Bars are a big and important part of Baltimore’s long and storied history. Near the turn of the century, the Irish pubs and other watering holes for Baltimore’s blue-collar workers helped shape the identity of the city’s after-hours’ life. Today, Baltimore plays host to a wide assortment of bars, lounges and pubs, from upscale hotel bars, to sports-themed establishments to the dive bars that so many local residents call home after a long day’s work. And the people who serve up this beer and all the delicious cocktails are very representative of the city’s nickname—the Charm City—as they are always eager to meet a new face and to educate tourists on Baltimore’s culture and history.
In the following article we will shine a light on several of Baltimore’s most popular and well-attended bars, including a description of each destination’s traits, amenities, and themes—the aspects that make all of the bars on this list so near and dear to the local citizenry.
The Woodberry Kitchen
Located in the Hampden area of Baltimore, Maryland, the Woodberry Kitchen tends to lure some of Baltimore’s more upscale residents, and with the word “kitchen” in its name you can probably guess that the drinks here lean toward the gastronomic side of the spectrum. From its “fish-pepper infused tequila to its granola infused bourbon to its technique for thickening drinks with yogurt whey and pork-fat maple, “ this is certainly not your average watering hole. However, once you get a taste of some of these great concoctions you’ll be wondering why you didn’t show up to this Baltimore mainstay any sooner.
Needless to say, the well-dressed bartenders at the Woodberry Kitchen are some of the finest in the state and are always at the top of their game. One of their most intriguing concoctions, according to locals, is the oft-ordered Appalachian, “with its triple-smoked apples, rye whiskey, 1757 brandy, oven ash and bourbon barrel sorghum for sweetness. All of the drinks at the Woodberry Kitchen are off the charts, especially their homemade ciders and mead, and they all pair well with the bar’s delicious food offerings, including genuine Chesapeake oysters, and a great selection of wood-fired flatbreads.
As we mentioned in the introduction, Irish pubs have played an important part in the history of Baltimore. Today, one of the best of these establishments is the bar known as Mick O’Shea’s. Nowhere in Baltimore (or all of Maryland) can you get the true Gaelic feel that Mick O’Shea’s delivers, and the drinks, food and décor are all very reminiscent of the Irish motherland. Naturally, the most popular drink order at Mick O’Shea’s is the frosty and delicious pints of Guinness Stout—pints that go down so smooth you’ll have to watch yourself to make sure you don’t overdo it.
In addition to the Guinness draughts on offer at this destination, Mick O’Shea’s also pours a mean Magner’s Irish cider, and features of a full bar stocked nicely with a variety of Irish whiskeys. The food menu is also great here, including generous platters of Tinney’s Fish and Chips or Bangers and Mash—an old UK favorite featuring Irish sausage surrounded by mashed potatoes with Guinness brown gravy and whiskey mustard sauerkraut.
On the weekends at Mick O’Shea’s, make sure you plan to stay a little later, as a live band hits the stage at about 10:00 PM every Friday and Saturday night, playing some of the best Irish music you have ever heard.
B & O American Brasserie
Located in downtown Baltimore, the B & O American Brasserie is not only a great place to share a cocktail with a friend or a loved one, it is also the official home of the Baltimore Bartenders’ Guild. The bar is situated within the well-visited Hotel Monaco—a great place to stay when visiting Baltimore—and the lead bartender here, Brendan Dorr, also happens to be president of the aforementioned guild. Watching Brendan and the other bartenders at the B & O American Brasserie stir and shake up their wide variety of signature cocktails is like watching poetry in motion, making something truly difficult look like second nature.
Although the drink and food prices at the B & O American Brasserie are a bit on the pricey side, the quality you receive (not to mention the show)in return is well worth the extra cash.
Fork and Wench
The Fork and Wench is a delightful bar and restaurant—a place where fun and entertainment are always on the menu. Situated in Baltimore’s Canton district, this triple-floor watering hole and eatery was once a group of converted row houses and is now one of the most popular stopovers in the Canton region.
At the Fork and Wench you can sip beer from one of over 15 draughts on tap, including a great selection of local craft brews and ciders. However, it is the signature cocktails that tend to draw most people to the Fork and Wench, particularly their “pickle back” menu of various whiskeys served with deliciously tart pickle brine.
The bar at the Fork and Wench is located on the ground floor of the establishment, so once you have had a few pre-dinner pops, be sure to head up to the second floor to enjoy a tasty and reasonably priced meal of comfort foods. The bar itself is rustic and welcoming, adorned with old farm tools on the walls, and the service is unbelievably good. In fact, if you like your meal at the Fork and Wench, make sure to buy a glass of “Love”—a mason jar of PBR sent directly to the kitchen staff in back.
Located in the Fells Point region of Baltimore, Bad Decisions is a paradise for liquor lovers, as the bar carries over 900 different type of booze. Here the bartenders make an incredible variety of signature cocktails from a bar list that consists of scribbled pieces of paper in an old binder. Chances are, if you’ve had the drink before, the bartenders here know how to make it.
In addition to the great lineup of beer and cocktails at Bad Decisions, this rustic bar also serves up a great menu of bar snacks—snacks that all tend to have one thing in common: bacon. From their bacon-wrapped pork wings to their ultimate bacon-infused burger, you will always have your fill of this delicious food when you decide to visit Bad Decisions.