Crime is a part of everyday life across Baltimore, but many residents in Southeast Baltimore — including this writer — have watched a cloud of concern grow darker over the neighborhood since the start of the year. In Canton and the adjacent Patterson Park area, recent grisly, high-profile incidents involving homicide and robberies have reminded many that a sense of constant vulnerability comes with living here.
The palpable uneasiness has only added to an already cold winter, so it came as a relief last week when we found a warming antidote to our glum in Candi Marie's, a Canton corner bar that celebrated its second anniversary last month.
Even with a large mural stating the bar's name on a brick wall outside, Candi Marie's blends easily, almost too easily, into the neighborhood. A couple of friends living in Canton had been there once before, but others, like myself, only knew it by name. A few had no clue it existed.
On a recent Thursday night, the atmosphere and crowd at Candi Marie's made it clear many of us were missing out on an instantly comfortable corner bar. The neighborhood has its share of those, but in Baltimore, there is no such thing as too many.
Thursday is Trivia Night at Candi Marie's, and approximately 40 players filled the bar with laughter and playful competition on our visit. Our foursome did not have a team but it did not matter, as being surrounded by smiling and joking locals was fulfilling enough.
We knew we were in the right place when the Charm City Trivia host read the results after the first round, and one team was announced as “Sucks to be You” and the following team was “Sucks to be Sucks to be You.” Compared to the usual, worn-out sex-position puns and inexplicable inside jokes found at trivia nights — and this one had its share, too — this simple joke left me barreled over. We followed the crowd's lead and settled in with ease.
Candi Marie's is not a beer destination and even less of a craft cocktail bar, so it relies heavily on its comfortable, down-to-earth setting. But it tries to make good use of its four beer taps: Heavy Seas Powder Monkey (empty at the time) and Flying Dog's Truth Imperial IPA represented Maryland this particular night, while National Bohemian and Samuel Adams Winter Lager filled the other two spots. It's not a perfect foursome — let's swap the Winter Lager for a better Baltimore beer for starters — but it's enough for a laid-back night. The price of a Boh draft ($2, all of the time) makes it harder to complain.
In terms of design and decor, Candi Marie's looks like a lot of other corner bars: Fluorescent alcohol logos line the walls, a few TVs behind the bar are set to sports, and a glowing electronic jukebox provides the soundtrack. Even on your first visit, Candi Marie's feels familiar and homey.
At times, the homeyness hurts the bar. Just past the main bar area is a wider game room with a pingpong table, pool table, hunting video game and a swinging ring-toss challenge. The potential for fun is there, but the room felt thrown together and under construction, like an unfinished man cave, thanks in part to a wooden board covering the pool table.
In the main bar area, we were reminded of why Candi Marie's charmed us when we first entered. A team had just ordered Chinese food — Candi Marie's lacks a kitchen — and its members happily passed around takeout cartons as they shared possible answers to a trivia question. We were jealous not only of the food, which smelled great, but of the good time the team was clearly having. Judging by the looks on the faces throughout the bar, they were not alone.
Back story: In January 2012, owner Candace Schaech opened Candi Marie's as a casual alternative to O'Donnell Square. Two years later, the corner bar is still home to a cast of regulars. Walk in on any given night, and there's a good chance Schaech is behind the bar.
Parking: Free on the streets
Signature drink: Don't ask for a fancy cocktail here. A bottle of Yuengling runs $4, but we recommend a Natty Boh draft for $2.
Where: 2501 Fleet St., Canton
Contact: 410-675-3910, facebook.com/candimaries
Open: Monday-Saturday 4 p.m.-2 a.m. (closed Tuesday); Sunday noon-midnight