Category Archives: Chop on the Spot

Clementine: Clifton Park’s 19th Hole

So the Chop is going golfing again today. We’ve got a late-morning tee time, which we’ve come to figure out is just about the ideal window to tee off because you can still sleep in a little bit, and by the time you’re round is done you’re in prime position to go straight from the course to happy hour.

We’ll be playing at Clifton, which means the most convenient bars are the ones around Hamilton and Lauraville. Here’s the idea: if we play our usual terrible game, we’ll go ahead and do the usual Bohs at Koco’s. If we can get that score down under 100 though, we might just reward ourselves with some of the specialty cocktails up at Clementine.

Yeah Lee, we get pretty thirsty after a round too.

Clementine has always been in an odd position. They’re hands down one of the best bars in the city, yet they’ve never had more than 3 or 4 stools at their bar. We never could reconcile in our mind how a bar that’s so well stocked could have so few stools. They’ve got one of those something-for-everyone-mostly-reasonably-priced wine lists that is perfect for date night, as well as a long list of carefully chosen bottled beers to pair with everything on the menu.

If we do manage to get a seat at the bar though, we’re going to resist the temptation to call for one of several available single malts and small-batch American whiskies and pick a few selections from their outstanding cocktail list.

Fall is the perfect time to go for our favorite, the Stonewall (Pear Cider, Bourbon and Ginger Liqueur). The Georgia Manhattan (Pecan Infused Bourbon, Mathilde Peach Liqueur & Organic Maple Liqueur) and Maça Martini (LeBlon Cacha├ža, Elderflower Liqueur, Pressed Apple Cider & Fresh Lime Juice) are a couple more don’t-try-this-at-home seasonal specialties. Or, if we end up getting rained on after 9 holes it might prove a good excuse to call it a day and call for a hot toddy.

Whatever we ultimately decide on one thing’s certain… good booze is the best incentive to keep those drives straight, chips short, putts true and score down.

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Chop on the Spot: Griffith’s Tavern

Part of the appeal of any neighborhood bar is being in a spot where “everybody knows your name,” but as we discussed in a previous post, a little anonymity can go a long way sometimes. There are times when a man wants a little solitude; not too much, just an hour or so to sit in the dark, not be bothered, have a drink and be alone with his thoughts.

It’s at times like these- these blessed, quiet hours, that you might find the Chop in Griffith’s Tavern with a cold draft and our phone turned off, hiding in plain sight. Griffith’s is truly the best of both worlds- the place where the bartender will learn your name and your drink, but where you’re guaranteed not to run into anyone you’d rather not run into.

Griffith's Tavern... the bar that time forgot.

In a way, hiding in plain sight is what Griffith’s does best. It sits there right on Hickory, just a block up from the Avenue smack in the dead-center of Hampden proper. It’s still pretty easy to miss though, being as non-descript as a bar can be. There’s comparatively little traffic passing that corner, and even some of the Hampden locals who pass the place on foot mistake it for being either a private club of some sort, or being closed down entirely. The small sign with business hours posted is the only clue that it’s actually a functional bar. Being attached to the back of a rowhouse, with solid steel doors and tiny, barred windows the place is willingly uninviting from the exterior.

On the interior, it’s nothing less than the bar that time forgot. Stepping inside the door is literally like stepping back in time. Wood paneling is the predominant theme, accented by a nicotine-stained drop ceiling, an ancient, never-refinished wooden bar, and a Bud Light clock over the video poker machine which looks to date from about 1985. One flatscreen TV jammed up in the corner is the only nod to modernity.

The flashback continues behind the bar, where you’ll see a few things that are tough to find in some bars these days; glass-door coolers with cans of Busch, pints and half pints of liquor for carry-out, snack food and a “medicine cabinet” stocked with singles of Tylenol, Advil, and Bayer, which come in handy in the kind of bar that opens at 9 am and has no food menu. There’s even an old coffee pot behind the bar.

Of course, the regulars at Griffith’s don’t notice anything being out of date, because that’s just the way things have always been. Griffith’s caters to Hampden’s last genuine Hons. We’re not talking about the neck-tattooed, Newport-breath, recovery program ‘Hons’ you find in Zissimo’s or Dmitri’s either. Griffith’s is like the beauty parlor; the place your mom and your aunt get together to gossip about the neighbor’s kids. A $2.50 draft is cheaper than a perm. Much like a salon or a barbershop, the conversation here is general. Anyone can take the floor and put in their two cents at any time, and not be thought rude for doing so. Or you can just sit back and listen. You don’t even have to listen that long before you hear a few good digs at the expense of a certain Hampden restaurateur.

Griffith’s may not be the best choice for Saturday night. It’s not the bar you pick to meet a friend for dinner. If you’re looking to flirt or meet someone, you’re definitely in the wrong place. But if what you seek is a cold beer and a peaceful hour, enjoyably spent then there may be no better bar in Baltimore.

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Chop on the Spot: Charles Village Pub

The Charles Village Pub has always had an outstanding business model: put a bar where a bar needs to be. Be a bar. Have beer and liquor, some background music, a few TV’s, and let the people come.

All the basics are there, right on Saint Paul Street, and no frills at all. It’s a solid business plan that’s seen them through a lot, and starting today and running through Saturday, they’ll be celebrating their 30 year anniversary.

CVP hasn't changed much in 30 years. Why would it?

We’ve never really gone out of our way to rave about the CVP. At the same time, we could hardly imagine Charles Village without it. For a neighborhood comprised almost entirely of savvy, socially conscious urbanites and with a critical mass of college students, there is a dearth of bars and taverns in Charles Village. The taps at CVP though run as reliably as old faithful.

Perhaps the Pub’s chief virtue is that it serves as a true neighborhood bar, able to function as all things to all people. Is it a sports bar? a college bar? a casual dining restaurant? a happy hour spot? a place to hide from the sun for an eye opener? Yes. It’s all of these things.

Personally, we love the Charles Village Pub for its happy hour (2-4-1 rail and wine and discounts on beer, as well as half price bar food) and its prime location for people-watching, especially if you’re snagging a table on the sidewalk or in the window. We love them for keeping regular hours on Sundays, football or no. And then there’s the cheese fries.

The menu is hardly gourmet fare, but that matters not, because we don’t even need to look at the menu. There may be no finer combination in the epicurean universe than crispy fried foodservice fries and processed cheese sauce. Not only will the CVP serve you up a giant basket of perfectly made cheese fries any time of day, they’ll give you a six ounce cup of ranch dressing gratis to dump all over them and not pass any judgments when you do.

The pub will be celebrating their pearl anniversary all week long; presumably with specials, although when we inquired about what those specials might be recently, no one we spoke with on staff seemed to know. So we guess you’ll have to find out how they’re celebrating this week for yourself. We certainly intend to.

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Chop on the Spot: Crazy Ray’s

If Baltimore is a city sometimes known to celebrate the bizarre, the unusual and all things on the fringes, we’d posit that there may be no more bizarre place in the city than Crazy Ray’s auto parts on Erdman Avenue.

An automotive “graveyard” might be an apt description of the yard at Crazy Ray’s, although unlike an actual graveyard, nothing is buried here. Instead, these mechanical corpses are laid bare under the sun for the inspection of God and all. In various stages of weathering, disrepair and destruction the Beamers and Buicks meant to be a source of parts are as much a macabre museum of the American roadway.

With acres of autos providing a window into vehicular history and the lives of their former owners, Crazy Ray’s is one of our favorite places to explore in Baltimore, whether we need parts or not. Here are a few photos from a recent trip.

A relic of the Studio 54 cocaine party era.

Party like a rock star.

Your stickers may outlast your car.

Family fun in a conversion van. Next stop Wally World!

Pie in the sky.

Still pimp as hell.

Is it just me or was it hot in here?

This is why you don't try to cook meth in the back seat.

It may look like hell, but it smells Springtime fresh.

Watch out for the giant forklifts, because they might kill you.

A view of the neighboring trainyard and the Bayview hospital complex.

It's a 10 car pile-up.

Damn, I think I left my keys in the car...

A word of caution if you go though: Junkyards are really fucking dangerous places. Aside from the giant speeding forklifts pictured above, there’s also the possibility that a car will fall on you, since most of them are propped up on stacks of tires or little spare-tire jacks. There is also broken glass and twisted metal absolutely everywhere. We’d recommend the thickest-soled, sturdiest boots you have, a pair of jeans you wouldn’t mind staining, and long sleeves wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Even if you don’t get cut or bruised, you may still come out covered in oil, grease or other automotive fluids.

But of course, some people are into that sort of thing.

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God Save the Queen!

Today is Saint Patrick’s day, Baltimore. It’s that most drunk and sloppy of meaningless phony holidays which are completely insignificant and thoroughly unenjoyable. We’re already on record as being against drinking holidays and the rabble they produce as a matter of principle, and all of this green and phony-baloney Irish crap doesn’t sway our opinion in the least. Throughout history the Irish have shown themselves to be little more than illiterate Papist subsistence farmers, no better than, say, Guatemala when you really think about it. Instead of ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish,’ we prefer ‘Kiss my ass, I’m American!’

Rather than swill green beer and play at being some sort of drunken foolish hooligan, we’re intending to mark today in the manner we think most proper… a celebration of all things English.

The Chop celebrates England, in all her glory.

With the closing of Canton’s Tyson’s Tavern last Fall, the area’s base of proper English establishments was reduced by a third. Fortunately, two British outposts remain in Central Maryland as a testament to and a reminder of the greatness of the English nation.

If you’re south of the city, Union Jack’s in Columbia is about as British as it gets this side of the Atlantic. We’ve never been, but the photos on their site remind us instantly of some of the pubs we saw in the high street on our trip to Southampton. With a full menu, some 60 beers, and four distinct spaces, there’s little reason to leave once you’re settled in.

If Howard County is a stretch though, you can still get your full fix of all things Anglo at Brighton’s. Hidden away on the second floor of Light Street’s Intercontinental Hotel, Brighton’s is something of an ironic contrast when compared with Union Jack’s. Although it’s in the heart of the city, the ambiance here is decidedly more upscale with something of a country feel to it. It wouldn’t take much suspension of disbelief to arrive around tea time and swear that you’d walked into a country estate, just after the hunt. It also offer’s close proximity to one of the city’s very best bars, the Explorers Lounge. The martinis here may be damn close to $20, but it’s a guaranteed lock that you’ll be able to drink one in peace without encountering a single one of the tossers and punters about in Federal Hill.

If you’re not as flush as all that though, you can still celebrate the same way we plan to: by donning our Arsenal jersey and spinning a Billy Bragg record while whipping up a vegan shepherd’s pie or a bread pudding, and settling into it with a James Bond flick and a pukka dry martini.

(We’ll keep admiring the English right up until about the Fourth of July, at which time of course we’ll conveniently remember our own Yankee superiority, which bows to no one and takes pride in being a citizen, not a subject.)

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Chop on the Spot: Dan Brothers Shoes

Now that the holidays have come and gone and the dead-of-winter hibernation period has fully set in, we’re beginning to make subtle preparations to go a-traveling again. One of the most important of those preparations is the acquisition of a new pair of solid-yet-comfortable everyday shoes that can withstand many hours of standing still in comfort.

We settled on these chukka boots from Johnston and Murphy, which feature a crepe rubber sole and sheepskin lining, and which were comfortable the moment we tried them on, and won’t really require any breaking in at all.

These boots were made for... standin' around.

This isn’t a post about shoes though: it’s a post about a shoe store. When we first set out to shoe shopping, we began by going into Benjamin Lovell in Harbor East, and were sorely disappointed. Their stock was so depleted, and the store featured so many empty shelves that in another neighborhood you might think it was a drug front. As the only customer in the shop we were double-teamed by the staff, who after not having our size of the one shoe we sort of liked, made a point of saying “Well, if there’s something else you need we can order it for you.” Really? No shit? There’s a new invention called the internet. We can order shoes from it without you, thanks.

Since we were downtown anyway, and already had one of those little parking meter slips for the dashboard we stopped by Famous Footwear and, well, that’s 3 minutes of our life we’ll never get back. Don’t ever go to Famous Footwear. Unless you want to buy a pair of Sketchers. Then go.

Which brings us to Dan Brothers. Over the years, we’ve been by there dozens of times, but never really been drawn in. (There’s not much in the way of window displays.) We’ve even been to their website, which is not a particularly good website, and could use a redesign.

The store itself though is outstanding. The large inventory is beautifully displayed and runs the full range from smart-casual to business to formal, even including exotic skins and boots, and a clearance section with shoes you might actually want to wear. Dan Bros is about as old-school Baltimore as you can get, and the friendly, local staff gives the place more the feel of a neighborhood barbershop than a shoe store.

In 70 years they claim to have sold shoes to everyone from William Donald Schaefer to Muhammad Ali, and we can see why. If you want to be the sort of bastard that walks in someplace, orders a good Scotch, puts your feet up on the table and hears someone ask “Whoa, where’d you get those shoes?” Then you’d do well to swing by Dan Bros. It took some self-control for us to walk out of there with only one pair, and we’re certain our first visit will be the first of many.

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Chop on the Spot: Interview With Sixteen Tons Proprietor Daniel Wylie

As you may already know, the Chop is no stranger to matters of style. Classic American fashion is one of the cornerstones of this blog. So when we heard word of a new men’s shop opening in Hampden, you can believe it raised our eyebrows pretty high.

For too many years quality menswear in Baltimore has been strictly limited to the suit-and-tie crowd, and anyone wanting to look good outside of office hours has had to hump it out to the mall, and as we all know the mall can be a very uncomfortable place, like the back of a Volkswagen.

Daniel Wylie has been a busy man of late, curating goods, rebuilding his shop space from the ground up, and dealing with the myriad other concerns of getting a business together. Sixteen Tons had its soft opening about 2 weeks ago, and we can tell you firsthand, he’s done a hell of a job. The newest store on the Avenue looks great, and will have you looking great by the time you walk out the door.

Busy as he’s been, Daniel was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to the Chop about his new shop, ideas on style, and how to keep the gentlemen of Baltimore Town looking their best.

Thanks for taking time out to talk to the Chop. With interior design, as well as with men’s fashion, the details can make or break your whole style. As we speak, you’ve got the doors open, but have still been laying on the finishing touches. How has it gone so far setting up shop?

    I agree about the details. I was fortunate after much BS to get a truly unique building in Hampden, The Augusta Bank Building at 36th & Hickory [most recently Squidfire] and that to me is part of the battle as people are just drawn to it. They want to walk in and see what’s inside. The interior was pretty much just a room, raw space needing some serious attention. It hadn’t had much done to it in almost twenty years so I really had to start from scratch. There was nothing I could do that wouldn’t be a massive improvement on what was there. Some may say I went too far, but I really wanted to cultivate a distinct Sixteen Tons environment and experience that will hopefully compliment everything within it. The whole process has been grueling, lots of late nights and sore muscles. Fortunately, I had the Boh Man helping me. (He’s fucking useless really…)

Could you tell us a bit about your personal style, and how it may have evolved over time?

    Having style and having a style I think are different but obviously related; probably cousins. I’d like to think I’ve always had the latter and as I’ve grown (slightly!) older I am learning more about the former. As far as style I mean not so much the rules and regulations, but how and why certain things just look good on me. The terabytes of incredible information that are online have really been like an exhausting college course for me on the history of men’s clothing and everything associated with it .

Who or what do you think has had the most influence on your own wardrobe or style?

    My personal style has probably evolved over time mostly on gut instinct. Though even through those years of ignorance I can now see that I was at least unconsciously drawn to certain things and people for specific reasons. Most of those had to do with a kind of effortless not-giving-a-fuck but looking sharp nonetheless; maybe studied but not labored. I would have to reference as a couple of personal touchstones Sammy Davis Jr. because the man just perpetually looked sharp and Paul Simonon. The whole Rudeboy/Rat Pack/Rockabilly thing I dig, its like the bastard offspring of Ike Turner and Gene Vincent in a Nudie Suit with steel capped Cuban Cuban-boots.

It sounds like you’re talking about the Italian idea of Sprezzatura. Baltimore is a city with 21st century ideals, but very rough edges. It seems that artful dishevelment and organic wear and tear should be as natural here as cowboy boots in Texas or Sandals in Key West. Any thoughts on that?

    Sprezzatura is a new word to me, but absolutely spot on in definition. That is the black belt of fashion (life?) we should all aspire to.

Can you give us a teaser about some of what we can expect to find on the racks at 16 Tons?

    Some outerwear, some knits, some shirts, some no bullshit selvedge denim, definitely some labels new to Baltimore.

Locally exclusive labels, you say? That’s interesting. Care to tease us with some examples?

    Pretty positive that I’m the only one in Baltimore with Farah Vintage, Universal Works, Naked and Famous Jeans, Artifacts and SkunkFunk (who I probably won’t have again after this winter), and possibly Revolution Now, Field Notes and more.

That’s some quality stuff. Many men might cringe at the term “boutique” but 16 Tons is at least what you might call a “specialty shop”. What advantages for the customer does this style of shopping have over, say, a Macy’s or a
Sears?

    I just have to believe that most men loathe malls as much as I do. I’ve always preferred a more comfortable, interesting environment that has a unique personality to 2500 sq ft of racks of whatever. And it’s less complicated in the sense that if you like what the store is doing, its style or whatever, then it saves you having to hunt it down yourself. Also, I think the increased awareness of supporting smaller, local, independent businesses overrides any discomfort of what that business might be listed under in the yellow pages.

You’ve made it clear that 16 Tons is striving for Timeless or Classic style, but what does that mean to you exactly? It seems that there’s a very fine line between timeless and Old Fashioned, and many fashionable men unwittingly cross it when trying to smarten up. I’m thinking specifically of certain NY/Brooklyn or Jack White types who’ve run the slippery slope from fashion into age-inappropriate mustaches, hats, suspenders, etc. and end up looking like an anachronism.

    I think that the standards, the basic building block items of a man’s wardrobe, design wise, say since the beginning of the 20th century, can and have only been improved on so much. Pants are pants, two legs forever. A well cut, well fitting suit just looks good, forever. This is more or less why certain elements never go away, because they’ll never look bad. All the extremes or aesthetic details of different styles or eras are just that, styles, that come and go. A man will always look sharp in a nice hat but you can’t really say that about a dude in spats.

Speaking of going back in time, these days it can be tough to have a conversation about menswear without at least one or two Mad Men references being thrown around. Is this a blessing, a mixed blessing, or a curse?

    I’ve never watched it, but I’m familiar with the reference. I don’t think that anything that encourages men to wear clothes that fit them and not be afraid to look sharp can be a curse. It just depends on how it filters out into the public, good examples to learn something from and apply to daily dressing or a bunch of guys in period costume.”

In terms of fashion, what, if anything, sets Baltimore apart from any other east coast city?

    If my memory serves me correctly, it was the Baltimore market that single-handedly kept the Nike Air Force 1 in production, amazing if you think about it. Besides that bit of minutiae and maybe the Deaconites antifashion/fashion of a few years back, I can’t think of anything that our humble city has that makes it unique, clothing wise that is.

Finally, if you had to pick, what one thing should every man have in his closet?

    Hangers or skeletons…

Thanks again, Daniel. We can’t wait for the chance to blow some of our post- Christmas gift cash in the shop, and get to be looking right for New Years’ Eve. Of course, we may not have to now that you’ve got gift certificates available. Let’s be honest, Baltimore. A 16 Tons gift cert makes a much better last minute gift for the man in your life than that same old bottle of booze.

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Sixteen Tons is now open at 1100 W. 36th St. in Hampden. 410-554-0101 or shop16tons.com. Mon-Thu: 11-6, Fri & Sat: 11-7, Sun: 12-5.

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