Hamilton Tavern bartender Kristin Dear serves patrons their burgers.

Hamilton Tavern bartender Kristin Dear serves patrons their burgers. (Brian Krista, b / June 24, 2011)

BEST STAFF / BEST HAPPY HOUR: Hamilton Tavern
Losing this year's title for the best burger by the slightest of margins, Hamilton Tavern still took home Ultimate Baltimore awards in two other categories.

The tavern does a lot of things well, but this is what it does best: Create a feeling of community.

If there's a Cheers in Baltimore, this might be it. There are no televisions. If you want to watch "Sportscenter" on an endless loop, you’re out of luck. But the result is the excited rabble of conversations, laughter and new friendships.

"We get a lot of people coming here just by themselves," says manager Ross Carmen. "A lot of people realize that they live right across the street from one another by just sitting there and talking rather than watching the TV."

The down-to-earth sensibility of the Hamilton area permeates throughout the Tavern. Few watering holes can boast such a loyalty and a large part of that is the bond between the staff and regulars.

The young, laid-back group of eight employees are just as much of a draw as the beer they serve. A large part of that distinction is the pride they have for working at the Hamilton Tavern. They've all been here since the doors opened in August of 2008.

b readers picked the tavern as winner of best happy hour for reasons that include its great drinks specials. The eight drafts rotate daily and include local microbrews and local favorites, such as Brewer’s Art Resurrection. No imported brews are kept here; it is all straight-up North American. And, of course, Natty Boh is on draft.

The menu is short and simple and the ingredients are fresh, with a new roll out every season. And  they still have the best burger this side of Baltimore. 5517 Harford Road, Glenham-Belford 

BEST OUTDOOR DINING SPOT: Red Canoe Bookstore Cafe
There is a reason that they are fondly nicknamed Lauraville’s living room. The rear outdoor area of the café takes you out of the city entirely and to an intimate quiet setting adorned with a garden, and mid-sized hawthorne and crabapple trees for just the right amount of shade.
 
Owners Nicole and Peter Selhorst opened the café seven years ago and what began as a bookstore that incidentally sold coffee has evolved into a favorite café. Sit outside with a cold mango San Pellegrino, some good summer reading and lose yourself. 4337 Harford Road, Beverly Hills

BEST BRUNCH: Clementine
Clementine doesn't buy things premade, from anyone. They even make their own ketchup on occasion. The interior is open spaced and charming with large windows allowing you to welcome the day while you sip your local organic coffee.

Getting local produce is the norm, and this is showcased in their variety of scrambled dishes, including innovations such as the vegetarian Indian breakfast scramble. They even create their own sausages and cure their own meats.

It's a nice vibrant atmosphere. Breakfast casseroles start as low as six bucks. 5402 Harford Road, Waltherson

BEST OVERALL RESTAURANT: B&O American Brasserie
The former B&O Railroad corporate headquarters is now a great local hang out.

The beef brisket is a favorite. It is made with a house barbecue sauce and braised for 24 hours. For dessert, try the red velvet donuts with a cream cheese frosting complemented with a cashew milkshake.  As a bonus, the folks at B&O will give out complimentary champagne to anyone who mentions their win as b’s best overall restaurant. 2 N. Charles St., Downtown