Saturday, October 5, 2013

I Plan to Know Everyone at Smaltimore


Address: 2522 Fait Avenue
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Cost: $ $
Sports? Yes
Dancing? No
Smaltimore's tag line, "Where everybody knows everybody and everybody's business," is totally true. This neighborhood bar is the perfect place to post up, meet your barmates, and chat with the bartenders. I call it a neighborhood bar because it's just far enough from Canton Square to miss the bar-hopping circuit, and that's a good thing. Because of its separation, I got the impression that Smaltimore is a destination: people drive or cab to the place and stay there for the evening. With plenty of tables, a long bar, and tons of TVs, I will gladly spend a full evening there. The recent nice weather has been a big plus for the bar's atmosphere. Instead of a handful of small windows, not unusual in the city, Smaltimore has a couple of french doors and big windows that they open up when weather permits. The result is a sheltered outdoor feel, with a good breeze through the usually crowded space. The bartenders were accommodating and friendly, and I wasn't uncomfortable asking about the beer list on a crowded night. Smaltimore is a little loud, even when the bar is empty. They have a great playlist and turn it up just enough to make it hard to talk. It doesn't bother me, but I can imagine some people will be a little put off by it.

The bar has a pretty cool gimmick that was borrowed from a number of establishments in New York. As beer is ordered throughout the night, the price of beer changes with supply and demand. A couple of the TVs around the bar are dedicated to showing the current price of each beer, plus a ticker across the bottom of the screen showing the ups and downs like you're used to seeing with stocks. This is a fun concept and new to Baltimore, and encouraged me to try beer I might not have tried otherwise. That's a lie - I ordered some pumpkin beer that I would have at least considered anyway. The prices fluctuate, at least in my experience, between $4.50 and $7.50. If you like to try new beer and you're open-minded about what you order, you can get good drinks at reasonable prices. The only exception to this rule is Baltimore staple Natty Boh, which I saw sitting at $2.50 all night without ever sniffing a green up arrow. The tap list changes regularly, if not every day, and is shared in the afternoon on the Smaltimore twitter feed. Smaltimore also tweets an extensive wine list. Both beer and food, if I'm not mistaken, have a local bend. Every major local craft brewery is represented. Maryland is not exactly a prolific wine producer, and that shows on Smaltimore's wine lists. It would be nice to see Boordy Vineyard on there occasionally, though, if only to maintain the local theme.

I've only eaten Smaltimore's wings, and they were good. Coated in a sweet barbecue sauce and just crispy enough, the wings were as good as or better than anything I've had from a chain wing restaurant. Smaltimore also offers reasonably priced burgers and will begin serving sushi soon.

Smaltimore bacon cheeseburger Update: Smaltimore's burgers are terrific, and I couldn't help but smear their Awesome Sauce over both my bacon cheeseburger and the loaded tater tots. I'm not usually a big fan of tots, but Smaltimore's are very good. I'm used to loaded meaning just cheese and bacon, but Smaltimore added jalapeƱos to top it off. The new sushi at Smaltimore is also very good. It's prepared on site, by a sushi chef in the kitchen. The fish and rice tasted very fresh. I'd definitely order it again, and I plan to. They offer one Patterson Park-themed specialty roll that looked like too much food after a burger and tots, but one that I'll get the next time I'm in.

Would you want to watch a game at Smaltimore? Yes, in varying degrees. I watched a late-season Orioles game that more or less represented their last shot at the playoffs. As popular as the team has been recently, only a handful of people seemed interested in the hometown heroes. Football season had started, the O's had been sputtering, and not many people are looking to watch baseball all night, so I don't want to read too much into this one experience. I will go back next season to try another O's game at Smaltimore after hearing so much about college football afternoons there. Smaltimore is a Penn State bar, and does games right. There's a rumor floating around that the bartenders give a shot to everyone in the bar whenever Penn State scores a touchdown. Now, I'm a proud product of the great state of Maryland and a de facto Terps football fan because Loyola didn't have a team, but I might have to consider sharing allegiances. I don't think anyone would get upset if I was a raucous Penn State fan for a few hours every Saturday, right? I haven't been to Smaltimore for a Ravens game, but after seeing the setup and sheer number of TVs, I can bet it would be a great experience.

In all, highly recommended. I'll definitely be back, and I hope to see you there.