We've dipped our bills at Roman's in Highlandtown, wetted the whistle at American Joe's in Canton, and loaded up the liver at the Backstretch in Medfield. We've gotten booted out of McCabe's in Hampden, hobnobbed with newspaper types at Govans' Swallow at the Hollow, and enticed Mr. Joe, the main man at the Valley in Gardenville, to open up his pool room. We've always enjoyed P.J.'s Pub in Charles Village and Alonso's in Roland Park, and have come to find rarified air even in the smoky confines of Racer's Café in Parkville.
All nice places. Each provides its 'hood with an invaluable service. But this year, we're using our considerable, er, expertise on the matter and expanding our definition of "neighborhood tavern" to include more than just a place to grab a shot-and-a-beer or two and yak it up with the provincials. We're looking for the watering hole of our dreams-a construct of our half-besotted minds, if you will.
We want a place where hipness and humor aren't mutually exclusive. Where cheap Rolling Rocks go hand in hand with Harp and Bass on tap. Where a top-flight plate of mussels in garlic can be had at the bar, but special-occasion dinners can be had in a back dining room. Where the décor (pictures of old strippers, FBI most-wanted posters, Vermin Supreme campaign bumper stickers) is as deliciously acerbic as the vinaigrette. Where the owner won't mind joining you for a beer-and you won't mind him being there. And where serious barflies can avoid all the suburban slummers who parade through the neighborhood and ruin so many of the other joints.
The amiable owners are Kenny and Jayne Vieth. The place is Henninger's. The neighborhood is the finest gin mills of your mind.