Chappie's, and Coolahan's Pub

One never knows quite where she stands in Arbutus . . . er, Halethorpe. Google sends mixed messages, as do residents. Either way, it would appear that not much happens in Greater Arbuthorpe, one of those not-so-far-flung areas just southwest of the city. Downtown occupies the intersection of Sulphur Spring Road and Oregon Avenue, and comprises a diner, a movie theater, a Rite Aid, and a smattering of shopping and eating establishments. But sparseness has its benefits: Where the sprawling selection of watering holes in, say, Fells Point can spread the Saturday-night crowd thin, Arbutians/Halethorpans are concentrated, confined as they are to a few public houses.

This was evident upon a recent midnight visit to Chappie's (3648 Washington Blvd.), a hybrid bar-diner-motel crammed with inebriated patrons cavorting gleefully to a live rock band. Preferring the sidelines to the playing field, we posted up at the bar to observe. Ten minutes and a Natty Boh ($2.25) later, we felt a stranger twirling our hair and swiveled in our stool to discover a middle-aged blond woman, Corona in hand. "Sorry, I'm drunk," she yelled over the band, before remarking that we looked slightly out of place. In the next instant, she dropped her bottle-it smashed below our feet-and was subsequently booted from Chappie's.

Heeding her counsel, we departed and moseyed down the road to Coolahan's Pub (4421 Washington Blvd.), a quieter, cozy spot where you can yammer over 35-cent coddies, $3 pot pies, and $2 cans of Boh. Coolahan's folk proved to be friendly. They introduced themselves and asked us unprompted questions like, "Are you from Pennsylvania?" After we had ordered a Pikesville ($3) or two, the cheery bartender gave us the lowdown on the locals at the bar, then included us, moments later, when she doled out a shaker-full of something creamy, boozy, and free.

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