Tag Archives: Hons

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Of course, the regulars at Griffith’s don’t notice anything being out of date, because that’s just the way things have always been.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: Alternatives to Cafe Hon

Since word got out on Friday that Denise Whining trademarked the term Hon, the outcry against her corny, crummy restaurant and her slimy, anti-social business practices has been nearly universal, with some of the best writing on the topic coming from sources like The Sun’s editorial page, columnist Dan Rodricks, Gutter Magazine, the Baltimore Brew, and Smile, Hon via Baltimore or Less.

We’re not going to editorialize here about how Cafe Hon has been insulting, demeaning, and exploiting Baltimoreans for years. We’ve already spent the weekend doing that in the comment sections of blogs like this one. We’re not going to point out that the real Hons are hanging around in bars that don’t need to be branded. And we’re not even going to call for a general boycott, because (as has been pointed out) we weren’t in the habit of eating or drinking there in the first place.

Nope. What we are going to do is to take this opportunity to bring your attention to three places, three nearby places, which offer better food and drink with friendlier service at lower prices.

The Dizz bills itself as “Baltimore in a bar,” and while that slogan might sound a little hokey, they do deliver. The former Dizzy Issie’s is one of the friendliest and most comfortable bars around, and even caters to your out-of-town touristy friends via the Charm City Cakes connection. Great as it is though, we like the new Dizz Grandview even better. The menu and atmosphere up at ‘Dementia Issie’s’ are direct clones of the original, and the place is an instant favorite for happy hour drinks. There’s a TV in there, but you won’t see much of it. You’ll be too busy watching the sun go down and the lights of the entire city flicker on one by one. At the first sign of snow, you can bet we’ll be strapping on our boots and walking over to Roland Avenue to spend the entire day drinking Grand Marnier and watching a blanket of snow descend on the Land of Pleasant Living. Update: Unfortunately, the Dizz Grandview closed in May 2011. The original location is still going strong.

Anyone looking for good food and drinks in Hampden would be well advised to go around the corner from the Avenue and take a table at McCabe’s. In fact, if you were to correct the myriad criticisms of Cafe Hon, the place you’d end up with would be very much like McCabe’s, and we’d venture that anyone who’s dined or drunk there would fain go hungry than to eat beneath that damn Flamingo again. The menus may be similar, with both serving up comfort food staples like crabcakes, burgers, cole slaw, etc, but the execution is worlds apart. The sophistication of the dishes at the new McCabe’s is matched and complemented by the wine and cocktail options behind the bar, and the friendly service and finished decor allow diners to feel more like adults enjoying their meals than reluctant players in some day-glo cartoon church supper farce.

A bit further up Roland but still in easy walking distance is Alonso’s/Loco Hombre . Anchoring a quaint block of shops and restaurants on West Cold Spring, Alonso’s can sometimes give you a little of that off-the-beaten-path feeling which can be hard to come by in Baltimore Bars. With two full menus under one roof and a well-earned reputation as one of the better beer bars around, Alonso’s has something to offer everyone, and they pull crowds from all walks of life. There’s no shortage of Loyola and Notre Dame students as well as TV Hill types, Roland Springs/Roland Park locals, sports fans, beer geeks and even a few refugee Hons.

Alonso’s has even recently opened up another bar on their top floor. Already known as an excellent choice for football viewing, the upstairs “Alonsoville” bar boasts 7 TV’s, and is a great setting for Ravens fans who are well beyond their collegiate loud-and-rowdy bucket-of-Miller-Lite-and-keep-em-coming days.

Of course, these three excellent choices are only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that you could have an excellent meal every night of the week in a different 36th street restaurant (like Grano, Frazier’s, Golden West, 13.5%, Dogwood, Holy Frijoles, or the brand new Alchemy) without deigning to set foot inside of Cafe Hon.

With options like that, who needs a boycott? It’s called the free market, Hon.

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Alonso’s/Loco Hombre is at 415 W. Cold Spring Lane in Roland Springs. The Dizz Grandview is at 3838 Roland Ave. on the 15th floor in Hampden. McCabe’s is at 3845 Falls Road, Hampden.

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