Diving into no-frills karaoke

These three low-key bars have some of the city's best karaoke

August 05, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

Though the owners of Johnny Rad's have pledged to resume the long-lost karaoke at Kelly's Tavern, mostly likely it will never be the same. There's an odd attraction to singing awful covers of guilty pleasures in dingy dive bars.

With that in mind, here are three low key Baltimore bars with karaoke on a regular basis.

Walt's Inn

Not too far down the road from Johnny Rad's, Walt's Inn (3201 O'Donnell St.; 410-327-1495) is a small Canton corner bar just off the square that gets crammed tight on Friday and Saturday nights. Someone always seems to have a microphone in hand, regardless of the hour or day, and it's not uncommon to get the whole bar singing along (tunes by Journey and Bon Jovi are always huge). I've seen plates of Jell-O shots being passed around while people fill out slips of paper, hand them to the master of ceremonies and wait for their turn. On some nights when other Canton bars are half-full, Walt's is always a party.

Nevin's Cross Street Station

Nevin's (31-33 E. Cross St.; 410-468-4078) is the grimiest of the three bars in this list, in the best way possible. It's old and dingy, but it's the only holdout left from the old Cross Street scene, before newer bars like MaGerk's took over and turned the area into a post-college destination. Nevin's has a small stage in one of the front corners of the bar, which means you can walk by, peer in the window and see someone singing their heart out. Beer is cheap and the regulars are a colorful bunch. It's fun to have a few drinks at another bar and then hit up Nevin's to really tie one on.

Frazier's on The Avenue

Much bigger than it looks from the outside, Frazier's (919 W. 36th St.; 410-662-4914) has been a long-standing holdout for karaoke in Hampden. The front door brings you into the long, narrow bar. Near the rear, there are doors to another larger dining room and bar. The karaoke is held on stage in the bigger room, typically on select Tuesday nights. While karaoke is on hiatus for the summer, it will be back in full force in the fall, a bartender recently assured me. Let's hope so. Karaoke at Frazier's has been going on so long, it's practically a neighborhood institution.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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