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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Of course, the regulars at Griffith’s don’t notice anything being out of date, because that’s just the way things have always been.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 Style: Wool for Winter Part 3- The Topcoat

So by now you know all about pea coats and wool bombers, and you’re looking great and feeling like a million bucks.

But then comes January. Another Snowpocalypse, maybe. Sleet. Rain. Ice. The fucking bastard wind. What you need is more than a mere coat… you need sartorial armor.

It takes a proper overcoat to pull off a scarf and hat look.

The whole point of this series is wool, so we ask you to consider the sheep. Sheep spend their entire lives out of doors, mostly in places with really crummy climes like Scotland and Canada. You don’t see them shaking with cold though. The rain bounces right off their backs and the wind never reaches their skin. They’re covered in wool. If you want to stand outside for hours in January feeling as comfortable as you would in a bathrobe at home, get yourself a good quality wool sweater, cover it with a tweed blazer, and finish it off with a heavy wool topcoat.

The British know a thing or two about dressing well in shite weather. They invented the topcoat, and are still making some of the best ones money can buy. Iconic heritage brands like Burberry and Aquascutum set the archetype with pieces like Aqua’s Sargent Classic, and Burberry’s model, which is so stuffy and British that it’s simply called ‘Long Wool Top Coat.’ This Hackett London offering, the Smithfield Classic will also take you up and down Jermyn Street, or Thames Street for that matter, in ease, comfort and style.

Even better, ditch the scarf and show off your tie.

Are we seriously suggesting that you go up to the Burberry store at Towson and spend $1200 on a coat? Of course not. That would be stupid.

We’re suggesting that you look around at the top of the market to get an idea for materials, style, construction, etc, and then hit eBay. There are a certain few items which eBay really excels at selling, and overcoats are one of them. A quick search of the term ‘overcoat’ in Men’s Clothing turns up 2500 results, which can then be easily sorted by price, brand, material, etc. If you need a common size like 42 or 44, so much the better. (No need to size up for topcoats. They’re designed to fit layers of clothing underneath.) The price-to-value ratio on some of those eBay coats is really outstanding.

Aside from the huge cost savings, availing yourself of a vintage overcoat is a great way to carry off a bit of classic or retro style without looking like you shop exclusively in Brooklyn boutiques or like you’re playing Mad Men dress-up. A good quality topcoat is made to stand up to the elements, but will also stand up to its owners’ wear and handing-down exceedingly well, and most vintage topcoats available are in excellent or very good condition.

This season's hottest accessory? Handguns.

Modern Science may be pretty wonderful in a lot of ways, but Gore-Tex and other materials will never, ever be able to match super 120’s wool for warmth, windproofing and durability… not to mention style. A solid wool topcoat is just as well suited for running around Baltimore today as it was for hustling through Vienna more than 60 years ago, as demonstrated here by Orson Welles in The Third Man.

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