Booze in the basement

Some of Baltimore's best bars are a few steps below the rest

  • The basement bar at Dionysus has a solid beer selection and plenty of character.
The basement bar at Dionysus has a solid beer selection and plenty… (GENE SWEENEY JR, The Baltimore…)
September 02, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

It seems strangely fitting that some of the Baltimore area's best bars are a few steps below the rest.

Charm City doesn't have many basement bars, but the few that are scattered across the city and region are standouts. The boxing-themed Venice Tavern in Highlandtown has been in the same family for generations, Dionysus is a Mount Vernon haunt steeped in character and the Quarry House in Silver Spring has an excellent beer list and live music lineup. Here are three of the area's best basement bars.

Venice Tavern, 339 S. Conkling St.

Opened after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Venice Tavern has been in the DeSantis family for four generations. The perpetually dark basement bar serves beers in the tiny 8-ounce glasses popular in decades past. The tavern is a shrine to boxers, including former co-owner Vince DeSantis, a lightweight champion in Highlandtown when boxing was far more popular than it is today.

Dionysus, 8 E. Preston St., 410-244-1020

Newer (and cleaner) than the Venice Tavern, this Mount Vernon watering hole's downstairs bar has a small but savory beer selection. The decor and customers are accessible enough for hipsters and young professionals alike. A basket of chalk sits in the bathroom, and patrons are encouraged to scribble on the walls.

Quarry House, 8401 Georgia Ave., 301-587-8350

Virutally hidden in the basement of a nondescript Silver Spring building, the Quarry House feels steeped in history, from the wood-paneled walls to the creaky tables and chairs. It's split into two sections: a bar area and a performance space that showcases some of the region's more notable bands. When there isn't live music, feed the jukebox, which has some of the best selections around. But above all, the beer list is phenomenal — one of the best in the state.

Sam Sessa

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