Category Archives: Other Stuff

The Best and Only Tolerable Christmas Song

It’s not a mere prediction but scientific fact* that by 2033 the Christmas Season will creep into late summer. As it stands, “Christmas” commences the moment the last bits of Halloween candy have been distributed, rendering Black Friday (and, to a lesser extent, its bastard siblings Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, Chapter Eleven Tuesday, etc ) the fulcrum on which the season swings and December 25th simply the end of a months’ long interest in all things Christmasy.

Radio stations have embraced Christmas encroachment accordingly, stripping those of us too poor, cheap, or indifferent to spring for satellite service of even the briefest car ride’s respite from holiday inanity by infusing their playlists with Christmas staples weeks before Black Friday Eve**.

Among the rubble of credibility-killing Christmas cash-ins, only one song retains the faint glimmer of dignity. It’s by a band that had a brief shining moment at the dawn of the MTV era and never charted in the Billboard Top 40.

Before we crown our winner, let’s consider the generations-spanning list of losers.

Traditional Christmas songs? As oldies often do, they tend towards the maudlin (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Blue Christmas) or downright creepy (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”).

Beginning with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1958),” rock ‘n’ roll Christmas songs offered an alternative to the sad phonographic patter of Christmas standards. Yet, nearly without exception, rock Christmas songs offer little more than uninspired statements of the obvious, bored bellowing from egg nog-weary singers looking to make some extra coin.

Take Brenda Lee’s RAtCT***, a song that has been covered on record over 30 times by a list of artists that reads like a who’s who of the creatively devoid. Some notables: The Partridge Family, Amy Grant, Hanson, Jessica Simpson, Hannah Montana and the surviving cast of Glee.

Now, a song’s merit cannot be judged by the artists who choose to cover it but by its original content. In this regard, RAtCT set the standard for dodo-brained obviousness.

It begins with setting, a “Christmas party hop” where everyone is “rockin’ around” the tree. By the second verse, this party hops sounds like a regular ole family gathering: “We’ll have some pumpkin pie, and we’ll do some caroling.” Nothing wrong with either, but the verse adds nothing new to the holiday experience.

By the third verse, we’re already subjected to call backs to Christmas songs of yesteryear: “You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear, voices singing, ‘Let’s be jolly, deck the halls with bells of holly.’”

And so begins over a half a century’s worth of Christmas songs sporting the same painfully meek message: guess what? It’s Christmas.

It may have started the dopey Christmas fire, but RAtCT is far from the worst Christmas rock song. As rock got older, it felt obliged to join the Christmas party full-time and no artist, however talented, was able to present more than a hackneyed jab at that which we were increasingly aware–it’s Christmas time.

On “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979), Paul McCartney sounds downright desperate, first stating, “We’re here tonight, and that’s enough” before begging us “to lift a glass,ah, don’t look down.”

It doesn’t sound like Christmas is a wonderful time for the cute Beatle at all. In fact, it sounds like, in the disco era, at least, Christmas was quite a trying time for the future knight, who needs to gulp down a tall one just to avoid looking down from his emotional cliff. Perhaps Sir Paul should thus be forgiven for the song’s uber-silly scat impression of a children’s chorus, “ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.” We’ll get through this together, Paul.

The perils of holiday cheer seem particularly trying for talented songwriters, McCartney being only one of them. In 1992, Tom Petty took a stab at the Christmas single with “Christmas All Over Again,” a ditty so wretched it was included on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack.

As the title suggests, the usually insightful songwriter’s insipid single sounds tired from the start. We begin with a defeated sigh (“Well, it’s Christmas time again”) and continue with an aversion to familial gathering (“Long distance relatives, I haven’t seen ‘em in a long time. Yeah, I kinda miss ‘em, but I don’t wanna kiss ‘em, no”). Oh but, Tom and his Heartbreakers do want to get touchy, co-opting the season for a pickup line: “And Christmas is a rockin’ time. Put your body next to mine.”

Cheap, lechy, and more than a little dark.

We can begin and end our conversation on Christmas rap songs with standard-bearer “Christmas in Hollis.” Like rap itself, “Christmas in Hollis” blasts onto the scene in its first verse with promises of something fierce before regressing into repetitive banality.

In the first verse, the future Reverend Run is chilling on Hollis Ave. on Christmas Eve when he spots an ill reindeer and thinks, “Oh my god, an ill reindeer.” Santa and reindeer quickly exit the Queens park, presumably to deliver presents to the good boys and girls around the borough, but not before the jolly guy drops a wallet that Run decides to return because stealing from Santa ain’t right.

Ignoring the fact that the post office is closed on federal holidays, Run returns home to mail Santa’s wallet back that night, but when he arrives he “bugged because under the tree was a letter from Santa and the dough is for me!”

If it ended after one verse, “Christmas in Hollis” would succeed in telling a Christmas narrative that is new and free from the droning “Guess what? It’s Christmas” palp that plagues the rock genre. Run’s story is unique, both in setting and in plot. Only once did Santa make the odd choice of testing the superstar rapper’s morality by dropping a wallet for him in the park. That this is not an annual event sets the song apart from other modern Christmas tracks.

Unfortunately, in the last two verses D.M.C. muddles the tune with cliché. Unlike Run, Daryl’s gifts were left under the Christmas tree. There’s also “snow on the ground, snow white, so bright.” And just as he does every year, the lesser half of the duo “bust[s] Christmas carols.” Yawn****.

Punk Christmas songs are such an oxymoronic concept they are hardly worth mentioning. A group of allegedly anti-establishment musicians pushing unit by using as subject matter the exact point where organized religion and crass commercialism meet? That’s 85 seconds of your life you’re not getting back.

Interestingly, the best and only tolerable Christmas song mixes rock, punk, and rap while spinning a tale of Christmas redemption that would make Tiny Tim proud.

In 1982, new wave quartet The Waitresses found modest success with the year’s 62nd most popular song “I Know What Boys Like.” Only later did the band’s 1981 four and a half minute “Christmas Wrapping” find its way onto the airwaves.

Thankfully, it has remained a holiday staple despite an ever-growing field of lesser holiday tunes by better known artists.

The track gallops along at a brisk pace, with singer Patty Donahue doing a barely rhyming flat line white girl rap a la Blondie while the rest of the Waitresses pound out an up tempo beat heavy on 80s saxophone.

“Christmas Wrapping” is unique in that it conveys a year’s worth of experience and the narrator undergoes significant change by the story’s end.

We begin with a “bah humbug” to kick off the first verse as our frazzled storyteller reviews her “busy blur” of the past year, one in which she’s had quarterly just-miss encounters with a guy she met at a ski shop the previous winter. She got his number, but barely had the time to speak with him. Plans to join him on his boat fell through and his car wouldn’t start when she was set to accompany him to a Halloween party*****.

For Christmas, the independent-minded narrator decides not repeat the mistake of Halloween, instead walking to the A&P to purchase “the world’s smallest turkey” for a solitary holiday. There, she bumps into the mystery man, also alone. Fate brings them together in the cranberry aisle, and they decide to combine tiny turkeys and spend the evening together.

Though a scrooge at the story’s start, the narrator has a new view of 1981’s Christmas by the end of the tale, signified by the changed chorus, which shifts from the dismissive “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, but I think I’ll miss this one this year” to the cheery “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, couldn’t miss this one this year.” Boom. Christmas magic.

With “Christmas Wrapping” we have a story with skeptical overtones that ends cheerfully and lyrics that are easy to decipher but difficult to duplicate rap-sung over a tune that is at once novel and nostalgic.

Only an unsung band like The Waitresses could produce this, the only tolerable Christmas song. Radio is only too happy to play half-assed drivel if it’s churned out by superstar acts, who in turn have zero incentive to put out a tune half decent tune.

As the season lurches mercilessly ever forward, Christmas is scheduled to reach the length of a full calendar year by 2113, at which time humanity and the robot people will be subjected to a ceaseless onslaught of holiday songs. Hopefully by then someone will create at least one more tolerable Christmas tune.

Good luck, Avicii.

————————————————————————

*Trust me, I got a hard B in Quantitative Research Methods
**A holiday the ancients called “Thanksgiving”
***Originally more of a country song but with the time-honored rock
traditional of prominently employing the word “rock,” RAtCT was
released the same year as Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock”
****Perhaps it was their inability to follow the inspired first verse
with anything worthwhile that caused Run D.M.C to argue with
producer and Santa-doppleganger Rick Rubin in a failed effort to
block the track’s release.
*****Remember, this is before Facebook, so the narrator is forced to
take him on his word as there would be no tagged pics of said guy
partying in his sweet Indiana Jones costume

Draft Beer at Camden Yards

June 10, 2009

Originally published on Examiner.com

It was draft night at Camden Yards on Tuesday.  To celebrate, Ravens Examiner Tony Wisniewski and I spent the homestand opener indulging in the finest drafts available at Oriole Park.
And when it comes to drafts, we made sure we covered all of the bases.

Fans are still able to bring food and non-alcoholic beverages into Camden Yards, a perk that former O Brady Anderson was quick to point out when he came out of hiding to defend Peter Angelos in the pages of The Sun last week. 

And by hiding I mean roller blading in Malibu.

Anderson is correct in noting the rarity and potential value to fans that the right to carry in food brings to OPACY.  Of course, not since 1985 have Orioles fans been permitted to bring their own beer to the stadium.  Superfan “Wild” Bill Hagy famously responded to the outside alcohol ban by throwing his cooler onto the field and walking out of Memorial Stadium, never to be seen on 33th St or at Camden Yards, ever again.

In a nod to Baltimore tradition, Camden Yards does sell Hagy’s beloved Natural Bohemian, though it goes for a very modern price of $6.00 a can.

Along with the formerly local Natty, Camden Yards also sells the standard national “lite” brews that can be found in any ballpark in the country.  Coors, Miller, and Bud are available for $5.75 a draft at a 2 drink per person per purchase maximum.

Because the way to curb binge drinking is to prevent people from triple fisting it.  Surely, we’ve all heard some shirtless frat boy telling his buddy, “gee, I  would like to drink a lot during this game.  If only I could buy 10 beers from the vendor all at once instead of waiting until I’ve finished 2 before buying 2 more cold ones.  I mean, this guy only comes around with a gigantic box of beer for sale every 2 and a half minutes.  How am I supposed to get my buzz on!”

But when I go to The Yard, I often choose the beer path less traveled.  Microbrews such as Baltimore’s Clipper City are for sale at stationary vendors all over Camden Yards.  The brews are priced at only $1 more than their mass-produced, widely available counterparts, so why opt for a watery Coors Light when one can enjoy a locally crafted Old Scratch Amber?

The answer, I suppose, is that “cheap” beer and sporting events go hand and hand, and while the cheaply made Coors and Buds are no longer by definition cheap, they are considered central to baseball spectatorship.  The idyllic baseball viewing experience includes hot dogs, peanuts, and Bud, not hot dogs, peanuts, and Loose Cannon, which is a shame because I would prefer the latter.

Think about it.  Microbrewed beer comes in either a bottle or draft, and since Camden Yards does not sell glass bottles, microbrews can only be sold at beer stands and not by the mobile beer salespeople who circle every section of the park.

You can’t toss a buddy a draft beer and you’ll have to get up to buy one (or two, but no more than two…at a time).

But let me encourage you to make every night at Camden Yards draft night.  Take the extra few steps to the vendors at specially labeled “Microbrew of Maryland”  stands.   Get yourself a Copperhead Lager, Clipper City Gold Ale or Wild Goose IPA instead of a Bud or Miller.  They’re nearly the same price and since prices in the stadium are ridiculous all around, why not keep your cup filled with the good stuff?

Yellow Dog Tavern in Baltimore, MD

June 26, 2009

Originally published on Examiner.com

You may have heard about the microbrews available at Camden Yards and the O’s, bohs, and wing specials at Todd Conner’s.  If you can’t get to the park, and you want to enjoy the game with cheap beer and munchies that go beyond the typical sports bar fare, Yellow Dog Tavern on the corner of Potomac St and Foster Ave in Canton is also worth a try.

A sign outside of Yellow Dog promises $1 Miller lights during Orioles games.  I was dubious of the prospects of actually getting a $1 Miller Light on a Saturday because, having been to Yellow Dog a few times before, I knew it was far from a sports bar.

Yet when ma’ lady and I walked in during the top of the 5th inning, there was our bartender, smiling and telling us just as we sat down that Miller Lights were, indeed, $1.  Rotating taps and an assortment of microbrew bottles are also available for patrons willing to spend more than a single.  After a buck’s worth of cheap swill, I opted for a $5 beer sampler that led me to a pint of Bittberger, which was dry, delicious, and $6.

My companion stuck with a dollar draft, which is just a small part of her charm.

We were also given a menu of $3-$4 appetizers that were actually small plates (see, I told you it wasn’t a sports bar).  I opted for a $3 falafel platter that included 3 small pieces of spicy falafel and a garlic mayonnaise.  Yellow Dog doesn’t sell wings or chicken fingers, but I suppose one can find those sports viewing staples anywhere.  I haven’t eaten dinner at Yellow Dog yet, but they do sell fish tacos, ribs, salmon and a host of vegetarian friendly entrees.

I can personally vouch for the breakfast burrito served during Sunday brunch.  Brunch runs from 10-3 on Sundays, long enough to get you through half of a matinée O’s game.  You can order $3 bloody mary’s for the early game on Sundays, but you might want to wait until after you finish your burrito;  you’ll need two hands for that.

Yellow Dog Tavern isn’t an ideal setting to watch a game.  They have a nice HD flat screen over 40 inches wide at the front end of the bar, though it’s the only TV downstairs.   The bar is small and crowds easily and on this particularly balmy evening the air conditioning was apparently only working upstairs.  I was sweating generously, and not only because the O’s were battling the Phillies.

Yellow Dog is not your typical sports bar, but it has a few things that corporate cookie cutter sports chains like Buffalo Wild Wings don’t have: good food made from quality ingredients and a menu that ranges from burgers to mahi mahi.

Oh, and if your girlfriend doesn’t care about baseball–doesn’t care about the fact that Danys Baez surrendered a three run home run to a pinch hitting Ryan Howard and the Phillies came back only to see the Orioles spoil their come from behind with two  homers in the bottom of the ninth—they also have a nice selection of gossip magazines like People and Star to keep her happy.

Can you believe that Jon and Kate are splitting up?

 

Parkside Sports Bar in Canton, MD

October 4, 2010

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

Canton bars fall into two basic types.  There’s the O’Donnell Square, sports-centric watering holes (Looney’s, JD’s Smokehouse, Claddagh’s), and there’s the low-key neighborhood haunts that exist in semi-obscurity on the streets between O’Donnell and Eastern.

Parkside Sports Bar is a little of both.  Located on the corner of Fleet and Milton, Parkside is a sports bar that’s off the beaten path, one that’s decorated almost entirely with Ravens regalia.

But does it offer anything new to the sports bar concept? Not yet it doesn’t. Nor does it feature the kind of charm that a comfy neighborhood bar needs to develop a loyal clientele.

There isn’t any food, for starters. While plenty of smaller bars do not have a kitchen (Baltimore Taphouse and Butte’s and Betty’s come to mind), a sports bar is generally a place to sip cheap brew and enjoy pub grub like nachos and wings.  It would seem that Parkside is missing half of the equation.

That leaves only alcohol as their draw, and that they have in large supply. The bar advertises $1.75 PBR drafts and $5.00 pitchers daily, and on Sunday, the special was $12 buckets of domestic bottles. There are also four taps, with Guinness and Shock Top available in draft in case you don’t want to spend your entire Sunday drinking the cheap stuff.

Parkside’s strongest feature is that it is more spacious than most corner bars.  There’s plenty of space between the bar top and the tables lining the window, so you don’t have to squeeze your gut just to get in the door. A second room in the back offers ping pong, cornhole, and Big Buck Safari.

But the bar’s size also highlights its shortcomings. A smaller bar can feel alive or even crowded with a dozen or so patrons, but a place as big as Parkside feels empty with just a few customers.  Maybe most of the crowd leaves after the game is over. With fans gone, even the disco ball at the back of the bar looked extra lonely with no one to bask in its glitz.

As the clock ticked down in the Eagles vs. Redskins game, only a few Philly fans sporting Michael Vick jerseys remained.  A speaker system blared the broadcast from several flatscreen TVs.  The speakers were easily audible from across the street, but inside, ESPN’s echo made the place feel unpopulated.

Parkside has some potential to be more than a hangout for ping pong players and PBR drinkers, especially given its size. But to attract a less transient crowd, the owners will probably have to do more to create a neighborhood atmosphere.

A sports bar on the square could get away with a disco ball, loud speakers, and cheap drinks.  Neighborhood bars have to do more to cater to a more loyal crowd.

Parkside is at 2501 Fleet Street. They are currently without a Web site.

Bistro Rx in Baltimore, MD

October 11, 2010

Originally published in The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

The corner of Linwood and East Baltimore streets has had three different owners in the past five years. Bistro Rx seeks to find success were others flopped.

First was Parkside Restaurant, which, when it opened in the mid aughts, was considered “ahead” of the neighborhood.

“Ahead” meaning nearby residents were not obvious patrons for $20-roasted duck and rosemary entrees.

But shortly after Parkside’s opening, the housing market crashed, the economy tanked, and Upper Canton once again became Highlandtown.

The restaurant closed, and the similarly spirited Three…[owner’s ellipses] opened in its place shortly thereafter.  Three thrived for a time as an upscale restaurant/bar with picturesque outdoor seating near the leafy Northeast corner of Patterson Park.

But it too shuttered earlier this year.

On Thursday, Wayne Mahaffey’s Bistro Rx, officially replaced it. From the looks of things, though, little has changed at 2901 other than ownership.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  For what it is—an upscale wine bar with a hummus-and-flatbread-leaning menu—Bistro Rx makes a good first impression.  But will the mobile, distinctly non-Highlandtown crowd stay loyal to Bistro Rx when a trendy new joint opens in, say, Harbor East?

Mahaffey is banking that they will, and using a formula very familiar to 2901 E Baltimore. The only changes to its previous incarnation are a few new pendant lights and two new draft taps. The beer selection is largely international, with macrobrews available only in bottle.  A wine chiller sits at the corner of the bar near the only operating TV.

Overall, the  atmosphere is sleek and modern.  So too are the 30-something horn-rimmed glasses-wearing clientele, who sipped cocktails and nibbled on pita while Norah Jones tunes played in the background.

Drinks were reasonably priced.  A tall liquor drink cost $6 and came in a pint glass.  It’s hard to complain about a place that serves Jack Daniels as their house whiskey.  The bartenders were fast and friendly and the serving staff seemed amiable if a little stressed out over a few opening weekend kinks.

Still, if only a few tears are shed on the first weekend of business, consider it a smooth opening.

Also, the “test menu” available on Saturday did not try to do or cost too much.  The most expensive dish was a $25 filet with lobster sauce.  Chicken and salmon entrees were $16 and $17 a piece.  Rx serves wings, but they are served with gorgonzola dip, not blue cheese, mind you.

Mahaffey’s figured out a formula that works for his eponymous beer bar in Canton, with weekday and happy hour specials that highlight the bar’s extensive beer selection.  Here’s to hoping he finds a way to make Bistro Rx stick, too.

Once Rx settles on a more permanent menu, the trick will be to get customers to come back during the winter months when the shiny newness of the place has worn off, the outdoor seating has been folded up until Spring, and the see-and-be-seen crowd has new places to be at and be seen.

Canton Beer Festival

October 18, 2010

Originally posted on the Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

At the inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival, the anchor event of Baltimore Beer Week, everyone got freebies.

Both local Maryland pubs – DuClaw and Red Brick Station, among others – and larger breweries – Saranac and Magic Hat – offered samples.

A sweet Belgian-style dubbel served up by the folks at Judge’s Bench welcomed me as I came in.

With tickets $40 at the door, the cost of admission was worthwhile for those ready to indulge in all samplings, but probably less so for those who wanted only a few 4-ounce tastings and a place to watch TV.

Local food vendors were also featured along a sizable stretch of the Canton Waterfront, though meals were not included with the price of admission. Nacho Mama’s, Fins, Alexander’s Tavern served up grilled grub and seafood at $6-$10 a pop. Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon was also a popular food choice amongst patrons.

However, Ravens football took center stage for most of the afternoon, dictating the comings and goings of most patrons. The festival planners were wise to set up a large screen, as it was clear from the crowd on the lawn that many would have foregone the festival if the game hadn’t been broadcast.

Unfortunately, with football as the main attraction, the beer vendors, craft peddlers and live bands were largely relegated to the background.

Though tents stretched from the public parking lot, past the Water Taxi stop and towards Tindeco, the concentration of folks around the TV monitor made the event seem sparsely attended. The largest number of folks not watching the game were waiting single-file for the porta-potty.

It’s easy to see then why formerly local iconic brewer Natty Boh gave away the largest number of samples – their tent was closest to the TV. The gentleman manning the Natty tent was clever enough to give out entire cans of Boh rather than a 4-ounce sample, as I’m sure he realized most attendees were intent on parking themselves on the lawn for a large portion of the afternoon.

When overtime finally ended near 5 p.m., the masses finally rose to enjoy the tail end of the afternoon. The Ravens lost but patrons managed to imbibe enough to enjoy themselves anyway.

Hard rock cover band Dirt obliged the finally festive crowd, taking requests and pushing well past the scheduled 5 p.m. finish time. As tourists piled out of the Water Taxi, the band’s set, the festival, and the protracted beer week ended with guys and girls in Flacco jerseys blithely dancing to Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.”

It was unclear exactly what this cheery group of Cantonites was raging against (sudden-death overtime rules, perhaps?), but the sudden popularity of the band made it clear that they had stopped caring for the missed opportunity on ESPN CBS.

Perhaps next year the event can be scheduled for a Saturday, or if Sunday is the only feasible day for the festival, hopefully the Ravens won’t have a 1 p.m. kickoff time interfering with a solid range of vendors and activities.

On the whole, though, a good beer week should include a solid beer festival, and this was a solid festival in a beery neighborhood.

Canton, MD on Game Day

November 29, 2010

Originally posted in The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

On your average Fall Sunday afternoon, Canton Square is full of jersey-wearing football fans yelping, cheering, cursing, and bro-high-fiving with child-like abandon.

That’s because despite all of the well-deserved criticism the area may draw for its lack of variety, Canton certainly doesn’t want for sports bars.

Southeast Baltimore bars offer cheap specials, are noticeably co-ed, and cater to fans of different teams.

Because of the area’s transplant professional population – and their varying franchise loyalties – most bars will show each game on one of their many flat-screens, though sound is only piped into the speakers for a single game at a time.

This will sometimes create an awkward dilemma, such as the one I faced at Claddagh Pub last week. At the two-story bar, patrons had to listen to the Redskins game while watching the Giants.  Think that’s difficult?  Try patting your stomach and rubbing your head at the same time.

And while most football specials in Canton favor domestic beer and wings, a few places have tried to branch out.

Coburn’s sells a “Joe Flacco” special: two hot dogs and cheddar wrapped in puff pastry.  What does this have to do with the Ravens’ third year QB?  Maybe it’s a University of Delaware thing. I’m not about to find out.

If you’re in the mood for reduced-calorie island brew with your gridiron, Looney’s sells Red Stripe Light bottles for $3 a pop during games.  With the exception of the Mama’s on the Half and Nacho Mama’s “no specials zone,” most places in Canton offer domestic bottles in the $2 range and pitchers in the $8 range.

Looney’s and JD’s are typically the most crowded bars on the block.  Last week, Looney’s had the New York Giants game piped into the speakers during the early games, but by the time Eli Manning lined up in the victory formation, a sizable group of Ravens fans had claimed seats on the first and second floor in preparation for the the late kickoff.

The key to good TV sight-lines is arriving at least a half an hour before kickoff, especially at Looney’s or JD’s Smokehouse Coburn’s provides a worthwhile alternative for latecomers as it is usually the last to fill.  Coburn’s gives away free sugary purple shots to all bar patrons when the Ravens score a touchdown and occasionally puts out a free munchie buffet.

For my money, though, Claddagh Pub offers the best specials with the most elbow room in Canton.  Their menu includes most football food staples (except nachos) and their kitchen, though a bit slow, offers higher quality grub than their neighbors.

That’s maybe because the bar doubles as a quality restaurant during lunch and dinner hours. A pitcher of domestic beer and 30 wings are $16.95.  For ten dollars more, fans can upgrade to a beer tube that will probably last a table the entire game. Shrimp, oysters, and fresh squeezed orange crushes are also on special.With its three bar areas, it’s also relatively easy to grab a seat.

Fans of any team can also try Baltimore Taphouse, O’Donnell’s or Saute, off-the-square bars in Canton with the NFL Ticket.  It can be hard to find seating and your game of choice  in one of these smaller neighborhood bars on an NFL Sunday, so be ready to scout a few spots before finding a place to settle in.

Steelers fans will be zoned in at NcDevin’s. And I was once cursed at during a trip to Butt’s and Betty’s for asking the bartender to tune a television to the Giants game.

And here’s another thing: in Canton, game day is not just a Dude’s Day. The football bar scene in Southeast Baltimore is populated with nearly as many women as men lining the window seats in and around O’Donnell St.

It’s said that game days are some of the most profitable for the pizza industry. You could keep helping them out. But, in the experience of this Southeast Baltimore resident, a Sunday afternoon of cheap bar hopping in Canton beats Domino’s delivery any day.

Nightlife Review: Field House Baltimore

February 10, 2010

Originally published in The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun.

Field House Baltimore, the new restaurant and bar on Boston St. that replaced the old Ray Lewis’s Full Moon Barbecue, aims to be many things to many people. Cheap is not one of those things.

Billed as an “upscale sports bar,” Field House hosts karaoke on Tuesdays, a DJ dance party on Fridays, and live music on Saturdays.

On Saturdays, Field House charges $10 for entrance after 8 p.m., a steep price considering live music doesn’t begin until 10 p.m. and features mostly cover bands. …

The Field House is in a two story building. The top floor is an open loft where the band plays. On the evening we went, the second floor was closed until 10 p.m. for a private party. The atmosphere on the first floor can best be described as “we have a lot of flatscreens.”

The best thing about Field House is that their bartenders are fast and friendly. Unfortunately, 16 oz Yuengling drafts cost $5, and mine was so cold, chunks of ice floated to the top of the glass.

When the music finally started, the band was put in an awkward position — looking out from the corner of the 2nd floor loft, they were playing to the crowd 25 feet below and too far removed to make much of an impression. Meanwhile, patrons who decided to pack themselves onto the 2nd floor were treated to the band members’ profiles for most of their set.

To further confuse matters, the band, Burnt Sienna, can best be described as The Temptations of cover bands. For those of you with better things to do than pay attention to the membership of a Delaware cover band, what I mean is, the Burnt Sienna that played Field House on Saturday night does not feature a single member from the Burnt Sienna I used to enjoy during my days in Newark, Delaware.

Every time the singer of the group exclaimed, “we’re Burnt Sienna!” my fiancée, a Delaware native, responded, “No you’re not!”

That’s why I love her.

Anyway, if you are looking to pay a $10 cover and $5 a beer to crane your neck at one of two giant projection televisions or stare from afar at an unfamiliar cover band masquerading as a band you used to enjoy in college, then Field House, the closest Canton comes to The Power Plant, is for you.

If not, then stick to your square of choice.