2017 Best of Baltimore

2017 Best of Baltimore: We Who Are About To Die Salute You

This, the final Best Of Baltimore issue, sure does make the death of the Baltimore City Paper more palpable, doesn’t it? Our last big-deal issue—the one that even the people who really, really hate us pick up. That said, one of my many flaws as an editor—and as a human being, probably—is a profound...More

Best Living

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  • Best Neighborhood: Everybody’s neighborhood!!!!

    Best Neighborhood: Everybody’s neighborhood!!!!

    Out of more than 250 neighborhoods in our fine city of Baltimore, it always feels arbitrary year to year to say one neighborhood is “the best”—it either repeats tired tropes, or it feels condescending, or we run the risk of sounding like those out-of-town journalists who can’t find synonyms for...

  • Best Reason To Leave: Everything good is leaving

    Best Reason To Leave: Everything good is leaving

    The McKeldin Fountain. The Schnapp Shop. Club Charles. Shake and Bake. Great Granns. The Value Village on York Road. Platform Gallery. The Marc Steiner Show. Baltimore Clayworks. Oh—did we mention this paper? All gone, or soon-to-be gone. The city is just giving us fewer and fewer reasons to stick...

  • Best Reason To Stay: Everything good is leaving

    Best Reason To Stay: Everything good is leaving

    The city needs you! Some of the city’s best things are dipping out (see above) so we need people to stick around and bring their best to the city in place of what we’ve lost. Baltimore’s pretty well known for its grit and its ability to make something out of nothing. We need inclusive art spaces...

  • Best Do-gooders: Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub

    Best Do-gooders: Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub

    Gemma and Abbie have become unofficial patron saints of DIY detective work since their mission to solve the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, their beloved teacher at the now-closed Seton Keough High School (then Archbishop Keough), was captured in the astounding Netflix documentary series “The...

  • Best Baltimorean: Erricka Bridgeford

    Best Baltimorean: Erricka Bridgeford

    Over the course of the 72-hour Baltimore Ceasefire this past August, co-organizer Erricka Bridgeford was savvy enough, vulnerable enough, and real enough to shake a large swath of this city out of our cynicism, our pain, our inertia, and get us into the streets. She got us to organize, to party...

  • Best Festival: Baltimore/Washington One Caribbean Carnival

    Best Festival: Baltimore/Washington One Caribbean Carnival

    baltimorecarnival.com Athousand-plus Caribbean men and women gather and play mas, listen to soca music, and fling washable paint and talcum powder in the air—you’re in for a good time. The children also get to learn about their culture and celebrate it early on in their formative years. On the...

Best News & Media

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  • Best Politician: Brandon M. Scott

    Best Politician: Brandon M. Scott

    The 2nd District City Councilman, first elected in 2011, continues to strike a near-perfect balance between idealism and practical work. As vice chair of the Public Safety Committee, Scott has long demanded data and honest answers from a police department that too few Baltimoreans trust. But he...

  • Best E For Effort: Mayor Catherine Pugh

    Best E For Effort: Mayor Catherine Pugh

    Mayor Catherine Pugh hasn’t been in office a whole year yet, and we haven’t exactly gone easy on her. But it’s with good reason: Between yelling at the media (The Sun, for correctly quoting her wrong-headed views on drug treatment), throwing her support behind mandatory minimum sentencing legislation...

  • Best Voice: Marc Steiner

    Best Voice: Marc Steiner

    So there is just no way for us to be objective here because Marc Steiner is a longtime friend to City Paper and an occasional collaborator. But still, his effect on local progressive media in this city is unmatched. He was instrumental in making WYPR a compelling station and it has been mostly...

  • Best Recidivist: State Sen. Nathaniel Oaks

    Best Recidivist: State Sen. Nathaniel Oaks

    Indicted on federal bribery charges just months after his elevation to the state Senate, Oaks has claimed innocence, despite audio recordings that suggest differently. “Can’t nobody come back and say I got you on tape,” the long-time 41st District delegate tells the FBI’s confidential source, who...

  • Best Gang: Gun Trace Task Force

    Best Gang: Gun Trace Task Force

    Called “1930s-style gangsters” by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, the seven Baltimore Police officers federally indicted in March for allegedly stealing drugs and money from both suspects and law-abiding citizens, while also committing massive overtime fraud, marked the latest in a long string...

  • Best Actor: Officer Richard Pinheiro and other BPD officers

    Best Actor: Officer Richard Pinheiro and other BPD officers

    Police body camera footage can be the best evidence showing what really happened, and it depicted these officers either “planting evidence” or “re-enacting the legitimate finding of evidence” (which isn’t a real thing no matter what Commissioner Davis says) in a two-bit drug case. The cameras catch...

Best Goods & Services

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  • Best Business: Red Emma’s

    Best Business: Red Emma’s

    30 W. North Ave., (443) 602-7611, redemmas.org There are endless ways to praise Red Emma’s—their collectivist business model, their clear interest in diversity on the staff, their stellar book selection, their excellent events, or their fucking delicious falafel—but more than all of that, let’s...

  • Best Customer Service: Sugar

    Best Customer Service: Sugar

    1001 W. 36th St., (410) 467-2632, sugartheshop.com Yes, we’ve given Sugar Best Ofs before—and in our Readers’ Poll last year they beat out “the internet” for best sex shop—but this is our (last) Best Of and we do what we want. Plus, Sugar is consistently great at offering sex-positive toys, books,...

  • Best Comic Book Shop: Atomic Books

    Best Comic Book Shop: Atomic Books

    3620 Falls Road, (410) 662-4444, atomicbooks.com When you see a list of comic book shops in Baltimore, Atomic Books is usually left off the list;  we suspect it’s because they’re known more for their alternative book selection. But if you’re a comic fan or collector, Atomic is the best you’ve got...

  • Best Records: The Sound Garden

    Best Records: The Sound Garden

    1616 Thames St., (410) 563-9011, cdjoint.com The Sound Garden continued to serve listeners looking for 12-inches and noise-only releases even amid the CD boom and subsequent cratering of physical music sales—before “vinyl” became such a big deal again—but it has, over the past five or so years,...

  • Best Curated Records: Baby’s On Fire

    Best Curated Records: Baby’s On Fire

    1010 Morton St., (443) 885-9892, babysonfire.com Named after a Brian Eno song—which hey, points already—Baby’s On Fire is niche but never snobby, and with a brightly-colored interior, it’s inviting. The snobby record dick approach is dying thankfully anyways, but Baby’s On Fire—and we mean this...

  • Best URL and IRL Browsing: Normal’s Books & Records

    Best URL and IRL Browsing: Normal’s Books & Records

    425 E. 31st St., (410) 243-6888, normals.com Normal’s is an institution, the kind of book and record store you’d be wise to stop by every few days to see what they’ve got in lately. And there is a special energy to the place on, say, a Saturday, when it’s fairly full of people and the music’s playing...

Best Dining

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  • Best Restaurant: The Land of Kush

    Best Restaurant: The Land of Kush

    840 N. Eutaw St., (410) 225-5874, landofkush.com Baltimore has been said to be the most southern of northern cities, and the Land of Kush is a reliable spot to pick up southern-style delights like mac and cheese, candied yams, collard greens, and pineapple upside-down cake. Everything in the restaurant...

  • Best Chef: Carlos Raba, Clavel

    Best Chef: Carlos Raba, Clavel

    225 W. 23rd St., (443) 900-8983, barclavel.com Clavel prides itself on its enormous mezcal collection, but whenever we visit “just for drinks,” we usually leave with bellies full of tacos—and ceviche and queso fundido and tostadas and flan. Chef and co-owner Carlos Raba is as deserving of Clavel’s...

  • Best New Restaurant: The BBQ

    Best New Restaurant: The BBQ

    2602 Greenmount Ave., (443) 468-2131 The BBQ on Greenmount Avenue blasts blues and proffers pulled pork, pit beef, and ribs that are delicious but won’t leave you falling into a food coma either (for something a little light and still delicious try the Smoked Turkey sandwich). Maurice Bradford,...

  • Best Menu: Blacksauce Kitchen

    Best Menu: Blacksauce Kitchen

    401 W. 29th St., blacksaucekitchen.com Blacksauce isn’t exactly a “restaurant” proper—you can only get their stuff at farmer’s markets, through their catering business, and now from their carry-out counter open only on Thursdays—but this is the era of glorified food courts and meal-by-drone, so...

  • Best Brunch: New America Diner

    Best Brunch: New America Diner

    429 N. Eutaw St., (443) 388-8576, facebook.com/NewAM New America opened earlier this year in the wrap-around storefront of the Charles Fish & Sons building on the corner of Eutaw and Franklin, so in the morning, you get 180 degrees of sunshine pouring in on your pancakes, french toast, biscuit...

  • Best Brewery: Key Brewing Co.

    Best Brewery: Key Brewing Co.

    2500 Grays Road, Dundalk, (410) 477-233, keybrewing.com With all the industry gone from the Dundalk/Edgemere peninsula, two local brewers decided to open a microbrewery to bring a little pride to the area and introduce the locals to something more flavorful than Bud Light. Since opening the East...

Best Nightlife

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  • Best Bar: The Wharf Rat

    Best Bar: The Wharf Rat

    801 S. Ann St., (410) 276-8304, thewharfrat.com The building that houses the Wharf Rat is said to have been a bar since the late 18th century. The Wharf Rat may not have the frozen-in-time feel of McSorley’s in New York, but the cozy confines, roaring fireplace in colder months, and maritime decorations...

  • Best Bartender: Quest

    Best Bartender: Quest

    Asian Taste, 916 W. 36th St., (410) 467-0100, asiantastebaltimore.com Beyond the exterior of what appears to be an ordinary Asian restaurant on the Avenue is a bartender whose cocktails will take you on a journey—the kind of bartender you can trust when you ask for “whatever you want to make me”...

  • Best New Bar: Paulie Gee’s

    Best New Bar: Paulie Gee’s

    3535 Chestnut Ave., (410) 647-1048, pauliegee.com/hampden Opened a little over a year ago, the bar behind the restaurant is a great retreat from the busyness of Hampden’s 36th Street. Wood paneling and old trophies line the walls, giving the space a homey feel like somebody’s club basement, but...

  • Best Dive Bar: Venice Tavern

    Best Dive Bar: Venice Tavern

    339 S. Conkling St., (443) 413-5647, facebook.com/VeniceTavern The blog The City That Breeds once called this the dictionary definition of a dive bar, and CP’s Baynard Woods once wrote that Venice Tavern is “a bulwark against the brave new world” of $6 beers. Hell, we even gave it this award in...

  • Best Gay Bar: G•A•Y Lounge

    Best Gay Bar: G•A•Y Lounge

    518 N. Charles St., (443) 438-5868, g-a-ybaltimore.com G•A•Y, which opened in April, has quickly snuck into Baltimore as the new and necessary gay bar, and one that seems to take all kinds and host all kinds of events. And at a moment when it feels as though gay bars are on the decline in Baltimore,...

  • Best Physical Bar: Verde

    Best Physical Bar: Verde

    641 S. Montford Ave., (410) 522-1000, verdepizza.com Known for its delicious Neapolitan pizza, Verde also has a great cocktail program worth seeking out. There’s an added bonus in that anybody who pulls up to the bar can enjoy their delicious drink on a beautiful antique marble-topped wooden bar...

Best Arts & Entertainment

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  • Best Poetry Collection: “Not Without Our Laughter” By Black Ladies Brunch Collective (Mason Jar Press)

    Best Poetry Collection: “Not Without Our Laughter” By Black Ladies Brunch Collective (Mason Jar Press)

    Formed in 2014 as an actual brunch/poetry talk among black women, this collective (now featuring the book’s editor celeste doaks, along with Saida Agostini, Anya Creightney, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Tafisha Edwards, and Katy Richey) put out its first collection of poetry last year, covering personal...

  • Best Fiction: “She Named Him Michael” by Heather Rounds (Ink Press Productions)

    Best Fiction: “She Named Him Michael” by Heather Rounds (Ink Press Productions)

    A stark, poetic novella whose root is a real thing (a chicken named Mike that lived for 18 months with his head cut off and became a sideshow act until he died), “She Named Him Michael” author Heather Rounds kneads and pushes that story until it turns into a different kind of legend, an unexpected...

  • Best Storyteller: Andria Nacina Cole

    Best Storyteller: Andria Nacina Cole

    Andria Nacina Cole is meticulous and unrelenting but approachable with her writing—even while she’s telling hard truths: Often, she writes about and for young black girls, their pain and traumas and light, and the love and softness they do deserve. That love seems to drive her work for the program...

  • Best Experience: “Let the Sun Set on You,” Malcolm Peacock at Druid Hill Park

    Best Experience: “Let the Sun Set on You,” Malcolm Peacock at Druid Hill Park

    Whatever we call Malcolm Peacock’s art (not an art show, nor a performance), this event, commissioned by curatorial project Rose Arcade, was in part a slow-moving collective meditation on empathy and the death of Thomas Cummings, a black boy whose 1953 drowning prompted the NAACP to pressure the...

  • Best Solo Show: “Ain’t I A Woman,” Shan at Platform Gallery

    Best Solo Show: “Ain’t I A Woman,” Shan at Platform Gallery

    This past February at Platform Gallery, Shannon Wallace (2016’s Best Photographer), aka SHAN, put up a moving solo show of her candid portraits of young black women, older black women, and little black girls living their lives and doing their thing. Like everything she does, Wallace had the community...

  • Best Crafter: Sam Barsky

    Best Crafter: Sam Barsky

    sambarsky.com The site-specific handmade sweaters of Sam Barsky went viral just this year, though the Pikesville resident has been knitting since 1999. On his website and popular social media pages, Barsky posts selfies as he stands in front of landmarks and scenery both near and far wearing freehand-knit...

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