Immediately to the east of Fells Point is the neighborhood called Canton. It’s a lot less flashy and doesn’t draw hordes of tourists. Block after block is filled with Baltimore’s iconic row houses. Canton’s were built in the late 1800s for the industrial waterfront’s blue-collar workers. For years it was the quintessential East Coast ethnic neighborhood; Polish, German, Irish and Welsh immigrants who disembarked in Baltimore made their home here. In recent years, Canton has gone through a re-gentrification of sorts, with new housing and marinas going up along the waterfront. But Canton’s heart and soul remain local.
Some of the corner bars here are places we’d like to transport—clientele and all—to our hometown, which is coincidentally enough also called Canton. Not only is the beer good, but they have bartenders who know just the right way to chat you up and make you feel right at home. We bet you’re wondering if these places could possibly serve anything but macro brew, with a regional favorite or two thrown in. The best way to convince you to take you to a few.
The Baltimore Taphouse (600 S. Potomac St.) is a must visit. Look for the navy canopy in a sea of white buildings as you drive down the street. The rotating tap selection is listed on the blackboard as you enter. The selections tend to be hoppy, and you’re almost certain to find something from Sierra Nevada at this tiny bar which only seats about 15. The day we visited the list included Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Sierra Nevada Celebration and Harpoon IPA.
Locally-brewed products were well represented too, including Brewer’s Art Resurrection and Clipper City Pale Ale. It’s easy to cool off here on a hot day while taking in some sports on the big screen TV behind the bar. It’s easy to love a place that hangs up pictures of the regulars’ kids.
Another must visit in Canton is Mahaffey’s Pub (2706 Dillon St.). They rotate their tap list weekly and have a generous happy hour, which the bartender was quick to point out to us. They serve three glasses of beer for $4. We counted 16 tap handles, plus a hand-pull, and happily perused the extensive bottle list while we enjoyed Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Rogue Latona 20th Anniversary Ale and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.
The sign above the bar says it all: “Mahaffey’s Neighborhood Pub where good friends hang out. Cold beer here!” And there were indeed groups of friends meeting there, many on their way home from work. The conversations were about baseball, politics and the economy, all with that unique Bawlmer twang. And speaking of baseball, be sure to check out the Oriole bobbleheads above the bar.
Mahaffey’s is a small place with a lot of character. They also have an interesting food menu, much of which is prepared on the tiny grill next to the front door. It was wing night when we visited and those fryers were doing some heavy duty work. This is another place where you can stay all night. And, we almost did.
One of Baltimore’s most famous writers, H.L. Mencken, once wrote “A home is not a mere transient shelter: its essence lies in the personalities of the people who live in it.” A great description of the neighborhood bars in the town he called home.