It's a good neighborhood for ambling aimlessly,shopping-til-dropping or sweet-talking a date, andalthough it continues to change as the face of thecity changes, it maintains the historical aspects that set it apartfrom any other hip city spot.
Tugboats are a common sight on the waterfront in Fells Point.(Photo by Jessica M. Garrett, Special to SunSpot)
While it still serves as a destination forbachelorette parties and babe-cruising frat boys, thearea offers more than just an opportunity to drink.Although the bars are plentiful, the shopping andeating options offer more diversions. The modern stores and eateries are tucked intorowhouses hundreds of years old, with the wood floors,cornices and odd nooks that characterize Baltimore structures. Cobblestone streets let visitors know that this isn't some fly-by-night, hamlet-come-lately-- it's a neighborhood rich with history and culture.
Baltimore's Fells Point area was named for WilliamFell, who originally purchased the land, and his sonEdward Fell, who plotted the layout of the village in1763. Technically, this would label the area Fell'sPoint, but since we're talking about more than oneFells person, the "powers that be" apparently opted todrop the apostrophe. Built on the shoreline of theChesapeake, Fells Point served as a major maritimeport during both the War for Independence and the Warof 1812 and has seen the construction of severalfamous ships. In addition to birthing the USS Constellation and the USS Enterprise (two of the first ships built for the U.S. Navy), the first designs for schoonerswere built in Fells Point. The design was so closelylinked to the area that the schooners eventuallybecame known as "Baltimore clippers."
Fells Point's waterfront location also made it one ofthe major ports for immigration until the mid-19thcentury. This turned Fells Point into one of the moreethnically diverse areas of Baltimore -- a fact made apparent by themultitudinous cuisine options available in the area.
Thames Street in Fells Point shows off the cobblestone the neighborhood is known for.(Photo by Jessica M. Garrett, Special to SunSpot)
The addition of Tortilleria Sinaloa on Eastern Avenuemakes it unacceptable to hit the Safeway when you'rein need of fresh flour tortillas. Head into this tiny shop to spend a mere $1.50 on a giant stack.
Market Square is the center of the neighborhood, and it's a great place to lounge and nibble a pretzel or sip a limeade. Just off the square are dozens of eateries and shops for every taste and temperament. Square mainstay Jimmy's Restaurant servesthe best in greasy-spoon dining, and it's not unusualto see slightly inebriated locals at the countershoulder-to-shoulder with area office workers. Recall diner scenes from the Baltimore-based TV show, "Homicide," and enjoy an entire meal for less than the price of a coffee and pastry at your favorite chain java joint. Diners can order anything from pancakes to burgers, and then enjoy their meal while people-watching or reading the paper.
On Aliceanna Street, Blue Moon Cafe boasts a cheap,greasy, to-die-for breakfast. Sure, youcould get the basic gigantic breakfast, but try thehuevos rancheros for something new. Or, pay homage toMaryland's own side-scuttling bottom-feeder, and havea Maryland Crab Benedict, with eggs, hollandaiseand crab meat on an English muffin.
Patrons sit out front of Jimmy's Restaurant, known for its affordable food and diner-like atmospher and menu.(Photo by Jessica M. Garrett, Special to SunSpot)
For visitors with a Gatsby complex there's Birds of a Feather, a restaurant and scotch bar on Aliceanna.While the menu is strictly "lite fare" (sandwiches andappetizers), you're not there for the grub. You'rethere for the good stuff: More than 120single-malt scotches.
For dinner away from the norm, walk like an Egyptianto The Nile Cafe. Right on the square, the bold yellowrestaurant serves schwarmas, kabobs and "pitawiches,"as well as salads, pizzas and pasta. As an addedbonus, many dishes are vegetarian and even vegan.
Looking for music? Head to Full Moon Saloon. This bar offers live music almost every night,a good beer selection and munchies ranging from seafood to burgers.
Another local haunt for live bands is rock, funk andpunk mainstay Fletcher's. Cram intothe tiny upstairs with hundreds of your closestfriends and see everything from no-name local acts topopular bands just passing through.
Bertha's, home of the green "Eat Bertha's Mussels"bumper-sticker, has live music as well. The featured acts are usuallysmaller -- often Celtic -- bands. Order someof those famous mussels, or a pound or two of theirOld Bay-covered steamed shrimp and rock out with a Guinness.
Bertha's is famous for its bumper stickers as well as its mussels.(Photo by Jessica M. Garrett, Special to SunSpot)
For recorded music, The Sound Garden has one of the best selections in town. The store, which sells new and used music, videos and vinyl, outgrew its original space and expandedto include the building next door. Lovers of all music genres aren't looking hard enough if they can't find something they like at what is arguably one of thebest record stores in the city. There's alsoa pretty impressive collection of obscure stuff,smaller labels and hard-to-find music. Short on cash?Sell your unwanted CDs here (you'll get more if you tradethem for store credit, though). Along with its nearbyrival Reptilian Records (aimed at the punk and hardcore fan), Sound Gardenmakes Fells Point the destination for music loversseeking alternatives to mainstream acts.
With all of the new homes -- and new homeowners -- the neighborhood furniture stores and home goods peddlers are doing brisk business. Across the street from Sound Garden, Su Casa is helping to furnish the area's newer townhomes. Looking for a cheap, hip way to dress up your house? Try a new set of hand-painted drawer pulls. Looking for a pricey accessory for wowing dinner guests? Get a snazzy new bedroom set or an immense wine bottle rack. There's something for every price range.
Stepping into Eclectic Elements on the square is likepoking around in your grandmother's attic, if yourgrandmother happened to be a world-travelingadventurer (think "Aunt Jenny" from The Brady Bunch").Intricate antique trunks, tables and chairs abound forthe collector, but smaller, less expensive items aretucked in-between. Candles, dinnerware, incense andbeaded pillows can be bought for a song (maybe a songand a half).
And Fells Point has plenty of little specialty shops, for window-shopping or great gift ideas.
Need something to wear? Cool clothes, body jewelry and candles can be found atThe Big Iguana. Hippies can peruse the racks ofbatik-dyed skirts and tanks, while club kids scrounge for little black dresses,tube tops and hip-huggers. Prices are fair and thestaff is friendly and helpful.
For adorable T-shirts and panties flaunting Hello Kitty and '70s-era characters, as well as glittery plastic baubles, be sure to skip into Trixie's Palace. The store is so cute, you'll wish you were either hip enough to wear the fun gear or you knew someone you could surprise with a funky little purse, beach towel or notebook.
A customer checks out sunglasses and clothes, just a few of the funky and hip items available at Trixie's Palace.(Photo by Jessica M. Garrett, Special to SunSpot)
For the still innocent ones who haven't hit their dark and angry stage, there is Grrreat Bears and ChildhoodDelights, a children's store that carries a colossal collectionof Beanie Babies and other stuffed animals, as well asa number of children's toys aimed at exercising theirminds instead of their parent's wallets. Logicpuzzles, beginner chess sets, and surreptitiouslyeducational books (ranging from relativelystraightforward activity books to the classicEncyclopedia Brown brainteasers) make this a goodplace to shop for a kid you want to turn out right.
Another store for kids of all ages is aMuse, a tiny shopwith thinking toys, kites and puzzles. It also has a resident massive sock monkey. He is reason enough togo there, but the collection of toys for young and oldwill keep you browsing long after you recover fromsaid monkey's sticker shock.
All this shopping might be making you thirsty, so you'd better wet your whistle at The Daily Grind. This local hangout serves coffee and various baked goods, and has smushychairs and ample table space for chatting or reading.Have an iced chai and gossip with a long-lost friend,or nurse a black coffee and read poetry in the corner.The choice is yours, and the brew is good.
Although Fells Point continues to change as newresidents and shops move into the neighborhood, itsability to reflect the times whilepreserving its history is part of what makes thisBaltimore locale worth a visit.Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun