Mum's the word for Monday nights

ON NIGHT LIFE

October 12, 2006|By SAM SESSA

Minutes before kickoff, I knew I'd picked the right place to watch the game.

The New Orleans Saints were about to take the field against the Atlanta Falcons at the Superdome, and a small crowd sat at Mum's bar on Hanover Street watching the pre-game action on TV. Legendary R&B pianist Alan Toussaint was playing the national anthem - something definitely worth seeing.

About two-thirds of the way through the song, Toussaint sneaked in a little blues riff - a taste of what you'd hear in a club down on Bourbon Street - and the Mum's crowd roared.

Some people clapped, others yelled "yeah!" and one guy down at the far end of the bar let out a high-pitched "Woooooo!" They were just as pumped - maybe even more pumped - to hear Toussaint play as they were to watch the game.

That moment sold me. I had a feeling Mum's would be perfect for Monday night football when my buddy Justin and I walked in a little before game time and scored two seats at the bar. But that eruption over an old man's keyboard lick clinched the deal.

Everything about Mum's clicks on Monday nights. I didn't expect it to, because it's more dive bar than sports bar. But I went two weeks in a row, and both times there were enough people inside to spark game-day spirit without making the place feel either packed or empty. And while that's not all you need in a bar come kickoff time, it's the most important part.

Mum's charming, quirky decor only adds to the experience. There's an American flag right next to an Australian flag on one wall, and if you walk toward the pool table in the rear, you'll pass one of the city's best jukeboxes.

A sign from the old Tio Loco's (now MaGerk's) hangs near the bar and reads:

"Hey tool ... this is not a frat party. If you puke on the bar or the floor we will kick you in the ... "

Then, the sign outlines Mum's six commandments:

1. Know what you want

2. Have $$$ ready

3. As always no Coors

4. Play nice

5. Pay your tab

6. No talking to imaginary people

Two of these rules need clarification. Owner Chris Bright doesn't agree with the Coors family's politics, hence rule No. 3. The sixth rule, written on a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the sign, came straight from New Orleans, Bright said. Two of his patrons were visiting a bar in the French Quarter a couple of years ago and saw the phrase posted there, he said. It's good advice.

There was, until recently, only one beer you could get on tap at Mum's: Carlsberg, a Danish brew.

Carlsberg calls itself "probably the best beer in Europe," but the more I drink it, the more I think it's probably not. Either way, you can only get it in bottles these days at Mum's. The company changed its keg size a little while back, and Bright said he can't accommodate the new system. So for the time being, Mum's offers only longnecks, cans and liquor. A glass cooler behind the bar is stocked with about 45 brands of beer, from Magic Hat to Natty Boh. Most domestics cost $2.50, and imports are about a dollar more.

If you're hot for shots, you have to try the house specialty, a secret blend of liquor, syrup and spices called "Evil." But don't be fooled by the name - Evil goes down sweet with touches of cinnamon, nutmeg and honey. It kind of tastes like fall, which is a nice touch during football season.

When Bright took over Mum's in 1994, the Federal Hill bar scene was drastically different. East and West Cross Streets weren't as much the meathead party zone they've become, and places like Mum's were a little more profuse. Now, Mum's is one of the only survivors from that era near the Cross Street Market. And as with all good watering holes, the patrons define the pub. It's the closest you'll get to Cheers in Federal Hill.

"We've got a lot of characters, but in a good way," Bright said. "The crowd makes the place."

Podcast

Listen to the new one, on Captain Larry's, at baltimore sun.com/sessa.

Mum's, at 1132 S. Hanover St., is open 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Fridays and 1 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. On Ravens home game days, it opens at 9 a.m. and Bright grills and gives out free food. Call 410-547-7415.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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