Cyclist's informal Hamilton tour sheds light on neighborhood

Stops included delis, bakeries, Hamilton Tavern

December 18, 2010|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

Kenny Johnston grew up in Pasadena, but the 25-year-old musician has since returned to his family's old neighborhood of Hamilton.

Now he frequently rides his Schwinn road bike in the same Northeast Baltimore neighborhood where his grandmother went to school, becoming interested in many of the old delicatessens and bakeries. On Saturday, he led an "old-fashioned Italian and German delis" bike tour, posting fliers around town beforehand and even getting some mentions in local bicycling blogs.

"I want people who move to the city to see more than just one place," Johnston said, adding that cycling is "so much more enjoyable" than riding his truck. He said that on his bike, he became aware of so many more of the small, local businesses.

"I like to have a sense of community and get entertained by things that aren't White Marsh," he said, referring to the big-box store chains and shopping centers across the county line.

The tour started with five people out in front of the Wockenfuss shop on Belair Road, just north of Frankford Avenue, where Johnston picked up a quarter-pound of some dark almond chocolate bark.

Elizabeth Hines, 30, came along for the brisk ride. She said she's been able to get to know different parts of the city by biking, but Hines, from Lauraville, said, "I live in the area, but I have not been to all of these delis and bakeries. I never knew Belair Road was so hilly."

From the candy store, the riders made their way across Frankford to Harford Road, where they headed for more treats at Mueller's Delicatessen.

The group pushed their way up a surprisingly steep portion of Harford Road, picking up a few stragglers, including two Hampden residents.

Tom Wedlick and Topher McFarland, 27, both graduate students at the Johns Hopkins University like Hines, said they had biked in the city but had never made their way around Hamilton.

"I really enjoy experiencing the city via a bike," McFarland said before heading into the more than 50-year-old deli.

Mueller's, with silvery tinsel dangling from its drop ceiling, offered the standard heap of egg and potato salads at the deli counter, but also liverwurst and old Baltimore favorites like Berger cookies. McFarland picked up a cherry turnover and munched on a few bites from the brown paper bag. But others were waiting for the next stop across the street, Mastellone Italian Deli and Wine Shop, which advertised in large green and red signs: "Homemade Mozzarella" and "Fresh Italian Sausage."

Surveying the large containers of olives, Johnston said the group planned to head to a few other stops before ending at the Hamilton Tavern for drinks. He said he might plan a second event in the spring when the weather might be warmer.

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