories rather than gobble them. To this end, we quizzed the bartender about the impressive and ever-rotating selection of microbrews on tap and settled on Unibroue Maudite. This Canadian concoction tasted faintly of cloves and Christmas without any cloying richness. As the sun slipped down over the water and a chill slid into the evening air, it was the perfect choice for a winter evening.

Lest Bartenders appear too fancy-pants for your liking, fear not. When I queried the bartender about the management’s process of selecting the impressive range of beers on tap, he responded: “Whatever the fuckin’ drunks keep drinking, we keep ordering.”

So noted, good sir. See you next Monday, or possibly Tuesday, when Bartenders has a taco special. Or on Sunday for the shrimp special. But sometime soon, I’m sure.