Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Favorite Baltimore Haunt

Happy Halloween! In celebration of today’s ghoul fest – and my 100th blog post – I thought I’d write up one of my favorite old neighborhood haunts.

I grew up in the Baltimore/Washington corridor and still have strong sentimental and family attachments to Baltimore (aka, Charm City, Mobtown). Baseball has never seemed the same since going to see the Birds play in Memorial Stadium, with Boog Powell on first, Brooks on third and Paul Blair out in center field. Those were good days to go to a game, carry along the glove (just in case!) and eat some peanuts or a frank while dad took advantage of the Schaeffer or Natty Boh (depending on the season) being hawked by the roving vendors. I also kick started my education in food by going as a young lad to many of the ethnic heritage festivals peppered around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area.

Well, the Orioles have never rediscovered the glory of the 1970s and I haven’t made it to the Polish festival in many a moon. However, I do still make the trip to Baltimore on a semi-regular basis to visit family and take in the feel of a different city. Baltimore is an easy two-hour drive south from Philly and, while it shares a touch of the “small town in a big city” vibe that can be found in Philadelphia, Mobtown otherwise has a completely different look and feel. And as Memorial Stadium, not to mention my interest in baseball, is no more, I’ve had to find a new haunt.

Peter’s Inn is just the place. Founded in its current iteration by Bud and Karin Tiffany in the early 1990s, Peter’s Inn is a former biker bar reborn as Baltimore’s strongest bastion of gastro-pub cuisine. At its heart, Peter’s is still a neighborhood tavern. If you can find a seat at the bar, there’s no problem with making it your shot and a beer haunt for the evening. Over the years though, the space has morphed slowly into more and more of a destination restaurant, in spite of never having shed its barroom feel. Diners now migrate in from the ‘burbs, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, to enjoy the Fells Point scene along with plates of good value and seriously tasty food.

While tables are now set with white linens and the couches and arm chairs once found in the back room have been replaced with more practical seating, you’ll still find plenty of the original ambience of the old Peter’s as well as evidence of the big personalities of the Tiffany’s. There’s a pile of atomic fire balls on offer on the ledge under the chalkboard menu. A CD collection and space for a DJ to set-up on the occasional Friday night can be found behind the bar. Fetishist photos by local artist Sam Holden adorn the bathroom walls. And in those bathrooms, at least in the men’s room, you’ll still find holdovers from the biker bar era: an old condom dispenser, industrial hand scrub, and a jar of Listerine along with a stack of Dixie cups for that pre-departure breathalyzer sanitization.

It’s not just the comfortably gritty atmosphere and local feel but also the great food that makes Peter’s such a worthwhile stop. From a tiny kitchen, Bud, Karin and their small staff turn out a small menu – usually just six or seven choices – of hearty yet creative dishes. Any single plate is enough to make a meal of, particularly when paired with the house’s signature salad and huge hunk of potent garlic bread. A hungry solo diner or small group could just as easily sample or share a couple of dishes to get a greater feel for the range of the menu. Steak, along with the aforementioned sides of salad and garlic bread, has a permanent spot, anchored at the end of the menu. The rest of the selections change regularly, according to season and availability of interesting ingredients from the kitchen’s favorite purveyors. On my most recent visit, I enjoyed a plate of pristinely fresh, Hawaiian tuna served two ways: blackened, rare medallions of loin set atop rich, creamy wasabi aioli on tortilla wedges; and a generously heaped martini glass full of highly seasoned tuna tartare.

I don’t know too many other bars that sell as much if not more wine as they do beer and cocktails. There’s a short yet eclectic and fairly well chosen list of vino on hand, nearly all of it available by the glass or bottle. A few of the more surprising gems on the current list include Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône, Cheverny from François Cazin, and the Nussberg “Alte Reben” from Vienna’s Weingut Wieninger. Of course, there’s also some good whisky on hand, a decent selection of bottled beers along with a small set of craft beers on tap, and of course the ubiquitous – at least in Baltimore – cans of, you guessed it, Natty Boh.

Peter’s Inn
504 S. Ann Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
Peter's Inn on Urbanspoon


Taylor said...

I'll hit you up for Baltimore tips next time I go. I suffered through a piano bar (not my pick) the last time!

David McDuff said...

By all means, Taylor. Just let me know when you're headed there next.

Joe Manekin said...

I must have not been aware of your blog when you wrote this. Haven't been to this spot but it sounds pretty good, especially if the likes of Texier and Cazin are still on the wine list. If not, then I imagine they still have the good whisky list. Look forward to checking things out next time in Bmore.

David McDuff said...

Hey Joe,
It has been a while since I wrote this... always nice to get a comment on an old post. I couldn't tell you if they're still pouring Texier and Cazin at Peter's but Bud and Karin always seem to offer something worth drinking. Let me know the next time you're headed to Bmore and I'll try to make it down for a visit.

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