Tag Archives: Taverns

House Rules: Buybacks

We’re loathe to admit that New York City has ever done anything better than Baltimore. Sure, they do everything bigger, but that’s not necessarily better.

It almost killed us when we were forced to admit that they’ve outdone us for happy hour, and it hurts us again when we have to discuss the matter of buybacks.

The next round's on the house, Hon.

For those unfamiliar, a ‘buyback’ is a round of drinks received on the house after buying a few rounds in a row. The idea of the buyback is an old tradition which is present in bars nationwide, and even internationally, but nowhere is it more ingrained than in New York. In Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs, a round on the house is almost an entitlement in any bar worth drinking in. Instead of giving bartenders ‘shift drinks’ to comp at discretion, it’s not unusual for management in NYC to have stated policies on buybacks for employees and patrons to follow.

Granted, it is a decidedly old school practice, and like much of old New York is barely fighting to stay alive. This is why we were so pleased to discover by accident a website devoted entirely to finding and documenting the best bars for buybacks on the internet.

BuybackNYC.com never appears to have made it out of beta, and their scant blog hasn’t been updated in some 14 months. Still, their FAQ page is an excellent primer on the culture of buybacks, and the idea of mapping buyback bars is absolutely genius. We’re sorry it didn’t work out better.

Here in Charm City, people are currently still in a months-long frenzy over ‘deals’ sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Chewpons, CityCents, Mobile Deals, Google and Facebook deals, etc. Personally, we’ve never understood the appeal of most of these, as a lot of them are designed to get you to buy something you wouldn’t otherwise, and to spend more than the value of the ‘deal.’ How many times has a $10 for $20 worth of food coupon turned into a $50 restaurant check? Many, we’d wager. Then there’s a whole host of restrictions and limitations to deal with, not to mention the problem of places closing down before you’ve got a chance to claim your deal.

We’ve always been more partial to specials that are offered directly by bars and restaurants themselves, and we’ve long admired the potential for sites and mobile apps like 600 Block, which like BuybackNYC is still in beta, and seldom if ever updated. At its inception, 600 Block was an invaluable tool for keeping track of the cheapest drinks in town. Unfortunately, a site like that is just too much for one or two people to keep updating daily when the only revenue is Google ads and a few local restaurant sponsorships.

The only solution we can see to the failure of such great ideas is is the publication of a fixed list, with regular specials that recur year in and year out, or to make happy hour calendars a wiki, which can easily be updated and edited by anyone, whether they happen to work in a bar or not. We’d love to see a wiki buybacks site here in Baltimore, to help prevent certain neophytes from walking into bars and behaving like a hipster dufus.

In the meantime though, we’ll continue to find our buybacks and happy hours the old fashioned way; on a barstool.

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House Rules: Last Call Part 2

Just before New Year’s we weighed in with our opinion on Baltimore’s 2 am last call law. While some find it absurd, offensive, and annoying, we really don’t mind it much at all. Love it or hate it though, 2 am last calls aren’t going away anytime soon in the City of Baltimore.

Since it’s here to stay, we all might as well make the best of it. When you’re out late this weekend, or any weekend in the future, keep in mind that there is a well-established protocol- a set of House Rules if you will. While the drill may vary slightly from bar to bar, the last call ritual is easier to endure when you know the rules.

Closing time.

Know and understand Bar Time. First thing’s first, when you arrive at the bar you intend to close, locate the House Clock. This will almost always be a large, non-digital clock, most likely behind the bar, but possibly at its end, near the front door, or high on the opposite wall. This clock will be set to Bar Time. Bar time is usually 15-20 minutes ahead of real time, but may even be as much as 30. It may be 17, maybe 12 1/2 doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, that’s what time it is. Doesn’t matter what your watch says. Your watch is wrong until you’re on the other side of the door.

Anticipate the last call-call. When the Bar Time clock says 1:30, you know that last call is coming in the next few minutes. If you’re already ready for another round, get it before every other jerk in the bar orders ‘one more for the road.’ If the bartender asks you ‘Would you like anything for last call?’ or just announces it to the company at large, you should know immediately a) whether you want to order and b) what you want to order. Whether it’s one more of the same, a round of shots, or something for a nightcap, now is the time to order decisively.

Make preparations to leave. If you need a cab, arrange for it now. If your party got separated, get them back together posthaste. If you need to get a phone number, get it before the lights go up. Finish your drinks. Don’t Chug, just finish. If you can’t or don’t want to, then don’t. No shame in that. Now is also a good time to get your coat, since barroom coat theft is a problem rampant everywhere from Baltimore to Blighty.

Pay your check. It’s best to ask for your check before the bartender closes all tabs and hands them out. You should be asking for your check at the same moment you order your last round, before everyone else has a check to pay also. This is also a very good time to ask for a six pack to go if you need one, because it’s not like you can stop by the liquor on the way home, yes?

Know the difference between Last Call and Bar’s Closed. When the lights are turned on, the stools go up, and the staffers start making comments like ‘If you don’t work here and you’re not sleeping with someone who does, you have to leave now.’ that’s not last call anymore. That’s the bar being closed. That’s when you walk out of the door because the bar is not open anymore. Don’t stand around complaining. Don’t go for the bathroom. Don’t try to continue drinking. Just leave. Bouncers and barbacks in this town *will* snatch the drink right out of your hand and tell you to fuck off. Please don’t make it come to that.

Get the hell out of there. Don’t stand out front smoking cigarettes for an hour and a half. Don’t make out in your car in the parking lot until dawn. Don’t walk around in circles drunk dialing people for no good reason. Go home. Or go to the diner or Wawa or someplace. But mostly go home.

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House Rules: Last Call- Part 1

New Year’s Eve is a sacrosanct holiday in Baltimore. It’s the one night of the year when bars are allowed to stay open as long as they damn well please. It’s like every drunk’s birthday at once, where midnight is the starting point and every barstool Baudelaire is bound and determined to drink until they see the windows lighting, stagger out into some epic new dawn of a new year of a new metaphor of a new day of being the Champion, the undisputed Champion of drinking.

When the bar looks that empty and blurry, it's time to go the fuck home anyway.

The Chop, for one, just doesn’t get it. You can go into any bar in this city on any night of the year and every single patron in there will have an opinion about closing time. We don’t suggest you test this theory, because if you do, you’re going to have nitwits falling all over themselves to tell you their own personal stories and opinions on the matter.

“I used to live in New York and up there…”

“Well down in New Orleans…”

“I don’t even get off work until after midnight…”

“I’m a libertarian and blah blah blah…”

Personally, we’re past the point where we even like staying out late. You know the Chop, and we’ll go out five, six nights a week but we’re happiest when we’re getting back home around 12:30 or 1 am. It’s nice to have some time to put your feet up, watch the Daily Show, and decompress a little before the stroke of 3 am. Even on the nights when we want to make it late, we’ve got no problem grabbing a table at the diner or taking it back home for a nightcap. We’ve managed to see the sun come up plenty of times with the liquor laws just the way they are.

We’d also like to humbly suggest to those who would whine about a 2 am closing that it is legal to show up before 11pm. If the place is that great, if drinking is so much fun, if you want to be there longer and drink more, just come earlier. Show up at 9… five hours of bar drinking should be enough for anyone.

Later this week we’ll discuss the actual etiquette of last call. As for today, the comments on this entry are closed. We know you’ve got an opinion on it, but you can go harangue some other drunk about it. We’re too deep into our home bar to listen.

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House Rules: Baltimore Bar Trivia Nights Part 3

When we decided to write about the Baltimore area’s bar trivia nights in part one and part two of this series, we had no idea just how many trivia nights there were to choose from locally.

The Chop is nothing if not your humble public servant, and in furtherance of that service we are proud to present you with a comprehensive (as far as we know,as of Memorial Day 2010) list of games so that you may choose either by night of the week, or by the bar or restaurant that is closest to your home.

When we said bar trivia was taking over, we meant it. Now you can see why.

Monday

Belisimo’s- 2900 Baltimore Blvd, Finksburg. 8:00 pm.
Catches- 9727 Pulaski Hwy, White Marsh. 7:00 pm.
Charles Village Pub- 19 W. Pennslyvania Ave, Towson. 8:00 pm.
Charred Rib- 12 W. Ridgely Rd, Timonium. 7:00 pm.
Dark Horse Saloon- 117 S. Main St, Bel Air. 8:00 pm.
DJ’s Sports Bar and Grill- 8894 Fort Smallwood Rd, Pasadena. 6:30 pm.
Field House- 2400 Boston St, Canton. 7:00 pm.
Greene Turtle- 718-722 South Broadway, Fell’s Point. 8:00 pm.
Greene Turtle- 19961 Century Blvd, Germantown. 7:00 pm.
Growlers- 227 E Diamond Ave, Gaithersburg. 7:00 pm.
James Joyce- 616 President St, Baltimore. 7:00 pm.
Manhattan Grill- 5009 Honeygo Center Dr, Perry Hall. 7:00 pm.
Padonia Station- 63 E. Padonia Rd, Timonium. 8:00 pm.
Phoenix Emporium- 8049 Main St, Ellicott City. 7:30 pm.
Pub Dog- 8865 Stanford Blvd, #101 Columbia. 7:45 pm.
Side Pockets- 904 Fairlawn Ave, Laurel. 7:00 pm.
Sunset Beach Club- 11445 Pulaski Hwy, White Marsh. 8:00 pm.

Tuesday

Bill Bateman’s- 8100 Waltham Woods Rd, Parkville. 8:30 pm.
Bill Bateman’s- 566 Ritchie Hwy, Severna Park. 8:00 pm.
Della Rose’s- 1501 S Clinton St, Canton. 8:00 pm.
Diamondback Tavern- 3733 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City. 7:30 pm.
Frank and Nic’s- 511 W. Pratt St, Baltimore. 8:00 pm.
Frazier’s- 919 W. 36th St, Hampden. 8:30 pm.
Glory Days Grill- 7939 Ritchie Hwy, Glen Burnie. 8:30.
Glory Days Grill- 1220 E. Joppa Rd, Towson. 8:00 pm.
Greene Turtle- 1604 Ridgeside Ct, Mt. Airy. 7:30 pm.
Greene Turtle- 408 York Rd, Towson. 7:30 pm.
Hazelwood Inn- 4937 Hazelwood Ave, Overlea. 7:30 pm.
Hellas- 8498 Veterans Hwy, Millersville. 7:00 pm.
Hightopp’s Backstage Grill- 2306 York Road, Timonium. 8:00 pm.
Jilly’s- 1012 Reisterstown Rd, Pikesville. 7:30 pm.
Jimmy’s- 6526 Holabird Ave, Dundalk. 8:00 pm.
Looney’s- 312 S. Main St, Bel Air. 7:00 pm.
Looney’s- 8180 Maple Lawn Blvd, Maple Lawn 7:00 pm.
MaGerk’s- 120 S. Bond Street, Bel Air. 8:00 pm.
Skipjack’s- 7703 Bel Air Rd, Overlea. 8:00 pm.
Wharf Rat- 801 S Ann St, Fell’s Point. 8:30 pm.

Wednesday

Alexander’s Tavern- 710 S. Broadway, Fell’s Point. 8:30 pm.
Austin Grill- 2400 Boston St, Canton. 8:00 pm.
Bare Bones Grill- 9150 Baltimore Natl. Pike, Ellicott City. 8:00 pm.
The Barn- 9527 Harford Rd, Carney. 7:00 pm.
Bill Bateman’s- 805 Aquahart Rd, Glen Burnie. 7:30 pm.
Buffalo Wings and Beer- 1438 Liberty Rd, Sykesville. 7:30 pm.
Camden Pub- 647 West Pratt St, Baltimore. 7:00 pm.
Coconut Charlie’s- 9129 Fort Smallwood Rd, Pasadena. 8:00 pm.
Greene Turtle- 14150 Baltimore Ave, Laurel. 8:00 pm.
Hull Street Blues- 1222 Hull St, Locust Point. 8:00 pm.
Jilly’s- 10030 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. 7 pm.
Luckie’s Tavern- 10 Market Place, Baltimore. 8:00 pm.
Mad River Bar and Grill- 1110 South Charles St, Federal Hill. 8:00 pm.
No Idea- 1649 S. Hanover St, Federal Hill. 9:00 pm.
The Parkside- 4709 Harford Rd, Lauraville. 9:30 pm.
Piv’s Pub- 9811 York Rd, Cockeysville. 8:30 pm.
Portside Tavern- 2821 O’donnell St, Canton. 8:00 pm.
Sullivan’s- 9624 Fort Meade Rd, Laurel. 7:00 pm.
Taps- 1439 S. Charles St, Federal Hill. 8:00 pm.
Time Out Sports Bar- Cranberry Mall, Westminster. 8:30 pm.
Waterfront Hotel- 1710 Thames St, Fell’s Point. 8:00 pm.
West End Grill- 2049 West St, Annapolis. 8:00 pm.

Thursday

Baltimore Taphouse- 600 S. Potomac St, Canton. 8:00 pm.
Bill Bateman’s- 102 Chartley Dr, Reisterstown. 8:30 pm.
Bill Bateman’s- 7800 York Rd, Towson. 8:30 pm.
DuClaw- 16 Bel Air South Pkwy, Bel Air 8:00 pm.
Ellie’s Place– 8421 Veterans’ Hwy, Millersville. 7:45 pm.
Glory Days Grill- 7939 Ritchie Hwy, Glen Burnie. 8:00 pm.
Griffin’s Grill- 969 Ritchie Hwy, Arnold. 8:00 pm.
Jasper’s- 1651 MD Route 3 North, Crofton. 8:00 pm.
Jilly’s- 10030 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. 7:00 pm.
Loafer’s Bar and Grill- 6518 Baltimore Nat’l Pike, Catonsville. 7:00 pm.
Manhattan Grill- 5009 Honeygo Center Dr, Perry Hall. 7:00 pm.
Max’s Taphouse- 737 S. Broadway, Fell’s Point. 9:00 pm.
Mother’s- 1113 S. Charles St, Federal Hill. 7:00 pm.
Ropewalk- 1209 S. Charles St, Federal Hill. 8:00 pm.
Tavern 101 (Fairfield Inn)- 101 President St, Baltimore. 8:00 pm.

Friday

Applebee’s- 2450 Broad Ave, Timonium. 9:00 pm.
JJ Muldoon’s- 16143 Shady Grove Rd, Gaithersburg. 7:30 pm.
Old Havela Inn- (???) Main St, Taneytown. 6:30 pm.
Pike’s Diner- 921 Reisterstown Rd, Pikesville. 8:00 pm.

Saturday

Jilly’s- 10030 Baltimore Nat’l Pike, Ellicott City. 8:00 pm.
Jilly’s- 1012 Reisterstown Rd, Pikesville. 9:00 pm.
Three 9’s- 7705 Washington Blvd, Jessup. 8:15 pm.

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House Rules: Baltimore Bar Trivia Nights Part 2

On Tuesday, the Baltimore Chop took a look at the burgeoning pub quiz industry in Maryland. Being fun and free for bar patrons, and profitable for tavern owners and trivia producers alike, the popularity of bar trivia shows no signs of abating any time soon.

The Chop had only played live trivia once before now, so we hit the streets early in the week to see how a few of Central Maryland’s more than 85 (!) trivia nights stack up next to each other pound for pound. There are currently five companies actively producing live trivia events locally, and we made an effort to check out 3 games on Monday and Tuesday evening.

Photo Question: Name the actor who played know-it-all barfly Cliff Clavin on Cheers?

Brainstormer

Our first stop this week was the James Joyce Pub on Monday for Brainstormer trivia. Brainstormer is a large, slick franchising operation based out of the San Francisco Bay area. With several dozen game locations nationwide, it seems the James Joyce is the only place to play in MD. We didn’t get too many details though, since the MC still hadn’t shown up at 7:30 for the 7 pm game. When we asked the bartender about it, she pretty much said ‘Yeah, he just shows up whenever he feels like it; 8 or 8:30.’ Far from an isolated incident, the Washington Post also reported a tardy Brainstormer host a few years ago at a DC Irish pub. With no bar specials to entice us to stay, we thought it best to move on.

Charm City Trivia

It was only a short walk to the next game, when we checked out Charm City Trivia at the Green Turtle’s Fell’s Point location. CCT is active in 4 states with 18 games in MD, and hosts 10 games in the City, including the Wednesday night game at Mad River, which is reputed to be Baltimore’s most competitive trivia night. The game at the Green Turtle was much more relaxed though. In fact, it seemed most of the players had just signed up for the hell of it, because they were there already. The pair of Fell’s townies who’d been drinking since noon certainly fell into that category, and they quickly recruited the Chop to their team. Questions were easy enough, and at the end of 3 rounds (when we all pretty much lost interest) we were good for 4th place, not quite good enough to win the buckets of bar swag and a fistful of bar dollars. The drink special was a none-too-special $2 Miller Lite bottle, but the odds of winning shots at the end of each round were pretty good. Since the PA also connects to the speakers out front, you can sit outside while you play too. We’d recommend it for cheap Monday entertainment.

Showtime Trivia

The next night we were right back at it for Showtime Trivia at Frazier’s on the Avenue. Showtime is currently running 23 area games, five of which are in the city. We found the Frazier’s game to be a nice intermediate/ middle of the road game. It took up most of the larger bar, and was a good mix of regular teams trying to get into the $1000 playoff tournament of all area Showtime teams, and casual players looking to win a $30 bar tab. But with $5 pizzas and $2 domestics as a Tuesday night special, aren’t we all winners at the end of the night?

One thing that was noticeable of the crowd at Frazier’s that seems to be true of trivia players across the board is their decidedly un-hipsterish nature. There’s not a lot of crowd crossover at these things with DJ nights or obscure indie film screenings.

Quiz-a-ma-jig

Quiz-a-ma-jig is the little engine that could of Baltimore Trivia. With only two games in Fell’s Point (Max’s and Alexander’s) it seems to do more with less. We played the Thursday night game at Max’s last winter, and our experience was somewhat similar to that of two Citypaper staffers in 2005. Although the night we went was crowded, like standing room only for more than 2 hours crowded, and very, very loud and shout-y. Factor in a pretty competitive crew of regulars and no effing drink specials and we aren’t in a rush to go back any time soon.

Trivia Maryland

Trivia Maryland runs 13 games in the Baltimore suburbs, but unfortunately none inside the City itself. The closest they get are two games in Towson. If you’re downtown and want to see what they’re about though, you can play all of the “Trivia Maryland World Series” games on their website.

Final Score Trivia

Final Score operates in 3 states, and is the largest player in the local trivia market. With 25 separate events in the area they reach all points of the compass, but have only 3 games in the City. We’ve never been to the Camden Pub, Hazelwood Inn, or Field House for a game, but the Baltimore Sun recently profiled the company’s owner, who turned a pub quiz hobby into a full time job. From what we can tell, most people who host, score-keep, or are otherwise involved in trivia production started out as avid players at their own local bars.

In-House Games

A few local bars even go their own way for trivia nights, some doing it quite successfully. Federal Hill’s No Idea runs its own game, as does Fell’s Point’s Waterfront Hotel with their popular ‘WTF Do You Know?’ trivia nights. Around the corner from them the Wharf Rat has a few ‘best trivia night’ awards under its belt, although local blogger Zombie Girl prefers the atmosphere at Baltimore Taphouse, speaking highly of their regulars and staff.

The original purpose of these posts was to let you know what your options are for pub quizzes and bar trivia in Baltimore, and maybe even pick out a few of the best. At this point, we’ve come to realize that there are so many from which to choose, that we still haven’t fit them all into these two posts, and as far as choosing a favorite, you’re on your own, Choppers.

Next week, we’ll attempt to come up with something more comprehensive to help you sort out all the dates and locations where trivia is happening regularly. It might be a regular post sorted by night of the week. It might be a geographical chart, and it might even be a fancy Google map. We’re also interested to hear your experiences with trivia nights in the comments, and if you’ve played as a regular in multiple trivia games/tournaments or have been a trivia MC in the Baltimore area we’d like to know your thoughts via email to thebaltimorechop@gmail.com.

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House Rules: Baltimore Bar Trivia Nights

Here’s a question for you: When did trivia nights completely take over Maryland’s bars and restaurants?

When it comes to weeknight recreation, it seems to us that our fathers’ generation used to take part in all manner of pub-related activities; everything from league bowling to tournament pool to darts, softball or shuffleboard. When you look around Baltimore’s bar scene today though, one pastime sticks out like a giant green afro: Trivia.

Much like Lost, the lounge was a mental creation of Wayne the Main Brain the whole time.

It’s beginning to feel as though trivia is becoming to Baltimore what poker is to Las Vegas. The intrepid intellect could almost quit his day job and become a professional on the trivia circuit seven nights a week (although it can be tough to pay the rent with restaurant gift certificates and the promotional swag from liquor distributors which passes for jackpots in some contests).

Much more than a passing fad (when was the last time you sang karaoke, anyway?) local pub quizzes have become a burgeoning and fairly competitive industry here in Charm City, with several outfits employing full time staffers, as well as several part time trivia MC’s. It’s not hard to see why. Not only is bar trivia a pleasant diversion, it’s also a highly sustainable business model. Bar owners get to fill what might be otherwise empty bar stools on slower weeknights, trivia game producers can trade not only on their own brand, but on the reputation of the host location, and players get to participate in a free, fun social activity with a chance at winning a (ahem) wide range of prizes.

Locally there’s something for everyone, trivia-wise. From the Hopkins PhD candidate to the local Cliff Clavin to the garden variety barfly; from the once-a-year dinner party that stumbles in by accident to the twice-a-week tournament players competing for prizes in the thousands, there are local games to suit all levels of skill and interest. In Chicago they’ve even identified and profiled the 7 People You Don’t Want to See at Your Trivia Night, all of whom can also be found in taverns from Hunt Valley to Annapolis and beyond.

Coming up on Thursday, we’re going to attempt to offer a closer look at the five main promoters producing trivia nights in Central Maryland, as well as your best bets for pub quizzes in Baltimore City.

Stay Tuned.

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