Over the next few pages, you'll see Baltimore's bars split up into easy-to-understand categories (dive, sports, booze, swanky, and gay). This is helpful for those new to the city, but as soon as you venture out on your own, slicing and dicing the city's nightlife in categories like this will probably make you pretty mad, mostly because Baltimore's bar scene seems particularly porous. Business types will booze it up next to grimy hipster kids next to local characters next to normies going to a baseball game anywhere or everywhere, and everybody's just fine with this arrangement. So venture out and play fast and loose with these categories if you really want to have a good time and get an accurate Baltimore experience.
1718 Lancaster St., (410) 327-4508
Best bar name in Baltimore, um, bar none. No false advertising here. See, bar is, well, a bar. It's got pool, it's got brews, you know the deal. Feels surprisingly separate from the Fells Points bar-crawl chaos though, which is wonderful.
2101 Maryland Ave., (443) 742-2123, thebeatnikbar.com
This speakeasy-ish spot next to Club K is the hipster bar with a little more class, a number of beers on tap (well beyond the expected Boh and PBR) and very tasty Korean food. And its jukebox is aggressively local, stocked almost exclusively with Baltimore-centric albums.
1910 N. Charles St., 2nd Floor, (410) 625-4848, thecrownbaltimore.tumblr.com
The city's best venue for music is also one of its most interesting bars, hosting shows, comedy, karaoke, and poetry readings, serving up cheap beer and just-right greasy Korean food. Two rooms, both bars, and usually one room is free if you're just trying to drink and not hear live music with the city's serious scenesters.
1724 N. Charles St., (410) 727-8815, clubcharles.us
The bar you bring your cool friends to if they are new to the city. An indie-rock-leaning jukebox, cheap drinks, not much light, and it is John Waters' favorite. A Station North staple.
3620 Falls Road, (410) 662 4444, atomicbooks.com
The bar in the back of Atomic Books. Buy some comics, subversive literature, or vinyl toys and then grab a brew and talk comics, subversive lit, or vinyl toys with the likeminded. Not exactly a dive, but where the hell else do you categorize a bar in the back of the country's coolest bookstore?
Frazier's on the Avenue
919 W. 36th St., (410) 662-4914
Divided into two sections, one for those just trying to get drunk and listen to some tunes and the other for trying to chow down on some bar food and get drunk. A Hampden staple. The dive bar to end all dive bars in this part of the city.
201 E. Fort Ave., (410) 468-0357
A pleasant bar that feels less like a bar than a friend's finished basement turned chillspot with booze. And the booze includes killer picklebacks (shots chased with pickle juice in case you don't know).
Mount Royal Tavern
1204 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 669-6686
This place has enough atmosphere (a long old-fashioned formica bar, a cool mural on the ceilings) and attitude (the right kind of take-no-crap bartenders) to make up for it being one of the few bars in Bolton Hill. Cash only. Deal with it.
David's 1st and 10
3626 Falls Road, (410) 662-7779
There are three dozen or so flat-screen televisions in this Hampden spot, which means just about any sporting event is available to check out and the big events are easily viewed no matter where you're sitting.
333 W. Camden St., (410) 843-7901, dempseysbaltimore.com
Owned by former Orioles hero and current sports commentator Rick Dempsey and located right there in the heart of Camden Yards. House-brewed beers (Wild Pitch Wheat, Rain Delay IPA, and more) add to the local fan-friendly atmosphere.
2900 O'Donnell St., (410) 675-9235, looneyspubmd.com
24 beers and 50 televisions and projectors guarantee the ultimate southeast Baltimore sports-watching experience.
Mother's Federal Hill Grille
1113 S. Charles St., (410) 244-8686, mothersgrille.com
Named one of the top 25 sports bars in the country by Sporting News Magazine, this Fed Hill football-freak haven has a Purple Patio (a parking lot that's painted to look like a football field) and hosts a number of quirky events such as Pajama Brunch Party, Charm City Trivia, Charm City Burger Wars, and Charm City Wing Wars.
520 Washington Blvd., (410) 752-1784, picklespub.com
If you're trying to drink with fellow Orioles fans before an O's game and save some dough before you drink some more inside Camden Yards (beers aren't cheap but they're cheaper than they are at the ol' ballgame), this is the place. Not far from the Inner Harbor either.
1317 N. Charles St., (410) 347-0349, turpsonline.com
The sports bar for those who don't usually associate with sports bars. It's Mount Vernon friendly, perhaps because it's the neighborhood's only sports bar, but still. Good cheap wings, good affordable beer.
13.5% Wine Bar
1117 W. 36th St., (410) 889-1064, 135winebar.com
The only wine bar in Hampden, the neighborhood with a surplus of dive bars. But 13.5% Wine Bar doesn't rest on the fact that it's the only one around. There are 200 bottles on the wine wall and 40 of them available by the glass, with informed (and patient!) servers. Go here if you really know your wine or really wanna know your wine.
21 N. Eutaw St., (410) 545-5112, alewifebaltimore.com
This gastropub not far from the Hippodrome, the Everyman Theatre, and Lexington Market does not mess around: an always-changing list of 40 beers with an impressive bottle collection as well.
Birds of a Feather
1712 Aliceanna St., (410) 675-8466, abs.net/~scotchjh/
With its 120 different kinds of whiskey and a comfortable back room with a fireplace, ideal for sitting back with a glass, it's clear why Southern Living named this one of the country's best whiskey bars.
The Brewer's Art
1106 N. Charles St., (410) 547-6925, thebrewersart.com
Esquire called this place America's best bar. Belgian-style ales brewed in-house that are particularly potent and two booze rooms with different atmospheres (an upstairs that's well-lit and a downstairs that's dark and basementlike in a good way) and a dining room. Great burgers too.
1500 S. Hanover St, (410) 244-5101, bluegrasstavern.com
Federal Hill spot with an impressive wine selection and an excellent hard-liquor list (30 or so craft bourbons!) that doesn't quite get the credit it deserves. Don't sleep on their food either: "American-style" done right and with a little class. A good get-too-drunk-and-eat-way-too-much brunch spot.
Hudson Street Stackhouse
2626 Hudson St., (410) 342-0592, hudsonstreetstackhouse.com
This Canton institution's beer list changes every day and you can run through a whole bunch of local brews and imports thanks to the opportunity to order a taster glass, saving yourself some cash without skimping on the immersive beer experience.
Liam Flynn's Ale House
22 W. North Ave., Baltimore, (410) 244-8447
Free from all the trappings of the kind of Irish bar with leprechauns all over the damned place, Liam's weekend soccer viewing and traditional Gaellic music on Monday nights dutifully accompany its beers, British-style cask ale, Scotch whiskeys, and farm-to-table pub food.
737 S. Broadway, (410) 675-6297, maxs.com
With a massive draft list plus a thousand-plus bottles and five casks, Max's is the undisputed best place for Baltimore beer. And amazing just-fancy-enough bar food: tater tots have crazy delicious stuff on top of them, as do the nachos and fries.
1 E. Chase St., (410) 347-0880, 13floorbelvedere.com
Located in the old Belvedere Hotel with a killer view, this is the kind of place that turns you away if you're not dressed appropriately, which is what you want at a swanky bar, right? Live jazz, great cocktails.
1520 Clipper Road, (443) 708-1935, bmorebirroteca.com
In Clipper Mill—so not quite Hampden but kind of Hampden—this bar in an old quarry building has more than 20 craft beers, a great wine selection, and Italian cuisine, including a recently added vegan dinner.
The Get Down
701 S. Bond St., (443) 708-3564, getdownbaltimore.com
A dance club good and proper with neon lights and up-to-the-moment popular dance DJs spinning the hits and leather furniture and other signifiers of fancy-schmancy-ness for sure. Go here to dance, not to stand around and bob your head, got it?
4 Market Place, Power Plant Live, (443) 468-5308, mosaic-baltimore.com
The city's "big deal" nightclub very close to the Inner Harbor, with expensive drinks for the kind of crowd that likes spending too much on drinks and DJs spinning crowd-pleasing, hard-thumping hits.
512 York Road, Towson (443) 687-0292, torrentnightclub.com
Formerly the Recher Theatre, this VIP-leaning, EDM-friendly club in Towson is for dubsteppers who wanna rage and also get bottle service.
807 S. Broadway, (443) 438-3296, ryebaltimore.com
An actually swanky bar with an old-timey atmosphere. Cocktails are delicious here. Crowded for a reason. Named one of America's best bars by Esquire in 2014.
205 W. Read St., (410) 225-3100
Part of but still separate from the gaggle of Mount Vernon gay bars, the Drinkery scans a little cooler. Killer whiskey gingers and a bunch of pigeons outside that might just crap on you, which somehow adds to the charm of this place.
1 W. Eager St., (410) 547-0069, clubhippo.com
A massive Mount Vernon nightclub that has dance parties, both top 40-friendly and underground weirdo-courting, along with karaoke, trivia, gay bingo, and more. Bring your straight friends here if the gay bar scene is new to them and they like to dance or watch "RuPaul's Drag Race."
1001 N. Charles St., (410) 752–7133, centralstationpub.com
City's most inviting gay bar and the most low-key. For the mature, professional set or for a moment of pause before you head across the street to Club Hippo to go crazy on the dance floor. Take your parents here if going to a gay bar with their kid is a big step for them.
870 Park Ave., (410) 539-4850, leonsbaltimore.tripod.com
Probably the oldest gay bar in Baltimore that caters to leather boys and bears and just your run-of-the-mill beer drinkers as well. Extremely affordable drinks.