For Orioles fans, local bars get the party started long before the game's first pitch

On Nightlife

May 18, 2006|By SAM SESSA

Just like the players, baseball fans need to warm up before the game.

Sluggers and spectators have their own methods: Players toss baseballs and swing bats around; fans toss back cold beverages and tear into greasy-good pub grub. But sometimes it's hard to pick the best pre-gaming specials from the ballpark's nearby bars.

Usually, the most popular area is along a strip of Washington Boulevard just outside left field. The handful of watering holes there fence in their sidewalks and set up outdoor tables, chairs and bars. Just across the boulevard, you'll see a host of vendor tents that relocated after construction started on the new hotel and shut down a strip of Eutaw Street. These vendors offer a bit more food and drink variety and sometimes team up with the bars for specials.

"It's more of a block party," said Tom Leonard, manager of Pickles Pub (520 Washington Blvd., 410-752-1784).

A sign above Pickles says 2006 is the "Year of the Os," which is probably just wishful thinking, sports-wise. Still, this year is almost as good as any for pre-game action. There is one fewer nearby party spot since last year: Max's at Camden Yards. The group of sports bars near the ballpark has sorely missed a member since the yet-to-open California Tortilla replaced Max's last fall. But the pre-game scene stays fairly strong at the others.

At Pickles, you can always get a half-dozen of the place's namesakes, covered in beer batter, for $2.

"It's a really good comfort food -- especially if you're drinking beer," Leonard said.

Though Pickles' other food specials depend on the day and game series, the drink deals are pretty consistent: Sam Adams seasonals and drafts and Twisted Teas are $3. Natty Boh cans are $2, and 007s, mixed drinks made from orange juice, Sprite and Bacardi O, are $3. The place is painted green inside and out and is usually filled with young pre-gamers.

At the opposite end of the Washington Boulevard pub row is Sliders Bar and Grill (504 Washington Blvd., 410-547-8891). There, you can get $2 Natty Bohs all the time and $3 Italian sausages on game days. Sliders has a large outdoor seating area and stuck a live performer out there with an acoustic guitarist and a PA system last Saturday. That last part was a mistake -- the guy delivered a painful version of "Hotel California" and a so-so rendition of "Blister in the Sun." Otherwise, Sliders also had a solid scene.

Sandwiched between Sliders and Pickles is the narrow, two-story Gino's Bar and Grill (508 Washington Blvd.). No one was upstairs last Saturday, and only a handful of people sat outside. You can get two 16-ounce Bud Light cans for $5 there and some ridiculously cheap food -- $1 hamburgers and hot dogs, $2 cheeseburgers and $1 fries.

For a few more options, hop over to Pratt Street.

While The Wharf Rat (206 W. Pratt St., 410-244-8900) doesn't do drink specials, it does have 18 delicious Oliver Ales on tap, which go for about $4 each. Half-pints are $2, and bottles are $3.25. Though it's right next to The Downtown Sports Exchange (200 W. Pratt, 866-402-9651), The Wharf Rat drew more people.

At The Downtown Sports Exchange, you can get 12-ounce bottles of Miller Lite for $2 on game days. Weather permitting, they'll open the pit stand and sell 24-ounce Miller Lites for $6 (which really isn't a deal, if you think about it) and 24-ounce Coors and Budweisers for the same price.

If you have other pre-game suggestions, shoot me an e-mail.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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