By Charly Wilder (New York Times, 9/19/2012)
“You can look far and wide, but you’ll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style,” John Waters once noted about his hometown. Maybe that’s why Baltimore’s trumpeted glass-and-steel Inner Harbor development, with its chain restaurants, neon-loud amusements and brand-name shopping, feels so counterintuitive as a symbol for the city. But walk in any direction and the city’s charm reasserts itself. Indeed, Baltimore’s best draws tend to be left-of-center: offbeat theater, grandly decrepit neighborhoods on the cusp of gentrification, a world-class museum devoted to outsider art and a dive-bar culture that must be one of the nation’s finest.
1. DIVINE INSPIRATION
There may be no better introduction to Baltimore than the extraordinary American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Highway; 410-244-1900; avam.org), or AVAM, devoted to the work of self-taught and outsider artists. AVAM’s collection ranges in scale and tenor from a 10-foot mirror-plated sculpture of the drag icon Divine to “Recovery,” a moving self-portrait of an anonymous British mental patient that was carved from an apple tree trunk before he committed suicide in his 30s.
2. CRAB HAPPY
Call it the great democratizer: it’s hard to find a Baltimorean who doesn’t enjoy wielding the mallet. L. P. Steamers (1100 East Fort Avenue; 410-576-9294; lpsteamers.com) is a purist’s crab house. There, waiters dump buckets of fresh-caught Old Bay-coated steamed crab onto brown paper for diners to whack, smash, pry, shuck and suck out the tender white meat. For two people, a dozen mediums ($50) and a pitcher of Baltimore’s signature swill, National Bohemian a k a Natty Boh ($9) should do the trick. Snag a table on the restaurant’s upper deck and watch the sun set over one of Baltimore’s best views.
Continue reading “36 Hours in Baltimore” at The New York Times.