Avoid regrets, make a Baltimore Bucket List

Avoiding 'Haussner's Regret' in Baltimore requires a bucket list

I herewith present a Baltimore Bucket List — that is, an inventory of things in Baltimore you think you have done, but actually have never done, or have not done for a long time, and if you do not do these things soon, you or these things might no longer be here and you will suffer Haussner's Regret.

Haussner's Regret is named for the once-famous Highlandtown restaurant crammed with paintings, ceramics and sculpture that closed after 73 years in 1999. It closed fast, too, just two weeks after Frances Haussner George announced she'd had enough. The restaurant was overwhelmed with customers who wanted one last meal; some stood in line for three hours. Many had not dined at Haussner's in forever, and they regretted it.

Though an institution, Haussner's was one of those great good places a Baltimorean could easily overlook. We thought it would always be there, right?

So to avoid Haussner's Regret, there are a few things all Baltimoreans — from millennials to empty-nest baby boomers — ought to have on a Baltimore Bucket List. To wit:

Pimlico Race Course

Maybe you go to the Preakness every year, or maybe you plan to be there for the first time on May 16. But if the prospect of the mob on Preakness Day turns you off, go another day.

You simply can't be a Baltimorean and never go to Pimlico. Play hooky some sunny weekday afternoon. Have lunch in the clubhouse or a hot dog in the grandstand. Take a few bucks you can afford to lose and place a couple of bets. Hang by the rail and enjoy the pretty horses coming down the stretch.

Maryland Steeplechase

Apart from the races on flat tracks at Pimlico and Laurel, there's a series of races over farm fields and timber — the Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point, My Lady's Manor, the Grand National, the Maryland Hunt Cup, the races at Fair Hill in Cecil County. The setting of the latter is like a country fair, and you can place bets at Fair Hill. These timber races are a big part of the culture of Maryland, and they're more accessible than you probably think.

Corned Beef Row

It's amusing, and a little annoying, to hear someone who has lived here for several years say, "I wish Baltimore had a Jewish deli like they have in New York. You know, where you can get great corned beef and sit and kibitz." You've never been to Weiss, Lenny's or Attman's on Lombard Street? Please!

Go to church or temple

That's not an admonition to get religious and start attending worship services on a regular basis. I mean you should check out some of the great Baltimore churches because their interiors are gorgeous: Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Bolton Hill, St. Casimir's in Canton, Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, Old St. Paul's on North Charles or St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran on St. Paul. If you have never seen the inside of B'nai Israel synagogue on Lloyd Street, please! (And it's right near Corned Beef Row.)

Read H.L. Mencken

That's the only way to find out why they called the famous Sun columnist the Sage of Baltimore, why he was a brilliant contrarian and curmudgeon. Try his "Happy Days" autobiography or "A Mencken Chrestomathy," one of the many anthologies of his writing.

Baltimore Herb Festival

You've been hearing about this for years — so much so that you believe you actually attended it. But you actually never did. So maybe this is the year (the festival's 28th year) to get on it. It's in Leakin Park on May 23. Make sure you get directions and instructions on parking.

Take a walk

You miss a lot of things if you drive around the city all the time. Even if you live in the suburbs, you can get a lot more out of Baltimore if you give yourself time for a good walk before, say, going to dinner. Try Mount Vernon, for starters. Take a walk along Charles Street or St. Paul. Look up; you'll see all kinds of surprising adornments on rowhouses and mansions, the preserved grandeur of old Baltimore. There are plenty of places for good walks — Eastern Avenue, from Little Italy to Greektown; Broadway, all the way to Fells Point; around Lake Montebello or Druid Lake. Frederick Road in Catonsville is good and, farther west, Main Street in Ellicott City.

Live music

When was the last time you stopped by the Cat's Eye Pub in Fells Point? And here's a recent suggestion from reader Ron Mayer: "I attended a wonderful jazz show at the Caton Castle. The Castle is a very special place with good music, tasty food and welcoming atmosphere. It is a family affair and has been for 30 years. Please check it out and if you feel as I do, help jazz stay alive in Baltimore with a mention in your column." There you go, Ron. Caton Castle, 20 S. Caton Ave. — on my Baltimore Bucket List.


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