Hilarious Hampden Scenes

by Scooter Holt

Ok, so here's the deal...  I had every intention of sharing all of my poignant thoughts on two Hampden bars that I'd been eyeing in recent months but, truth is, I can't remember a damn thing about them.

Let me explain. It was a Sunday. I had just finished a dinner at, Cygnus Wine Cellars, in Carroll County. I had to review two bars for Baltimore Eats, and the damn article is due Monday. Never-you-mind that I'm slaving away in every hole-in-the-wall in Hampden while my friend, Celeste Corsaro, is sipping Barolo in sunny Italy, "Facebooking" messages about the joy of regional Italian cooking and ruminating on where her next gastronomic epiphany would hail from. Some of us were just drinking in Hampden, hon.

So, spiral pad in hand, I make my way to Rocket to Venus and Frazier's (On the Avenue), which seem to be the new hipster mecca(s) in the neighborhood.

So, why can't I remember a damn thing about my time at either of these bars? Simple. That notebook I scratched all of my notes in whilst I was busy getting blotto? LOST IT.

But here's what I remember... Rocket to Venus has a killer set-up. Lots of booths for people who actually eat. The windows are all block-glass, which, I'm a HUGE fan of. It refracts all of that unnecessary daylight that gets in the way of hardcore day-drinking.

I sat down and grabbed a menu, taking in my surroundings. Two hipsters to my right were arguing. The "hipsterette" next to me was fondling her sketchpad while complaining about some dead-beat boyfriend, and red wine was her poison. This confirmed that I was officially in art-school hell, and I was liking it.

I ordered myself a pint of Yuengling, and perused the menu. The wine list wasn't too shabby; a few obscure Italian varietals for a great price, and some well-placed favorites, which I'd happily tell you about had I not lost my notebook. Take my word for it, they were quality.

Amusingly enough, there's a copy of an old Sun Paper article in the back of the menu that explains where the name Rocket to Venus came from. Apparently, three local yuk-yuks, back in the '30's, decided they were going to build a rocket to Venus, because Mars was just too far away. They scavenged every piece of metal they could find and built this damn rocket right in their own garage. While the neighbors pointed and laughed, understandably so, they rolled their creation out onto the pavement and lit the fuse, only to find themselves right here on Terra Firma, to no avail. Bottom line? Crappy attempt at an interplanetary expedition, GREAT name for a bar/restaurant.

So, here I am, sitting at this fabulous horseshoe of a bar, just staring at all the glittering bottles. Menu? Yeah, they've got one. And if I remember correctly, it ranges from cheese steaks to risotto to Szechuan noodles. Want me to be more specific? Tough. They've got EVERYTHING!

Next, it was on to Frazier's on the Avenue. Now, this is a place for a serious drink. I blended with the locals by having a National Bohemian in a can. To local connoisseurs of this brew, it’s affectionately known as “Natty Boh.” From what I remember, the beer cooler was loaded with skater stickers and kooky, obscure band logos, things I know nothing of. I vaguely remember a cheaply made poster board with Wednesday night drink specials, something about drafts being discounted from, maybe, 7 p.m. to whenever, but....who cares? One doesn’t come to a dive like Frazier’s to take advantage of drink specials. One comes to Frazier’s to completely erase the last twelve hours, and that’s just what I planned to do.

Let me set it up for you. When I walked in, some pound of flesh with a Mohawk was belting out every word to Abba’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” which, alone, is enough to make your toes curl. When his buddy didn’t share his enthusiasm for that particular diddy, he proceeded to barrage him with a series of punches aimed at inflicting bodily harm. I then ordered a Jack Daniels “neat,” and slugged it down. Why? Simple. If you’re wearing a Lacoste pink polo, you better establish yourself as a “hardass” right off the bat, and a shot of Jack to the head establishes that quite quickly.
You might be asking about the surroundings. Let me help you on that.

The bar is a touch high, which I’m totally okay with. It’s actually chest-level. Why is this okay? Easy. It makes it much easier to just dip your head right down into your drink. You don’t even have to pick it up. This is the only redeeming architectural feature in the bar, mind you. Two toy dinosaurs were doing unspeakable things on the back bar and, after consulting Wikipedia, I can safely tell you that this behavior was not the norm during the Triassic period. Is there a menu? Sure there is. They even have weekly dinner specials.

This place is genius. The meek and timid need not apply. Did the love of your life leave you for a younger honey? Your job let you go, claiming you were no longer "economically viable"? Step right up! Frazier's has a drink for YOU!


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