Cafe Tattoo is a rib-sticking name for a bar -- in other words, it's likely to stay with you.
Improbably located in the placid Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Gardenville, Cafe Tattoo blazes with a ribs-and-chili menu, explodes with live blues and jazz bands, boasts one of the lengthiest beer lists of any Baltimore pub, and really has a tattoo parlor upstairs. Goodness sakes, shouldn't this place be in Fells Point?
The tattooed personages behind Cafe Tattoo are owners Rick Catalano, a former General Motors worker, and his wife, Elayne, a tattoo artist. She is known as "the dark lady" both for her long black hair and her habit of doing tattoos by night.
"I couldn't find a decent rib within a 30 mile radius," says Rick in explanation of his switch from assembly line to chow line. Their rib joint opened in 1984 and has been at the present site since 1987. Not surprisingly, they don't draw much from the immediate neighborhood, but instead pull their clientele from anyplace people want a very hot meal and/or a lasting tattoo.
The Catalanos are obsessive when it comes to BBQ ribs and chili. Call the bar by dialing 325-RIBS. Reach Rick and he'll amiably jaw about all the fire-eating awards Elayne's recipes have won. Or take a seat in the scruffy bar/restaurant to see for yourself that ribs taste better in a plain setting and needn't cost an arm and a leg.
To wash down the hearty fare there are more than 100 bottled beers to choose from. The "Beer Lovers Lane" sign posted by a row of empty bottles above the bar is no empty boast, because you truly can drink your way from Trinidad to Poland. Most of the beers are in the $2.75 to $3 per bottle range, but if you've just won the lottery you can go as high as $5.60 for a 6-ounce bottle of Thomas Hardy's Ale. The number of beers on tap is infinitely smaller, but does include such uncommon choices as Red Stripe and Watney's Red Barrel.
Cafe Tattoo offers live blues, rock and jazz bands Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights starting at 10 p.m. Playing tonight is Serious Fun, with the Truetones on Saturday. Even more music is on the way come early June when the back yard will be opened up for live music on Sunday afternoons.
Where: 4825 Belair Road.
Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.
Menu: BBQ ribs, chili, chicken, steamed shrimp.
Credit cards: Not accepted.