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Baltimore's best Ravens bars

It's the fourth quarter of the Ravens-Bengals game, and the wall-to-wall crowd at Mother's in Federal Hill is fixated at the debacle on screen.

Heads craned upward, they watch the action so intently they don't even turn away for a swig of beer, as if they could push their team past Cincinatti with just their stare.

Even as Baltimore trails by two, there's a camaraderie here. All of the best sports bars, from Padonia Station in Timonium to Pickles Pub in Ridgely's Delight, share the same spirit. They're more than than just flat-screen TVs, tacky memorabilia and domestic beer. They're havens and lucky charms. It doesn't matter whether the team wins or loses — fans keep coming back to them for the comforting embrace of a crowd of like-minded enthusiasts and for the irrational feeling that their mere presence might spare the team a loss.

For now, it does. Billy Cundiff's 38-yard field goal gives the Ravens the lead with five minutes left in the game, and Mother's erupts in celebration. It's a scene that will no doubt be repeated this Sunday for the Ravens home opener. With that in mind, here are the area's five best places to watch the game.

Mother's Federal Hill Grille

1113 S. Charles St., 410-244-8686,

Mother's is a cathedral to Baltimore sports. On Sundays, the faithful start trickling into 1113 S. Charles St. at 8 a.m., when the bar and restaurant opens for breakfast. After 12 years in business, it has so much credibility among fans that Joe Flacco recorded a TV spot for it wearing a Mother's jersey instead of his Ravens purples.

For home games, the drill is to stop by the bar before heading to M&T Bank Stadium, and return after the game to celebrate or whine, depending on the final score. The bar gets so crowded that owners had to close off the parking lot for what they call "Purple Patio," where they add two extra bars, a grill and a DJ booth.

In total, there are six bars open on home games offering 12 taps and 16-ouncers for as little as $4, plus a dining room and an upstairs lounge with some 30 large-screen TVs scattered throughout. There's grub, too, but game-watchers don't do much eating here. Patrons just say the bar has become part of the Sunday routine.

"I come here for the fan base. Everybody just knows the players, the coaches, the plays," says Reese Ashe, a personal trainer who's been a regular for six years. "If you're a fan, this is the first place you think of."

Pickles Pub

520 Washington Blvd., 410-752-1784,

The first person fans see when they enter Pickles Pubs is a pirate. Well, a pirate look-alike. Standing there is Mick Kipp, a guy not much taller than Smee from "Peter Pan" who sports a colorful do-rag and a chili pepper earring.

He's been a bartender and server here since Pickles opened on St. Patrick's Day in 1988. The bar is not unlike Mick: battered, but with character. The crowd is a mix of students from nearby University of Maryland Baltimore and conventioneers from downtown hotels.

"We get everybody, from strippers to bookies to businessmen," he said with the raspy voice of a bartender who's been screaming over loud ESPN and wet counters for 20 years.

On away games, you might find as many empty stools as customers. But owner Tom Leonard says that's because half his staff is following the team. Though parking is as hard to find here as it is in Federal Hill, beer is cheap — Natty Bohs go for $2. And if that's not enough, there's Kipp's Raven dog: a quarter-pound fatty topped with peanut butter, cream cheese and grape jelly. Foul or amazing? Depends on how much booze you've had.

Baltimore Gameday Warehouse

1400 B Warner St.

A drunken wobble away from the M&T Bank stadium, CBS Radio runs Baltimore Gameday Warehouse. A month old, it's open only for home games (the operators have applied for one-day liquor licenses instead of permanent ones), and it doesn't have a phone number or website.

But the real draw (other than its location) is space. At a whopping 2,500 square feet — and with Miller and Coors lights going for two bucks — it's a Valhalla for Ravens fans. It has purple booths, four oak-paneled bars and plenty of real estate to cheer and carouse.

Miller Lites and Coors Lights are $4, Yuengling goes for $5 and Jager bombs are $7 each. Like every other sports bar, the warehouse has food, too, with pulled pork sandwiches sold at $8 and cheeseburgers at $6.

Padonia Station

63 E Padonia Road, Timonium, 410-252-8181,

Padonia Station has been a Timonium mainstay for nearly three decades. Located in a drab strip mall next to a discount furniture store, it's the kind of joint where everything is extra large: the bars, the crowds, the wings.

There are four different bars, but most patrons gather around an outsized rectangle in the middle of the dance floor that's manned by four bartenders. It gets so crowded on game days, the Station handles them like banquets. They fill their expansive dance floor with long tables and take reservations for groups of six or more. Manager Dorene Gatewood says there are 46 big-screen TVs, 60 taps and 25 bottled beers.

The bar doesn't have drink specials for home games outside its "beer of the day" — $3.50 imports — but it does offer a $9.59 all-you-can-eat wing platter. Gatewood says they go through 15 40-pound cases of wings on game days.

Greene Turtle

8872 McGaw Road, Suite C, Columbia, 410-312-5255,

The Greene Turtle in Columbia is the Carabba's of sports bars. It's part of a chain, but it comes equipped with everything you might need to comfortably watch the game. There are some 20 TVs and a projector, and if that's not enough, every booth in the restaurant has a small flat-screen TV.

When it first opened four years ago, the bar sold $35 mugs that would be left at the bar and refilled for a discount. Today, there are more than 1,100 of them hanging from a jumbo-size four-sided scoreboard above the bar, says bartender Steve Nickerson.

Then, the crowd was evenly mixed between Ravens and Redskins fans, but now, Nickerson says it's all Ravens.

Beer prices are on par for Columbia: Natty Bohs and Natural Lights are $4 and "Purple Bombs" (liquor shooters) sell for $5. They also sell 16-ounce take-home Ravens glasses for $4 that can be refilled for $2.50.

Back at Mother's, Joe Flacco throws his fourth interception of the night, handing Cincinnati a five-point lead, everyone utters a collective groan and fans shoot each other "can-you-believe-this" looks.

Getting restless, when a guy wearing a Cincinnati jersey walks in, they start chanting insults, only half-joking.

CJ Malinowski, 23, a sportswriter for an online high school sports site, says that's part of the appeal of the bar.

"You get a more boisterous crowd here," he says. "They're much more likely to start a chant and go a little nuts."

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