I winced when I read that Brooklyn Park's Club 4100 had gone to the auction block. I spent some fabulous afternoons there with my friend Bruz Frenkil -- and always left the place well-fed and with an improved outlook on life.
The chief asset of the Club 4100, a classic Baltimore neighborhood watering hole, was its role as provider of good drink and homemade food. I was introduced to the place only about four years ago, but in that time, I told myself to enjoy it now -- it is so good, it will not last forever. (For the record, the club has not closed or changed hands, but its owners, Manny and Dino Spanomanolis are ready to retire.)
There is something about those dark-paneled walls and a million pictures of all the people, the sports stars of the ages, and local news articles and memorabilia. It was all about being in Brooklyn Park and all about a Baltimore of a certain period in time, the era when sports contests were played in Memorial Stadium.
On many weekends, I observe people half my age wearing T-shirts or caps adorned with Mr. Boh of National Bohemian Beer fame. I know it's fun to wear gear like this, but I wish these people would spend an afternoon in a Club 4100 or some of its fellow vintage taprooms, where the real Mr. Boh spirit lives on, rather than buy nostalgic paraphernalia.
The made-in-Baltimore beverage is no longer available, but what is at hand (but rapidly disappearing) is authentic Baltimore cooking. Club 4100 offers a dish called the Poor Man that involves hors d'oeuvres of cheese chunks, wonderful pork and crab tidbits. The platter seems to feed a lot of people; in fact, the mark of any good neighborhood watering spot is that the food is made to be shared. I have found that when a good cook has control of a bar kitchen, almost any dish will be good and cost a good deal less than its counterpart in other restaurants.
My own introduction to a Club 4100 type of spot was at the corner of 29th and Greenmount. Its name was Gus Rauh's, later called Bunny's. It was a sports bar (we didn't call them that, but it was, next to the site of the old International League Oriole Park). Even though this bar was built around the old ballpark, its interior was not loaded with sports memorabilia. I think too many of the regulars knew the game and its players firsthand.
There was a ladies' entrance and a fine restaurant separated from the bar by a partition. The house piano player, Lawson Vessells, would play Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" to perfection. Fans of its crab cakes talk about their quality more than 35 years after the place closed.