“Sit at the bar. It's more fun,” greeted our bartender, slightly smirking on a recent Tuesday night in Upper Fells Point.
We had just walked into Cockey's, the new neighborhood corner bar that moved from Hollins Market and opened in the former Shed Row space in January. With only one person seated at the time, we bypassed the five unoccupied high-top tables and settled in at the bar.
It did not take long to realize Cockey's makes a strong addition to the area, filling a void for Upper Fells Point customers in search of an instantly comfortable bar, lacking frills and pretentions, in walking distance.
Like Cardinal Tavern in Canton and Tavern on the Hill in Mount Vernon, Cockey's is a post-dive bar, meaning what it lacks in attention-grabbing flash, the modest and unassuming space makes up for in confident, straightforward execution. These clever bars are often fresh from renovation and thus cleaner than a typical dive, but the aim — to provide a location to have a drink and watch the game in an affable atmosphere — remains the same.
Then there's money. Bars like these should also be affordable — no, cheap — across the board. Aside from a menu of well-priced bar food, Cockey's sells National Bohemian cans for $2 at all times.
Its reasonable happy hour should attract customers, too. Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, two Boh cans are $2, domestic bottles are 2-for-1, Van Gogh crushes are $4 and appetizers are half-off. Bars knocking $1 off standard-priced drinks and calling it “happy hour” should take note.
Another element dividing a dive bar and a post-dive bar is an elevated bar program, and Cockey's separates itself with a thoughtful draft list.
This night's tap choices included local brews (Heavy Seas Peg Leg, Brewer's Art's Resurrection, Full Tilt Berger Cookie Chocolate Stout) and solid domestics (Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Magic Hat No. 9). The selections, 10 in all, were rounded out by prerequisites (National Bohemian, Bud Light) and English offerings (Newcastle Cabbie Black Ale, Strongbow Cider).
I ordered the excellent Namaste by Dogfish Head, a wheat beer with enough citrus notes to make anyone temporarily forget about snow. If you find Leinenkugel Summer Shandy too sweet, Namaste (a steal for $5) makes a viable alternative.
As we drank our beers (which also included a Resurrection and Berger Cookie Stout, $7 each), a young group of four entered as our on-top-of-everything bartender invited them to the bar. He impressed us all night, offering knowledge, opinions and samples of beers with a light touch. Later, when the party of four — hemming and hawing over a short tab of beers and a few Fireball shots— closed out, the bartender worked with each customer individually on how they wanted to divide the tab. I've seen plenty of Baltimore bartenders roll their eyes for less. It was an example of strong, personable service, another essential element of a post-dive bar.
Rob Cockey, a 22-year-old Towson alum who owns the business with his father, said recently the aim of Cockey's is to provide the Upper Fells Point community with a corner bar that pays attention to small details, like the better establishments downtown and in Fells Point.
Cockey said neighbors with gifts of baked goods, food and pint glasses welcomed the bar on opening night. The appreciation from the neighborhood seems genuine, and on Tuesday night, it made sense why.
Back story: Cockey's began in Hollins Market but relocated to Upper Fells Point early this year. The modest corner bar serves bar food, boasts a strong draft list and sells to-go packs of beer seven days a week.
Parking: Free on the street
Signature drink: Take advantage of the draft beer list. We recommend the easy-to-drink Dogfish Head Namaste ($5).
Where: 1901 Gough St., Upper Fells Point
Contact: 443-873-8687, cockeysfellspoint.com
Open: 11-2 a.m. daily