Last Wednesday, as New York Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda pitched to the Orioles' lineup, All Stars Sports Bar failed to live up to its name.
The downtown bar, located to the right of the gentleman's club The Goddess and 1/8 of a mile from Camden Yards, looked the part at first glance: There was a long bar with more than 15 seats, three mounted flatscreen TVs above the bar and framed Ravens posters lining the walls.
But after a few blinks, the problems became apparent.
Before going any further, let's make this point clear: My expectations were not of a jam-packed bar such as Pickles Pub or even Pratt Street Ale House, an underrated spot to watch a game.
Given its relatively small size, I expected something similar to Turp's, a modest but serviceable place to watch a game. Even though it was a Wednesday, it was the rubber match of a Yankees series, so it seemed reasonable to expect some energy and foot-traffic at a bar so close to the stadium. But as one bartender yawned, another openly ate French fries. The mood — accentuated by the fact there were only six patrons total — was lethargic at best.
Most perplexing was the sports bar's approach to the Orioles game. For the first two innings, only one TV was tuned into the game. Another TV played a rerun of a procedural crime drama. The TV at the center of the bar displayed ESPNews, the channel's 24-hour version of "Sportscenter" highlights. Worst of all, a projection screen that filled a large portion of a wall was tuned into a Washington Nationals post-game report. During the third inning, the projection screen eventually switched to the O's game, but it was the type of egregious mistake a Baltimore sports bar should not make.
There were audio problems as well. Inexplicably, for the Orioles' entire first inning and some of its second, the only TV with its sound on was the ESPNews channel. So instead of hearing Gary Thorne's calls of Nick Markakis' solo homerun and Chris Davis' 14th deep-ball of the year, we heard an interview with former NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett. These are simple details a sports bar should get right.
Even when the audio switched to the Orioles game in the second inning, the experience was tainted by constant, innocuous dance pop being played over another sound system. (The game's audio came directly from the TV.) That can work at a bustling place such as Mother's Federal Hill Grille, but in a nearly empty bar, the mash-up of baseball commentary and banal dance music resulted in a cacophony.
The lone bright spot was the deal on National Bohemian. During the game, Boh cans were $1 and bottles were $3. All Stars has three taps (Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, Miller Lite and Newcastle Brown Ale on this trip), and approximately 20 standard beers in bottles and cans. They also serve Four Loko, which fit the overall "huh?" feeling of the bar. The Boh deal was far and away the most attractive aspect of All Stars.
There was a second room tucked away in the back with a beer pong table, shuffleboard and cornhole, but it looked like it had been heavily used the night before and not cleaned up the next day. Half-filed cups sat on the table. Beanbags sporadically laid on the floor. Another issue was a bathroom with a toilet that looked like it needed a plumber, or at the very least a good scrubbing.
These problems were impossible to ignore and hard to forgive, because staff and management should know better. When asked if there was a crowd before the night's game, the bartender — who, along with her partner, was nice and attentive — shook her head no.
"Sometimes we do," she said with a shrug. I wondered when.
All Stars Sports Bar
Back story: Opened three years ago, according to a bartender, All Stars Sports Bar is five-minute walk from Camden Yards. It offers standard options of beer and bar food.
Parking: Metered on the street.
Signature drink: If you're there during an Orioles game, stick to National Bohemian ($1 cans, $3 bottles).
Where: 34 S. Eutaw St., downtown
Contact: 410-837-7827, theallstarssportsbar.com
Open: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily