Where to Grab a Drink in Baltimore Right Now
There is plenty to drink about.
Bars are the backbone of Baltimore. Sure, there are great restaurants, breweries, and -- of course -- seafood spots, but you can’t walk a block in this town without passing a tavern or two. Nowadays, these dark dives and intimate cocktail lounges have spilled out into the street in the form of sidewalk tables, converted patios, and tented courtyards to combat the spread of COVID-19. As the temperatures begin to take a dip and 2020 anxiety rages on, we sure could use a drink to warm our bodies and souls. Here are 25 of our favorite spots to do just that.
Opened by two former bartenders from B&O American Brasserie, this luxe rowhouse bar is a gin lover’s dream. Though a full bar is available, the juniper-laced spirit is the star of the show and there are more than 100 varieties and a beautiful cocktail book to change any skeptic’s mind. Pivoting in the pandemic (the bar just opened in December, after all), DC now acts as a bottle shop, offers to-go cocktails, and seats guests in a spacious and tented courtyard out back. Don’t sleep on the food, including smoked BBQ every Sunday.
How to order: Make reservations with OpenTable or walk in for bottles or to-go cocktails.
No memories of growing up in Baltimore are complete without a night at the Ottobar. From its humble beginnings as a tiny rock club downtown to its current two-story location in Remington, the venue has gone through a lot of changes in its 23 years. One constant is its commitment to the local community and music scene and, recently, its fans returned the favor by donating nearly $150,000 to a GoFundMe page in order to help the bar keep going. Now the patio is open seven days a week with drink specials, food trucks, and trivia nights and the fabled venue is even beginning to introduce socially distanced shows inside.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served, carryout is available, and the calendar is here.
The Bluebird Cocktail Room
We know that fancy cocktail bars can sometimes feel like a drag (read: stuffy and expensive), but local residents often flock to Bluebird. On two floors of a building right off Hampden’s main street, the cocktail bar is downright beautiful in both sunlight or candlelight -- and the porch swings out front are a lovely touch. Perusing the literary-themed menu is a fun adventure in itself and it rotates often, but a safe bet is the Old Fashioned with citrus and vanilla poured over a house-carved ice sphere. Check out its current menu, cleverly dubbed Until Conditions Improve, for delicious burgers, tartare, and cocktails.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or you can order takeout online.
Johnny Rad's Pizzeria Tavern
This pizza pub at the cross-section of Canton, Fells Point, and Butchers Hill fulfills all of our adolescent dreams with punk rock on the stereo, skateboards on the walls, and a diverse but approachable beer selection. Beers -- like Mama’s Lil Yellow Pils or Monument City 51 Rye -- come on draft and in a lot of canned varieties here and safe bet snacks include the fried risotto balls, Trainwreck pizza, or any vegan option. During the year of our lord 2020, the bar has set up additional outside seating and a COVID-friendly takeout counter behind Plexiglass.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or you can order takeout through Toast.
29th Street Tavern
They say it’s impossible to open a dive bar, but what if one gets spiffed up and keeps all its character (and its carryout packaged goods)? Such is the case with 29th Street Tavern, which maintains blue-collar roots in a gentrifying neighborhood. That means friendly bartenders, great burgers and wings, and drinks specials during the O’s game. While it’s hard to replicate the beauty of a dark pub exterior, we give kudos to the “boardwalk” built for outside seating.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or walk up for carryout.
The bright and beautiful cocktails that Sugarvale has been posting on Instagram have been a welcome oasis in our news feeds. While people may not be able to pack into this cavernous cocktails bar like the elixir gods intended, we’re grateful that we can still get gems -- like the Lucky Cloud with amaro, white vermouth, grapefruit, ginger, and sparkling wine -- outside on its sidewalks table or to-go.
How to order: Order takeout online and enjoy on the sidewalk or at home.
Mr Nice Guy Cocktails
This Canton corner spot did the reverse of most bars. At the beginning of the pandemic, bartender Anthony Nastasi Jr. started offering to-go cocktails only and has since expanded, opening a brick-and-mortar spot, adding outdoor seating, and now offers beer, wine, and even a food menu. We sure hope this walking cocktail trend sticks around post-COVID, and we would probably have Mr. Nice Guy to thank.
How to order: Make a reservation on OpenTable or order takeout through Toast.
Frazier's on the Avenue
If you want Baltimore in a bar, Frazier’s might just be it. Its walls are adorned with every kind of local sports memorabilia you can think of, bartenders are brusk but remember your drink order, and the drinks are as strong as they can legally get away with. While most hazy Frazier’s memories involve the pool tables and/or jukebox, the bar is keeping the spirit alive with outside tables and to-go drinks. We’ve tested them and they are just as powerful.
How to order: Go inside (with a mask) to order and seating is first-come, first-served.
This is a neighborhood bar through and through. For one, Pigtown really needed a community hub like this, where customers frequently host book clubs, attend open mic nights, and even help the bar raise money for charitable causes. While right now is a tricky time for these types of places, Old Major is still offering takeout options for its delicious pub grub, local beer and wine, tropical cocktails, and even to-go shots. Thanks for reading our minds, per usual.
How to order: Order takeout through Toast.
The team responsible for dimly lit cocktail haven W.C. Harlan and golden-hued mezcaleria Clavel have another hit on their hands with this beer garden, natural wine, and sake bar. It might seem like the concept is all over the map, but the throughline is interesting, small-batch drinks of the highest quality. You can try Georgian wines, beer from Austria, or sake from Brooklyn (plus sample its delicious sister food concept Larder). Sit at the picnic tables under string lights and fantasize that you’ve been able to travel in 2020 after all.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or you can get carryout from the online shop.
North Avenue Market
Every city needs a bar/arcade and Baltimore just might have the coolest one. The menu is made of diner favorites like burgers and shakes, simple but thoughtful cocktails, local beer and wine, and some of the most beautifully topped french fries (truffle oil is involved). Not only that, this former 1920s market recently became known for hosting inclusive dance parties and, of course, having nearly more than 30 classic arcade games like Galaga and NBA Jam. Those things are slowly coming back, but for now you can also order delicious food and drinks to-go.
How to order: Order takeout through Toast.
Is it just us or does it seem like everyone canceled a trip to Spain or Portugal in 2020? Here’s your chance to experience the Iberian Peninsula at this long-standing tapas bar. Of course, the requisite order is a pitcher of sangria and a sampling of classic starters like patatas bravas, chile rellenos, croquetas, and anything with Serrano ham. What once was our favorite way to pregame a movie at the Charles Theatre is now a lovely sidewalk meal or carryout order to enjoy at home. Salud!
How to order: Sidewalk tables are first-come, first-served or order takeout through ChowNow.
There actually aren’t a ton of waterfront bars in Baltimore, despite it being a coastal city. But Little Havana just south of Federal Hill has to be one of the best. Its deck is generally filled with many hair-of-the-dog groups putting back mimosas and mojitos or hoping generous portions of chilaquiles or the famed Cubano will do the trick. Now tables are spaced six feet apart with groups no larger than six people, but the drinks are still flowing and the sun is still shining plenty.
How to order: Call 410-837-9903 for Sunday brunch reservations.
We know, it’s a strange name. But Wet City actually used to be Baltimore’s nickname during Prohibition when many of its residents and businesses continued to pedal alcohol. The party is still going strong at this airy, minimalist space that brews its own beers on site and has a menu of fabulous cocktails to match. If you like sour sessions, get anything from its Making Out With series, which features berries and tropical fruit. And don’t miss out on food that would satisfy the strongest of munchies, including Nashville-style hot chicken and a pulled pork “krunkwrap.”
How to order: Grab a sidewalk table, order curbside pickup through Toast, or call 443-873-6699 for nearby delivery.
Papi's Taco Joint
This is one of those spots that lands somewhere in between a restaurant and a bar, but it’s so damn fun we’re calling it the latter. What started out in pretty small quarters in Fells Point now has another Hampden location with a covered deck in the back for social distance dining and drinking. Sip on one of the best house-made margaritas in town (frozen or on the rocks with a ton of flavor additives to choose from) and snack on queso fundido with chorizo, esquites dip, or street-style tacos. Or order to-go bundles that include margarita and Bloody Mary kits.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or order takeout through Toast.
Old Line Spirits
Makers of single-malt whiskey and Carribean-aged rum, the brilliant distillers at Old Line Spirits decided to add cocktails into the mix and, most recently, a courtyard bar called The Flight Deck. Featuring wooden picnic tables, Adirondack cheers, and, fittingly, high-top barrels, the distillery’s parking lot has been transformed into a spacious outdoor drinking space. Try booze-forward cocktails like the seasonal Maple Flag Cider with Old Line’s single malt, apple cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, and walnut bitters.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or you can order bottles and cocktails to-go.
Most people recognize this corner gem by its sticker-plastered front door. You just know you’re going to have a blast inside. And usually that’s true, between its vinyl night dance parties and plentiful shots of green Chartreuse. While there is still no indoor seating at Idle Hour, the beloved dive has pivoted pretty brilliantly, opening a carryout bottle shop, hosting virtual wine classes with local experts, and even throwing a socially distant dance party in a tailgate parking lot. We may not be aglow under red string lights anymore, but true legends never die.
How to order: Outside seating is first-come, first-served and check Instagram for events.
Cat's Eye Pub
Something truly missing from our souls this year is live music. And Zoom concerts (even by the most talented musicians) just don’t cut it. Thankfully, the nearly 50-year-old Cat’s Eye Pub has reopened its outside courtyard and, like all of Fells Point for now, even has tables on the cobblestones out front -- all within earshot of whatever blues or funk band is playing inside the bar. Walk up to the split Dutch door, order some cheap beer and a couple shots, and dance in the pedestrian-friendly streets.
How to order: Just mask up and walk up. Check the website for a live music schedule.
Sports bars tend to all blur together, but excellent food, customer service, and a great view of the water set The Chasseur apart. Take it in while you chown down on chicken tinga nachos, crab mac and cheese, or the apple and fig flatbread. There are crushes galore (including the standard orange and grapefruit), boozy milkshakes, and a drink called Baltimore Water that tastes better than it sounds. Tented sidewalk seating and, of course, the rooftop bar are ideal places to watch a Ravens games.
How to order: Call 410-327-6984 for reservations and takeout.
We’ll forgive the fact that this is a Washington Football Team and Virginia Tech bar simply because we always end up having a great time. With about 100 beers available, there is always something new and crafty to try. Recent favorites have been the Cushwa New England IPA, Diamondback Beer’s Zlaty pilsner, and Checkerspot’s Maximum Fruitage with pawpaws. Whatever you’re drinking, chase it with pub grub classics like the Buffalo chicken wrap or Chesapeake burger topped with crab dip -- and hang in its “streatery” of shaded picnic tables.
How to order: Seating is first-come, first-served or call 410-637-3699 for takeout.
The Brewer's Art
Way before craft beer was cool, a cavernous brewhouse was being built on North Charles Street with the radical idea that white tablecloth fine dining could co-exist with incredibly strong Belgian beers. More than two decades later, the dichotomous Brewer’s Art is still kickin’ -- with some of the most refined food and beautiful architecture to enjoy upstairs and a nearly pitch-black gritty basement bar down below. Now, the bar has added outside seating so there’s even a third way to enjoy its rosemary garlic fries (hint: bring a mint) or steak frites. Fun fact: The bar’s Beazly Belgian Golden Ale used to be called Ozzy until the Black Sabbath singer himself hit them with a cease and desist. This place must be pretty good if he’s paying attention.
How to order: Call 410-547-6925 to make reservations or order takeout online.
Known as a brunch and date-night destination on bustling Harford Road, Maggie’s Farm should also be heralded for its creative bar program. Cocktails like a smoke Sazerac with cinnamon-ginger simple or the barrel-aged pecan Old Fashioned take time and technique. We love to snack on a good cheese board while we sip and this one with house-made preserves, focaccia, and pickles is just right. Usually we savor them in the red-hued bar, but we’re happy to instead be outside on sidewalk tables underneath an awning and charming string lights.
How to order: Call 410-254-2376 for reservations or takeout.
Of Love & Regret
If you like getting weird, Of Love & Regret is the bar for you. The bar is chock-full of rare beer, wine, and spirits from all over the world and one conversion with a knowledgeable bartender could lead you down a booze-filled rabbit hole. Cocktails are unusual, seasonal, and visceral including Coffee & Cigarettes with Islay Scotch, coffee liqueur, Fernet, and black walnut liqueur and old favorite The Artist Formerly Known As (The Smirk) with gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, and egg white. Food here is equally impressive and you’ll surely be in need of a hearty meal.
How to order: Outside seating is first-come, first-served or order takeout on GrubHub.
Every town needs that beer bar. You know the one that has a superlative number of bottles and drafts, where patrons of all kinds can geek out on Belgians and sours, and people might actually spend more time on Untapped than Tinder. Max’s fits all the requirements with thousands of bottles and nearly 100 rotating draft lines that lean just as heavily on rare imports as they do on local favorites. In normal times, this is a great spot to watch sports, play pool, or even sing karaoke. But for now, we so much appreciate the homemade, outdoor booths they constructed.
How to order: Outside seating is first-come, first-served or you can buy beer and merch online.
Annabel Lee Tavern
While Baltimore might not be the most romantic city that comes to mind, love is always in the air at Annabel Lee, named for Edgar Allan Poe’s object of affection. The interior is dark and intimate with merlot-colored walls, flickering candles, and lines of poetry pretty much everywhere you look. Ideal for date night, Annabel Lee has excellent food options, including duck-fat fries, Buffalo mushrooms, and plump crab cakes with little filler. Cocktails are all Poe-themed and we love the Evening Star with Pikesville Rye, smoky apples, cinnamon, and habanero bitters. Look for local beer on draft including, yes, the Annabel Lee White.
How to order: Sidewalk tables are first-come, first-served or call 410-522-2929 for takeout.