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BoB Introduction

The Best for Less

Introduction to the Best of Baltimore 1997

Jefferson Jackson Steele

Posted 9/17/1997

Even here at Baltimore's Least Expensive Alternative Weekly we're not quite so full of ourselves as to believe the best things in life are free. Sometimes the best things in life are eight for $1.50. Thus it was, in casting about for someone or something to grace the cover of our 14th annual Best of Baltimore issue, that we thought of the 25-Cent Soda Man.

If you've spent any time tooling around town you know the 25-Cent Soda Man. You've seen one of his trucks, cruising the four corners of Baltimore, packed with paper towels and two-liter sodas and cases of juice and what-have-you (new deals every week!), all available cut-rate for cash on the barrel. Perhaps you've spotted him at his main post, downtown at Greene and Saratoga streets. And even if you haven't stopped to buy, chances are you've at least wondered, Who is this guy? How does he do it? How did he become the 25-Cent Soda Man?

All this remains shrouded in mystery; the man himself isn't talkin'. (He did tell us his name but swore us to secrecy.) Ultimately, perhaps, it doesn't matter. What matters about the 25-Cent Soda Man, and about what's truly best in Baltimore, is that he simply is what he is--no pretense, no ostentation (except, maybe, for that big painted truck), just the goods at a good price. In a town brimming with cheap housing, thrift shopping, and corner bars that still sell drafts for under a dollar, the 25-Cent Soda Man fits right in. Just as we take comfort in the knowledge that the Hard Rocks and Planet Hollywoods, all their pretense and ostentation and $7 burgers and $3 drafts, will never completely crowd out the corner bars, it's assuring that, with big chains marginalizing general stores and neighborhood groceries, there's still room for a guy with a truck full of sodas for a quarter.

As always, this year's behemoth of highly subjective opinionating comes equipped with a Readers' Poll, and a batch of Personal Bests in which locals of note reveal their favorite and least favorite things about Charm City. As for the rest, it was written by Michael Anft, David O. Barranco, Kip Branch, James Michael Brodie, Tom Chalkley, Gina Coffman, Carl Davies, Natalie Davis, Frank Diller, Lee Gardner, Dan Gibbs, Michelle Gienow, Mike Giuliano, Justin Hampton, Ronald Hube, Curt Iseli, Brennen Jensen, Heather Joslyn, Joe MacLeod, Michael Manekin, Andy Markowitz, James A. Morrisard, Sono Motoyama, Eileen Murphy, Jack Purdy, Molly Rath, Laura Reiley, Tom Scocca, Melanie Scott, Van Smith, Jefferson Jackson-Steele, Athena Towery-Jarvis, Vincent Williams and Rupert Wondowlowski. Carl Davies, Gilad Foss, Rosemary Hutzler, Shannon Lynch, Michael Manekin, Melena Ryzik, and Kristi York provided invaluable editorial support. David O. Barranco, Sam Holden, Yukako Ishii, Chy Lin, Nicholas McIntosh, and Jefferson Jackson Steele took the photos. And finally, thanks to the 25-Cent Soda Man, who graciously rented us his truck and sign-painting skills (at an appropriately low price), and threw in his fashion sense and his spirit of offering the best for less at no extra charge.

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