Cheers to Baltimore! Join the Baltimore Fishbowl Team and your community at our first-annual “Baltimost” party! Celebrate the people, places, and things that make Baltimore unique on Sunday, October 27 at True Chesapeake Oyster Co. First, check out our Baltimost Award Winners: the 10 people, 10 places and 10 things that give Baltimore its character. Then, RSVP and come raise a glass (or two!) to the qualities that make Baltimore the authentic, creative, lovable place we’re proud to call home. Ticket price includes wine and beer, passed hors d’oeuvres, giveaways and of course, freshly shucked oysters! Buy your tickets now and plan for an unforgettable Sunday Funday celebrating Baltimost!
Erricka Bridgeford knows her presence at a crime scene is, by nature, bittersweet. It's often a sure sign of a life lost, but also a reminder that life is not and will not be forgotten, thanks in part to her and others who show up to honor that individual's memory.
"What's been amazing to me is when people get killed, families often don't trust anybody during that time... because you don't know who knows what information, who's trying to exploit you or whatever," she says. "I've just been extremely grateful at how much people trust us."
With an all-volunteer team, Bridgeford, a trained community conflict mediator and lifelong Baltimorean, has worked to tackle the city's most infamous, stubborn and existential barrier to progress: gun violence.
Every three months since August 2017, the Baltimore Ceasefire team has rallied residents to band together for a weekend and put down the guns, or show up when someone is killed. They coordinate block parties, barbecues, concerts, job fairs and more to galvanize the city.
And for weeks beforehand, they reach out to community groups, work with schools and launch public awareness campaigns to press those committing an endless tide of shootings in Baltimore to drop the guns, even just for 72 hours.
The key, she says, is "absolutely infiltrating the culture of violence."
Not every Ceasefire weekend achieves the desired no-kill outcome, but there have been enormous successes for a city where 300-plus murders a year increasingly feels like the norm. Take, for instance, the 12 straight days without a murder in February 2018 that began with a Baltimore Ceasefire weekend.
Bridgeford says she's "amazed" at the movement's growth in two years, particularly given its grassroots nature. "There's nobody being paid to do the work. It's all volunteer-driven. All of us are doing it on whatever free time we have."
One of the elements she most appreciates about the work is seeing a family simply accept the presence and help--emotional, financial, whatever else--after the unthinkable loss of a child or loved one.
"To me, it speaks to [the idea] that Baltimore is a place where real recognizes real. Even when people lose their loved ones, they understand that people who work in this movement are working to keep that person from getting killed."
Connie's Chicken and Waffles
Three years after opening at Lexington Market, Connie's Chicken and and Waffles is on a tear, with brothers Shawn and Khari Parker now operating two more spots in Baltimore and another in Delaware.
The first location on downtown's Westside taught the brothers about working in the food industry and collaboration, says Khari. Neither he, a veteran of the information technology, nor Shawn, a career construction pro, had run a restaurant before.
Their second, at Charles Plaza, was a chance to stay open beyond public market hours. The third, at Wilmington, Delaware's DECO Food Hall, has taught them about varying customer tastes in another market, and let them get their name out across state lines. And the fourth, at the newly renovated Broadway Market in Fells Point, "puts us down in the heart of a tourist area," says Khari.
The Parkers say they pride themselves on local hiring and empowering employees, teaching them job skills or asking them to consider their career ambitions. It's a first gig for many teenage employees, says Shawn; others are grown adults re-entering the workforce after prolonged unemployment. "It's nice to see them grow within the job."
With a growing, successful chain, they're now spearheading something bigger: a first-of-its-kind food hall for West Baltimore. The Parkers are assembling a new roster of tenants for a market at Walbrook Mill, a former lumber yard recently converted into dozens of apartments, offices and other retail on North Avenue. The $20 million project sits around the corner from Coppin State University, where Shawn graduated with his bachelor's degree about a decade ago.
"It's gonna be something amazing and transformative for the neighborhood, I believe, because now folks have a central place to meet and hang out," he says. "It's gonna be unprecedented, if you ask me."
"Flickering Treasures," by Amy Davis
It was the financial struggles of her own neighborhood cinema, the Senator Theatre, that sparked Amy Davis' interest in Baltimore's dozens of bygone, vacant, repurposed and beautifully restored movie houses. After seven decades in operation, the Senator closed abruptly in March 2009. The city stepped in to save it, and it reopened under new management the following year.
"Wait a minute, this has happened to everybody else's neighborhood theater," Davis, a longtime Baltimore Sun staff photographer, thought to herself after the 2009 closure. "What happened to those buildings?"
A decade out, that question has inspired Davis' impressive 302-page photo book, "Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore's Forgotten Movie Theaters," profiling 72 theaters in the city. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, it debuted in fall 2017, and last November got its very own same-named exhibition at the National Building Museum (it's proven popular enough for an extension through Dec. 1, Davis says).
Beyond digging up archival images to pair with her own modern-day shots, Davis researched stories from each theater's past and interviewed operators, staff, moviegoers and others.
"I didn't fully appreciate the business of movie exhibition. I became much more knowledgeable about the subject on so many levels."
In her work, Davis says she developed a certain attachment to some buildings, including the Fulton Theater in West Baltimore, razed after 102 years in 2017, and the Ambassador in Northwest, now being eyed for a better fate.
In her nine years spent writing and taking photos for "Flickering Treasures," Davis says it was evident how neighborhood dynamics played out in each theater's fate.
"Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods, which means that people are very much isolated to their own stomping grounds, and I've realized that that was one of the obstacles to repairing and restoring certain neighborhoods and certain theaters," she says. "You have a loyalty to your 'hood, but it often doesn't extend much beyond that interest or awareness. Baltimore's defined neighborhoods are both its strength and its weakness."
What do a moody cocktail bar, a bustling Oaxacan restaurant and mezcaleria, and a chill destination for wine, sake and beer all have in common? They're all the creative products of one of Baltimore's most innovative young restaurateurs: Lane Harlan.
Guests visiting any of Harlan's spots will walk away feeling satisfied, and it's also likely they'll go home with some new knowledge.
As proprietor, Harlan views educating guests as part of her role, and one of her strengths is creating a dining or drinking experience that's instructive but never feels preachy or like a chore.
At Fadensonnen, that means talking with guests about wine and sake. "My generation hasn't grown up in a wine or sake culture," she says. "By making these products made by extremely small producers accessible and providing education, we've been able to reinvigorate a culture of eating, drinking and gathering."
Given the captivating atmospheres of her establishments, it's easy to think of Lane Harlan as a visionary. But she's also a practical businesswoman. It's her attention to detail and sharp business mind that have helped her turn her ideas into successful businesses--along with a lot of hard work and her willingness to build and rely on a solid team.
"Baltimore is filled with opportunity," she says. "I don't mean this in a Hallmark card way."
Harlan sees that opportunity in the many empty or under-utilized commercial buildings scattered around the city. When she and husband Matthew Pierce opened W.C. Harlan in 2013, the building had been on the market for over a year--as a residential property with no commercial licensing. She took a high-risk loan to buy the building and went door-to-door in the neighborhood to gather signatures on a petition to renew the expired license. It worked.
Harlan and her partners are far from finished. Next up: a small bottle shop, Angels Ate Lemons, will open above Sophomore Coffee later this year. The shop will carry items like natural wine and sake, and shoppers can stop in for daily tastings.
Her existing businesses aren't fixed in space, either. "They are continually evolving as we gain more knowledge, inspiration and understanding of our community's needs," she says.
No list of what makes Baltimore great would be complete without a nod to the food made famous by Charm City's favorite crustacean: the Maryland crab cake. Crab cakes and football are what Maryland does, after all. They're part of who we are.
Historical records suggest crab cakes have been around since colonial times, though the moniker "crab cake" is a relative newcomer. Its first appearance in print is in the "New York World's Fair Cook Book," written by Crosby Gaige in the 1930s; he called it a "Baltimore Crab Cake."
Even if Baltimoreans in the years prior to Gaige's book called their crab cakes something else, they probably weren't all that different from today--which means, of course, that Baltimoreans have probably been bickering for centuries about who makes the best crab cake in town.
On this subject, we'll say is that if the crab is fresh and plentiful, the filler is minimal, the spice is right, and the cake doesn't include any egregious ingredients (we're looking at you, green peppers), we'll happily tuck into that meal.
But what we won't do is order a crab cake anyplace outside the Chesapeake Bay region. If an out-of-state menu claims its crab cake is "Maryland-style," don't believe the hype. Even if the restaurant gets the overall recipe right, there's little chance the crab in question actually hails from Maryland waters. Even worse, that crab might be pasteurized. Ew.
We like to spread our crab cake love around, but we do have some favorites here in the city. Some of our crew's picks include Faidley's Seafood (can't beat the history or the Lexington Market experience), Koco's Pub (another tried-and-true cake beloved for its huge chunks of backfin), Friendly Farm (worth the drive to the country) and Conrad's (where we trust that the crab is always local).
Those are just a few of our go-to cakes--and the list is always growing.
Baltimore Museum of Art
With the recent opening of "Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art," Christopher Bedford begins delivering on the mission realignment he outlined for the Baltimore Museum of Art after becoming the director in 2016: to spotlight underrepresented artists sidelined by art history's account of America's postwar creative boom. "Generations" showcases the innovative ideas and pioneering work of artists such as Norman Lewis, Alma Thomas, Kevin Beasley and Lorna Simpson, and extends a critical invitation to understand how these artists responded to the same political and cultural crises that prompted people such as Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to represent the world following the global cataclysm of World War II.
"When you add to the current roster of exhibitions this fall, what you'll see is a very fulsome expression of our vision for the museum," Bedford says, alluding to current and upcoming exhibitions, which include a solo show of sculptor Melvin Edwards, a Mickalene Thomas public art commission being installed in the East Wing, and a showcase of American Women modernists.
Recharting a museum's mission is like changing the course of an ocean liner. In addition to mounting such shows as "John Waters: Indecent Exposure" and reinstalling the Contemporary Wing to put underrepresented artists back in conversation with art history, the museum sold off five works by ostensible 20th-century masters to raise funds to acquire artwork by women and artists of color.
Walking through the BMA now is a dramatically different experience than it was three years back, and the museum has only begun to turn its ideas into realities. "I would also say, and this is true on the part of the trustees and the staff, the work to achieve that vision is never done," Bedford says.
"Every season will require that amount of work, that amount of inventiveness, again and again and again, in order to reach the same bar. So ["Generations"] is both a moment of culmination and commencement. I think we're making a commitment to ourselves and to the city to keep going in exactly this way, because that's the promise I think we extended."
The Charm City Night Market
In many Asian countries, night markets are a fixture of social life, drawing thousands of people to parks or commercial streets where vendors hawk food, clothing, art and much more. The event seemed like an ideal fit for the Chinatown Collective, a group of 8-10 volunteers looking to breathe new life into the city's old hub for Chinese culture and make make connections with the people who operate the businesses still there, as well as those who called it home during its peak.
Steph Hsu, an organizer with the collective, says the group was inspired by Katherine "Kitty" Chin and her husband, Calvin, who in the 1970s and '80s sought to revitalize the neighborhood as an "Asiatown" catering to numerous cultures.
"We really believed in that legacy and also saw an opportunity to expand that vision, to say that the Asian-American community is a larger part of the legacy of Baltimore City," says Hsu.
Last year, the group set up and hosted the inaugural Charm City Night Market, and it was a smash hit, with thousands of people descending on a block of W. Lexington Street and a nearby lot to enjoy a variety of cuisine, art and performance.
The market expanded considerably in 2019, taking over another block of Lexington and stretching all the way to the park at Center Plaza, where there were children's activities and additional performances.
One memory that jumps out for Hsu is a participatory dance led by the Baltimore Dance Crews Project.
"That was really, really, really amazing to look over the entire green space at 200 Park Avenue and see diversity of all kinds--ages, races--and to just see people dancing."
And there was an especially poignant moment this year when volunteers went through the notes at the wish walk, which allowed children to write a wish on a ribbon and tie it with string to a post.
One written in Chinese said, "I wish for my mom and dad to be happy every day." Though she can't be sure of the author's backstory, Hsu said the sentiment resonates with a lot of children of immigrants.
"That was really touching and motivating to see. It kind of harkens back to why we're doing this anyways, which is to harken back to the legacy of those who come before us."
With a series of viral tweets, the whole country quickly learned of the absurd classroom conditions thousands of Baltimore City Public Schools students were facing in January 2018, when temperatures plunged, pipes froze and classrooms were left close to freezing.
"This is what #Baltimore students trying to learn in a 40 degree classroom looks like," Aaron Maybin, an art teacher at Matthew A. Henson Elementary in West Baltimore, posted to Instagram, alongside a video and photo of students huddled in winter coats. "Just in case anyone gives a damn…"
After four seasons as an NFL linebacker, Maybin in 2013 hung up his cleats for a career in art and activism, which he has said are his true calling. "One of the best things about my life now is that I don't ever have that issue of having to answer to somebody for the things I say or do," he told The Sun in a profile two years post-retirement.
And with that freedom, he's used his skills and platform for good, raising funds for Baltimore's underserved and using his art and poetry to detail the city's most stubborn and pressing challenges for a wide audience. For examples, look to Project Mayhem, a nonprofit he founded to provide art resources and instruction in schools where they're lacking, or his 2017 book "Art Activism," in which he calls attention to structural inequities through his writing and visual artwork.
And daily, there's his time spent in the classroom, teaching students how to express themselves through creativity or, in dire cases like that of January 2018, helping to raise money for space heaters to keep kids warm.
"Without the platform that football created and the money I made, I would never be able to have the same impact that I am having now," Maybin told The Undefeated in December 2017. "Once people say 'former first-round pick,' then people start to listen."
There are a couple variations of this quote about Brooks Robinson, and here's one of them: Associated Press writer Gordon Beard was emceeing a farewell ceremony for Robinson at Memorial Stadium in 1977 and, calling back to a remark by Reggie Jackson about wanting a namesake candy bar, he told the crowd: "Around here, nobody's named a candy bar after Brooks Robinson. We name our children after him."
Baltimore's love affair with the affable third baseman from Little Rock, Arkansas, runs deep. And while much of that had to do with Robinson's wizardry on the diamond--16 Gold Gloves and 268 home runs that helped usher in a dominant era of Orioles baseball--it had as much to do with his kindness and his willingness to sign an autograph or share a story with a smile.
So the team's announcement in the summer of 2018, when the sun was setting on the most recent era of competitive baseball in Baltimore, that Robinson would be returning as a special advisor was met, literally, with a standing ovation.
"It's been awhile since I've been associated with the Orioles, but I'm back, I'm doing some things in the community," he said in a welcome video. "So I hope to say hello to you here at beautiful Camden Yards."
What has that role entailed this year? It's meant Robinson signing autographs at Fan Fest. It's the Orioles legend making a video to endorse outfielder Trey Mancini for the All-Star Game. It's appearing at Frederick Douglass High School where a brand new field, built by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, was named in his honor.
"If this is not the Field of Dreams, I don't know what is," Robinson said at the dedication.
There wasn't a lot to cheer for in Birdland this season, but having a local treasure like Robinson around has been a delight.
Stephanie Ybarra hasn't just picked up the reins at the state theater of Maryland. Like a modern-day arts admin horse-whisperer, she's retraining staff, audiences and greater Baltimore about what it means to be a producer of civically resonant stories and a true conversation starter.
Last month, when 197 Republican lawmakers--including President Trump--were in town for the 2019 House Republican Member Conference, Ybarra sent a formal email inviting them to Baltimore Center Stage's season-opening show, "Miss You Like Hell," a musical about an undocumented Mexican mother and her U.S.-born daughter. The theater even sent a truck with the invitation on its side to drive around Harbor East, where the conference was being held. When not a single lawmaker responded, the theater gave away the seats, all of which had a reserved sign with each lawmaker's name, to the community.
In her first curated season, Ybarra has booked a slate of contemporary shows that speak to her socio-political interests rather than pandering to a safe formula of classics with name recognition and maybe a contemporary play here or there. She is part of a new wave of younger, engaged theater leaders, and happens to be the first female Latinx artistic director of a major regional theater.
She's created new staff positions like "director of artistic partnerships and innovation" and "director of learning and social accountability," along with a company-wide anti-racism initiative. She has jumped head first into being a part of the Baltimore community in her first full year in the city after being at the Public Theater in New York for years.
"I'm all in on Baltimore… The last year has been full of personal and professional highlights for me, not the least of which have been exploring Baltimore's unique personality," she says via text (because she's ultra-accessible, too). "I'm most excited by the opportunities to collaborate across disciplines. There are already so many possibilities ahead, and I'm just getting started."
DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace
Visiting DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace is an assault on the senses in the very best way.
The Italian grocery and deli is known for both its sandwiches and the plethora of Italian ingredients available in the shop. It smells fantastic; looks wild, with stacks and piles of colorful foodstuffs in every corner; and is guaranteed to make stomachs growl.
From the famous meatball subs to the generous selection of olives and cheeses, to the crusty, gorgeous bread, the regular selection at DiPasquale's is enough to make anyone's mouth water. The market also carries special seasonal items, like a variety of fish around the holidays, when Italian families prepare for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Baltimore was a different place in 1914, when DiPasquale's opened in its original location on Claremont Street in Highlandtown. The city's southeastern waterfront wasn't yet fully industrial. And Highlandtown was largely a German neighborhood. But that didn't stop the market's founder, Louis DiPasquale, from opening his grocery--and for that, the city is thankful.
The business experienced some lean times, particularly in the 1970s, when it was open only on the weekends for some stretches. But the family persevered and for decades, it's been more than just a thriving grocery.
While there have been some short-lived satellite locations over the years, the Highlandtown store, with its towers of pasta boxes, scattered bags full of nuts, stacks of wine bottles and cheese hanging from the ceiling, remains the heart and soul--and stomach--of the whole operation.
If you pop into this Fells Point corner noshery to chat with owner Rosalyn Vera, you might have a hard time holding her attention. Not that she doesn't want to say hello or talk about the family memories and cooking that inform her spot's homey atmosphere and soul-nurturing fare. It's simply that customers continually stream through Cocina Luchadoras' door, keeping the compact kitchen and staff busy.
In the mornings, it might be street workers and laborers coming in to grab breakfast. After work on weekdays, it's people grabbing dinner on their way home or neighborhood residents stopping to sit at the outdoor picnic tables. A wide variety of Baltimoreans pop in on weekend afternoons, enjoying the vibe while waiting for their meals. You'll see Vera, often in an apron, through the cutout into the kitchen working with another woman making the food while another young woman takes orders.
As Vera told Baltimore magazine's Local Flavor podcast, she was born in the New York area to Mexican immigrants, spent some time growing up with her grandmother in Mexico City, and food and family have always been central to her identity and values. Back in the winter, a sign in the restaurant criticizing the president resulted in her receiving death threats; her customers responded with overwhelming patronage and support.
In recent memory, a true Baltimore local hang means a place that both black and white people, middle and working class, like to frequent. Cocina Luchadoras—a name inspired by hard-working women wrestlers—adds Baltimore's Latinx population to that mix, and if it's a harbinger of Baltimore's increasingly multiethnic future, bring it.
So don't be too bummed if Vera's too busy to chat. Order a torta—don't sleep on the kitchen's piquant carnitas—grab a bottle of Jarritos' mineral water out of the small fridge, and take a seat in the seating area. Enjoy the Tejano music coming from a pair of speakers. Smile at the tapestry featuring Frida Kahlo wearing a Daft Punk T-shirt. And wait for the toasted, Mexico City-style tortas to arrive wrapped in foil and paper, and try not to pass out after taking that first bite.
Maybe the best way to explain this award is a quick scan of WTMD's playlist from a recent Friday. There's the punk of the Ramones, the classic rock of The Beatles, the country of Sturgill Simpson, the worldly new wave of the Talking Heads--and sprinkled in among these huge names are songs from local artists such as Maggie Rogers, Dan Deacon and Super City.
Scott Mullins, general manager and program director for the local alternative music station, says that placement is very intentional, giving all of those artists an equal amount of respect.
"I don't want a listener to hear something and say, 'Wow, that's pretty good for a local band.' That's not what we're going for."
For several years now, the station has made a point to promote local artists and bring live music to the area. Since moving to Canton Waterfront Park in 2014, the First Thursday concert series has drawn bigger national acts and crowds exceeding 10,000. WTMD has invited fans into the studio for Live Lunch, local artist performances on Baltimore Hit Parade, kid-friendly music during Saturday Morning Tunes and other special events. They've partied out on the street with Brews & Bands and the Towson Rock Block. And the station hops into the early-year award season with its own Baltimore Alternative Music Awards.
New this year: an artist in residence program that invited dream-pop duo Beach House to curate a playlist of songs that inspired the group's sound and take part in a long interview ahead of a homecoming show at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Mullins says so much of what the station does is in service to bolstering local music, both for fans and artists.
"I really believe that a vibrant, rich, healthy music scene can elevate a city. You hear us say on the air all the time, 'Building a better Baltimore, one song at a time.' We believe that."