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Issue Date: March 2006 Issue


Bringing Up Baltimore


Angela Roberts

Yes, we took your team. We understand the grudge. But it's been 10 years: you have a new team now and it's doing pretty well. Let's let bygones be bygones. Let's kiss and make up. After all, for all of our differences, Baltimore has a lot in common with Cleveland.

Just like you, we're a working-class town turning cosmopolitan. But we've hung on to our quirky spirit, and we're proud of it. We love our harbor, the Chesapeake Bay and eating crabs. We still love old Natty Boh, the beer from the "Land of Pleasant Living," even if it's not worth much more than $10 a case. We love form-stone - those gray slabs of concrete applied to row houses across the city back in the '40s and '50s designed to resemble New York's brownstones. It didn't quite work, but we don't mind. We're proud to be the setting for the critically acclaimed television series "Homicide: Life on the Street" and HBO's "The Wire," despite the fact that both programs focus on such public relations nightmares as, well, murder and drugs.

Like your town, mine is filled with characters. Our hometown hero is the offbeat John Waters, triumphant director of "Hairspray." It seems fitting that our mayor was in a rock band before taking office. We're home to Barry Levinson, H.L. Mencken and Edgar Allen Poe, and the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner and Babe Ruth.

And, just like Cleveland, Baltimore's heritage springs from the small, old neighborhoods sprinkled throughout the city: We have our own Little Italy, full of restaurants and old-timers playing the traditional Italian game of bocce, and our own University District, the studious Charles Village filled with Johns Hopkins students. There's Fell's Point, with its narrow, colonial-era streets, docks, bars and shops, and Canton, teeming with new restaurants and recently renovated row houses. Downtown, our Inner Harbor is home to a pulsing scene of water taxis and paddleboats.

There's historic Federal Hill and nearby SoBo (South Baltimore). North of the Inner Harbor you'll find artsy Mount Vernon, cool and funky Hampden and the old school, upscale Roland Park. These neighborhoods, all with unique histories and distinct styles, gave Baltimore its age-old moniker: Charm City. So, when you visit, make sure to check them out. It's the only way to really understand what Baltimore is all about.

Eat

Recently, Baltimore has experienced tremendous culinary experimentation and expansion, fueled by the city's growing population of 20- and 30-somethings. Sloane Brown, editor of the Baltimore Sun's food column, recommends her favorites.

Avant Garde: Bicycle, in the SoBo neighborhood, is "new American, very creative, small and operated by a husband and wife team," says Brown; she calls it a "perennial favorite." 1444 Light St., (410) 234-1900; www.bicyclebistro.com

Down Home: With a unique spin on traditional dishes, Helen's Garden in Canton offers "a funky, casual setting with creative, hearty servings," Brown says. Go for the Roman lamb with honey, grapes and feta. 2908 O'Donnell St., (410) 276-2233; www.helensgarden.com

Out to Sea: Kali's Court has "the best seafood in town" according to Brown. The Fell's Point Mediterranean-influenced restaurant offers diners a taste of West Coast halibut, Mediterranean bronzini and their own "colossal crab cakes." 1606 Thames St., (410) 276-4700; www.kaliscourt.net

Enjoy

Brian Lawrence, editor of Baltimore's Style magazine, offers up the latest in local nightlife.
Fun 'n' Fruity: Lime, a just-opened tequila bar/restaurant in SoBo offers a complimentary shot of tequila served in half a hollowed-out lime, setting the tone for more than 80 tequilas. 801 E. Fort Ave., (410) 685-LIME

Fun 'n' Foody: Red Maple is swanky, chic and cool with "Asian-inspired" tapas, an intimate dance floor, belly dancers and a private, outdoor courtyard for those who choose to smoke. 930 North Charles St., (410) 547-0149; www.930redmaple.com

Fun 'n' Frenetic: Sonar is the high-energy club, holding more than 1,400 people. There are live bands most nights. 407 E. Saratoga St., (410) 327-8333; www.sonarlounge.com

Shop

Susan Dunn, publisher and editor of Paper Doll, a brand new publication dedicated to Baltimore-area shopping, is an expert on every shop in the city and beyond. Her faves:
Foreign Allure: Trixie's Palace sells women's clothing that's "young, funky, crazy and cute," says Dunn. Cicaeda singer Andriana Pateris owns Trixie's; she collected many of her wares during various international travels. 1704 Thames St., (410) 558-2195; www.trixiespalace.com

Hidden Charm: This very stylish boutique is "fantastic and not well known," Dunn says of Blu Vintage, a shop in Mount Vernon that sells vintage women's clothing. 823 N. Charles St., (410) 547-9335; www.bluvintage.com

Antique Dream: The owners of Gaines McHale travel to England, France and Denmark to buy antique furniture and antique replicas from dealers, estates, auctions and farmers. 700 S. Caroline St., (410) 625-1900; www.gainesmchale.com


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