The Nitty Gritty on Highlandtown

October 04, 2004|By Jennifer Siciliano Shayne | Jennifer Siciliano Shayne,Special to

Zip code: 21224

Original name: Snake Hill

Most art under one roof: The Patterson, on the corner of Eastern and East avenues. The best in live music, theater and art, with one of the few vertical neon signs left in the country.

Best backyard in Baltimore: Patterson Park, hands-down. Acres of surprisingly well-maintained lawn and game fields, a boat lake, jogging trails, the famed Pagoda and the MimiDome ice rink, all in one park.

Little-known fact: Matthew's Pizzeria is known for being the best pizzeria ever, but it also has a bar downstairs, open Friday and Saturday nights with a full menu. Check out the chocolate martinis!

Best place to get cheap beers: Your corner bar, hon. Almost every corner has one, usually named Curly's or Bob's, filled with the residents of that block playing Keno and watching "Dr. Phil" (or "Law & Order," depending on the time of day). And if you should go into the house on the corner and it turns out not to be an actual bar, chances are you'll find some guy inside watching "Dr. Phil" and drinking a beer anyway, and he might even be willing to share if you ask nicely.

Best security system: The Block Mom. Each block seems to have at least one. The neighborhoods are established and the residents have lived here for generations, so they know who should be on their street -- and who shouldn't. As one young resident put it, "My block mom keeps an eye on the cars and will let you know the moment yours starts leaking oil, or any other fluid." They'll come knocking on your door if they sense danger, they're always peeking through the curtains if they hear a noise on the street. They mean well. Really.

Best place to park during a snowstorm: Another neighborhood entirely. Something happens to Highlandtowners when little white flakes descend from the sky. They turn spiteful. Parking spaces, although public, are assumed to be private property once snow begins to fall. If Bob Turk says there's a 10 percent chance of snow, turning to rain in about 10 minutes, car owners will, upon leaving a parking space, a) put chairs in the space to mark it, b) festoon CAUTION tape across the chairs and c) upon returning to the space, place the chairs beside the car until the next time the car is moved. Repeat until spring thaw, even if there's no actual accumulation for the duration of the winter. There have been nasty words and fights, there has been bloodshed. For your own safety and sanity, park your car in a garage from December until March.

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