2016 Best of Baltimore

Best of Baltimore 2016 Introduction: On enthusiasm and a disappointing reader's poll

Best Living

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  • Best Reason to Leave Baltimore: The City's Messed Up

    Best Reason to Leave Baltimore: The City's Messed Up

    Where to begin? The murder rate? 344 people were murdered last year, most shot down on our city streets. The crappy, mostly segregated schools? A whopping 14 percent of our 8th graders met or exceeded standards in language arts while 5.7 percent did so in math last year. The housing? Roughly 16,000...

  • Best Reason to Stay in Baltimore: The City Needs You

    Best Reason to Stay in Baltimore: The City Needs You

    There are plenty of reasons to stick around in the city: the art galleries, the theatre scene, the musicians, the restaurants, the bookstores, the parks, the people…and especially the good Samaritan who painted the hopeful mural on the boarded-up door of one of the above-mentioned vacants, a persevering...

  • Best Baltimorean: Shorty Davis

    Best Baltimorean: Shorty Davis

    Duane “Shorty” Davis contains multitudes—OK, maybe that’s a bit too high falutin’ for a guy possibly best known for leaving toilets in front of government buildings, all part of his “potty training politicians” initiative/performance art. Let’s just say, he’s got his hands in a whole lot of shit....

  • Best Neighborhood: Highlandtown

    Best Neighborhood: Highlandtown

    H ighlandtown remains a Baltimore working class neighborhood at a time when change and gentrification are slowly altering many parts the east side. It is also home to much of Baltimore’s Hispanic population, which has introduced new restaurants, grocery stores, and art galleries to the area over...

  • Best Do-Gooder: Ericka Alston-Buck

    Best Do-Gooder: Ericka Alston-Buck

    Penn North Community Resource Center 1620 N. Carey St., (410) 728-2080, penn-north.com/kids-safe-zone If you’ve ever visited the Sandtown-Winchester-based Kids Safe Zone, you’ll see highly organized chaos. Founder Ericka Alston-Buck is a ball of energy, directing one volunteer to do this, another...

  • Best Door Knocker: Elizabeth Embry

    Best Door Knocker: Elizabeth Embry

    We have to be honest—we miss the primary election season. Sort of. Sure, people complained that there were just too many candidates running in the Democratic primary, but we loved all the attention candidates showered on us. The best parts were the door knocking sessions that brought candidates...

Best News & Media

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  • Best Politician: Joshua Harris

    Best Politician: Joshua Harris

    City Paper loves Green Party mayoral candidate Joshua Harris. During primary season, he was everywhere. He showed up at events all over the city, ranging from a low-key Open House at City Neighbors where students showcased their work on Baltimore’s housing to the gazillions of well-attended mayoral...

  • Best Politician(s) In Need of a Slap Upside The Head: Baltimore City Council (except Carl Stokes)

    Best Politician(s) In Need of a Slap Upside The Head: Baltimore City Council (except Carl Stokes)

    In this political season, when numbskulls and jackasses are everywhere, the Slap award turns out to be a highly competitive category. So many morons vying for a solitary award, what’s a paper to do? In the end, CP just couldn’t narrow it down to single Slap-deserver and instead awards this prize...



    Days after the U.S. Department of Justice published a scathing 163-page report detailing the Baltimore Police Department’s pattern and practice of racially biased policing, which included such examples as an anal cavity search conducted on a woman pulled over for a missing headlight, the Southern...

  • Best Hoarder: Paul Graziano

    Best Hoarder: Paul Graziano

    For sitting on $100 million in cash reserves while neglecting maintenance, the hoarder award goes to Baltimore City Housing Chief Paul Graziano. Everyone knows the miser: She lives in a hovel with six cats and $3 million under the sink in a shopping bag. What few people knew, before City Paper...

  • Best Musical Chairs: Baltimore City Liquor Board

    Best Musical Chairs: Baltimore City Liquor Board

    There was a reform, then a counter-reformation, then a counter-counter-reformation, and while the Liquor Board went through all the machinations in the struggle for reform (or was it power they were after?) the bars stayed open throughout. The Liquor Board, a state agency that enforces the city’s...

  • Best Shake-Up: Schools Chief Gregory Thornton

    Best Shake-Up: Schools Chief Gregory Thornton

    It’s too early to assess whether Gregory Thornton’s ouster as schools chief was a good move for the 80,000 kids who attend Baltimore Public Schools, but as far as political intrigue and theater go, it was spectacular. Minutes after the end of a routine May 3 Board of Education meeting, The Sun’s...

Best Goods & Services

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  • Best Candy Store: Charm City Chocolate

    Best Candy Store: Charm City Chocolate

    809 W. 36th St., (443) 449-5164, charmcitychocolate.com Maybe the death of Gene Wilder has us feeling a bit nostalgic, but there's something about the quaint Charm City Chocolate that reminds us of the corner shop in the "Candyman" sequence from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." The store...

  • Best Music Store: Brothers Music

    Best Music Store: Brothers Music

    2112 N. Charles St., (667) 212-5328, brothersmusicbaltimore.com North Charles St. above North Avenue but before 25th Street was awarded "Best Confusing Shopping District" two years ago because of the baffling array of stores and because it's a kind of in-between area: part Charles Village/Charles...

  • Best Cheap Haircut: Hair Cuttery

    Best Cheap Haircut: Hair Cuttery

    1607 Whetstone Way, 410-685-0516, haircuttery.com Sure, sometimes we want to blow some cash on a salon haircut that makes us feel pretty, but sometimes our wallets are as thin as our patience, and we just want someone to clean up the edges and take a little off the top for under 20 bucks. For those...

  • Best Bookstore: Red Emma’s

    Best Bookstore: Red Emma’s

    30 W. North Ave., (443) 602-7585, redemmas.org If woke was a place, it would probably be Red Emma’s. Not only is the combination bookstore and coffeehouse packed with plenty of books and zines to help open your mind—the staff schedules so many author talks, poetry readings, and political discussions...

  • Best Book Cart: Jay’s Books

    Best Book Cart: Jay’s Books

    (718) 669-8225, 400 W. Lexington St., lexingtonmarket.com/vendor/jays-books Posted up in Lexington Market right near Super Deli and Gordon’s Jamaican is Jay’s Books, a cart that offers up a mix of populist favorites (you know: bestsellers past and present, street fiction, etc.), kids books, lots...

  • Best Comic Book Shop: Collectors Corner

    Best Comic Book Shop: Collectors Corner

    403 N. Charles St., (443) 682-7261, collectorscornermd.com This clean, well-lighted Midtown shop is welcoming and the staff do not judge, whether you are a novice or expert, Marvel or Image, Archie or Batman. The staff is knowledgeable and offers great advice for those looking to go old school...

Best Dining

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  • Best Farm-To-Table Restaurant: Maggie’s Farm

    Best Farm-To-Table Restaurant: Maggie’s Farm

    4341 Harford Rd., 410-254-2376, maggiesfarmmd.com There’s a reason why Maggie’s Farm keeps raking in the accolades – we named it Best Farm to Table Restaurant in 2014, and it’s made plenty of other best of lists, too. It’s because along with being locally sourced, their food is simple and tasty....

  • Best Sandwich: The Jerk

    Best Sandwich: The Jerk

    CulturedMt. Vernon Marketplace, 520 Park Ave, baltimorecultured.com This sandwich is not a bum. It is a jerk. It once had wealth and power... No, wrong Jerk. This sandwich may not have its name in the phone book but it's got a top spot in our pantheon of stuff between bread you can eat with your...

  • Best Chef: Chef Jose Victorio Alarcon, Puerto 511

    Best Chef: Chef Jose Victorio Alarcon, Puerto 511

    102 Clay St., (410) 244-8837 When Puerto 511 opened up on Clay Street late in 2013, it was a revelation. The “micro” restaurant, with only about seven two-tops, mixed high and low in an environment that was extremely intimate and homey but also white table-cloth and fancy. Chef Jose Victorio Alarcon...

  • Best Restaurant:Your Local Market

    Best Restaurant:Your Local Market

    OK, so this isn’t one restaurant or stand in particular, but it is the prevailing choice for the best dining experience in the last year. We’ve never shied away from our love of Baltimore’s centuries-old system of public markets, most notably Lexington Market, and the wonderful display of humanity...

  • Best New Restaurant: Colette

    Best New Restaurant: Colette

    1709 N. Charles St., (443) 835-2945, colettebaltimore.com When news hit that the owner of Bottega would be opening a French-inspired sister restaurant just a stone’s throw over on Charles Street, anticipation was high. After multiple visits, it’s easy to see how it’s become so popular so quick,...

  • Best Affordable Restaurant: Terra Café

    Best Affordable Restaurant: Terra Café

    101 E. 25th St., (410) 777-5277, terracafebmore.com Terra Café serves up traditional sandwiches and sides, and their dinner menu offers fried chicken, baked fish, curry and jerk chicken, and a veggie platter that will satisfy those of us who prefer the side dishes but don’t want to be left hungry....

Best Nightlife

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  • Best Bar: 1919

    Best Bar: 1919

    1919 Fleet St., facebook.com/1919Fleet As most of the bars in Canton and Fells Point switch over to yuppie-fied watering holes with kickball teams, 1919, our favorite dive bar on the East side, refuses to change. The patrons are a mix of old-school Baltimoreans and Station North dwellers who venture...

  • Best Bartender: Chelsea Gregoire

    Best Bartender: Chelsea Gregoire

    drinkablegenius.com Chelsea Gregoire is something of a vagabond bartender with a talent for mixology. Her powers behind the bar led her to run for the Vice Presidency of The United States Bartenders Guild, which she lost by one vote. Her chemist-like attention to detail when it comes to cocktails...

  • Best Dive Bar: Griffith’s Tavern

    Best Dive Bar: Griffith’s Tavern

    3631 Hickory Ave. Hampden isn’t what is used to be. Once a strange amalgam of white working-class culture and post-art-school bohemians, the neighborhood is now home to $30-a-plate dining, an organic supermarket, even a charcuterie bar. Still, remnants of Old Hampden can be found holding tight...

  • Best Cocktail: Zandunga at Clavel

    Best Cocktail: Zandunga at Clavel

     225 W. 23rd St., (443) 900-8983, barclavel.com While we love traditional cocktails, it’s pretty exciting to see savory experimentations around town, and the Zandunga at Clavel may be the craziest (and best) of the bunch. Named after a traditional Mexican waltz of the same name, the drink features...

  • Best Shot: Evil at Mum's

    Best Shot: Evil at Mum's

    1132 S. Hanover St., (410) 547-7415, facebook.com/mums.bar Well before Fireball was coursing through the veins of every 20-something around this city (OK, and some of the 30-somethings) there was the similarly spiced shot at Mum’s called Evil. It was, and still is, far superior to the now ubiquitous...

  • Best Beer and a Shot: Boiler Room

    Best Beer and a Shot: Boiler Room

    27 E. Cross St., (443) 253-8002, boilerroombaltimore.com When Boiler Room was opened by the owners of Bookmakers Cocktail Club as their more casual venture, we were impressed to find a bar that harkens back to an ‘80s arcade with old school video games, pinball machines, and mini hoops. But what...

Best Arts & Entertainment

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  • Best Album: JPEGMAFIA,“Black Ben Carson”

    Best Album: JPEGMAFIA,“Black Ben Carson”

    JPEGMAFIA’s 2015 albums exploded like hand grenades in the ears of listeners. Here was a producer and MC whose beats matched his lyrics’ political agitation and unfettered intelligence. But neither of those albums prepared us for “Black Ben Carson,” a staggering marriage of fearless social commentary...

  • Best Song: YBS Skola, ‘Whole Lotta Money’

    Best Song: YBS Skola, ‘Whole Lotta Money’

    Among the many sort-of-scientific ways in which we gauge what the city’s listening to is the car windows test: What songs do you hear hopping out of car windows driving by? Another is when a local song can sneak onto local radio, which is a rarity. Also important: that the song is good. Well, ‘Whole...

  • Best Band: Post Pink

    Best Band: Post Pink

    On their latest release, “I Believe You, OK,” poetic punks Post Pink shove us around and we really like it, OK. The eight-song/13-minute album, released earlier this year by D.C.’s Sister Polygon Records (a follow-up to last year’s self-released demo, “Too Pooped to Pip”) contains a couple re-recorded,...

  • Best New Band: Bidet

    Best New Band: Bidet

    The trio of Lyla Shlon, Merm, and Ben Martin make, in their own words, “RAW ASS CLEANING PUNK READY TO CLEAN UP YOUR BULLSHIT.” It’s an accurate description of the band’s speedy, messy punk for sure and it’s kind of the name of their recent EP (“Raw Ass Cleaning Punk,” released in July), a calloused...

  • Best Rapper: President Davo

    Best Rapper: President Davo

    Baltimore knows all about pain and perseverance, but no one else rapping right now quite captures that tragic optimism like President Davo, one of the most talented MCs around. He can get lost in a whirling freestyle like a backpacker but is just as apt to sing or moan as he is to spit—usually...

  • Best Music Video: Dooley, Lor Roger, and T-Low, “Cit4DT”

    Best Music Video: Dooley, Lor Roger, and T-Low, “Cit4DT”

    The clip for ‘CIT4DT’ (“Chopper In The Trunk For Donald Trump”) is both the perfection and a parody of a certain kind of Baltimore rap video, where one or several rappers stand in a larger group that sings the chorus, makes hand gestures, or makes threats on some distinctly Baltimore street. Think...