An unpredictable night at the Kitty Kat Bar

On Nightlife

April 03, 2008|By Sam Sessa

One of the best things about going out in Baltimore is that anything can happen.

Spend a few hours on the town -- even on a weeknight -- and there's no telling what you could run into.

A few friends and I went to the Kitty Kat Bar in Remington on a Tuesday, when it offered $3 Guinness and Bass drafts. Sounds simple enough, right?

The Kitty Kat doesn't have a neon marquee -- just a black-and-white sign in a side window, which is puzzling, considering that the bar has been open since late last year. It occupies the building that used to house Molly's Public House.

Walk in the front door at night, and you'll probably flinch at the color scheme. For some reason, the new owners decided to paint the front of the bar bright salmon.

Salmon is not the color you want to see when you're drinking.

I feel the same way about the hot-green walls inside Lime in Federal Hill. It's nauseating.

We walked past the pingpong table by the front door and plopped down on a few barstools. I ordered a Bass, but when the bartender tugged on the tap handle, something malfunctioned and I was showered with beer. I wiped off and ordered a $3 Sierra Nevada instead.

Soon after sitting down, we spotted a pink Jesus figurine on top the bar. It's called Answer Me Jesus, the bartender told us.

Just like a Magic Eight Ball, Answer Me Jesus is filled with fluid. Floating in the fluid is a die with commands. You ask it a question, turn it upside down and stare through a clear plastic panel on the bottom to see which answer comes up.

"Should we have a glass of absinthe?" we asked Answer Me Jesus.

His response: "Believe."

And when a pink plastic Jesus figurine tells you to order a glass of absinthe at the Kitty Kat Bar, you obey it.

Absinthe has an undeniable mystique, probably because famous artists and writers (Van Gogh, Hemingway, etc.) drank it. Because of the chemical thujone, it was banned in the U.S. for nearly 100 years and only recently made legal again.

The Kitty Kat Bar offers absinthe for $6 a glass. It's served in the traditional way, by setting a sugar cube on a metal strainer on top a glass and pouring the absinthe on top the sugar. The whole set-the-sugar-cube-on-fire thing is an (unsurprisingly) American adaptation -- not the proper way to drink absinthe.

Our bartender stirred the sugar and absinthe, which made the light green liquid a little cloudy. We passed it around the group so everyone could have a sip or two.

Absinthe makers and loyal drinkers say they can detect a variety of different flavors in the drink.

Hogwash, I say.

All I've ever been able to taste is concentrated licorice. Each sip is like stuffing your mouth with the black, rubbery candy. It's overpowering.

Have a glass of absinthe, and you'll burp licorice for hours afterward. I can barely stand it, which is why I rarely get the stuff.

If you'd walked up to me before I set foot inside the Kitty Kat Bar and told me I'd spend the next few hours sipping absinthe in a salmon-colored bar asking a pink Jesus doll questions, I wouldn't have been surprised. Neither would anyone who goes out a lot in this town, I think.

Either way, it's hard to imagine a more fun, surreal way to spend a Tuesday.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

The Kitty Kat Bar is at 400 W. 23rd St. Hours are 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Call 410-889-0091 or go to myspace.com/kittykatbaltimore.

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