My latest fun finds in Baltimore

The lengthy Thanksgiving weekend provided yet one more thing to be grateful for – the opportunity to explore a few new things in Baltimore. My husband and I ducked into a back alley near Johns Hopkins, tooled around on bikes in Hampden, and explored an architectural treasure trove near the M&T Bank Stadium. At the end, even more turkey couldn’t have left us with feeling any more satisfaction than a few days well spent.

Our favorite finds:

1.       The Book Thing. If you visited our apartment, one thing would be immediately clear – we love books. There’s definitely some his-and-hers on our massive bookshelf (His: Aristotle; Hers: Wendell Berry) but we’re proud of our growing collection (largely still in boxes in our parents’ Midwestern basements), which is mostly comprised of second-hand or library-sale copies. It is no wonder then that we enjoyed the hunt at the Book Thing of Baltimore, which is shelf after sagging shelf of free books for the taking. Free books are a great way to indulge learning whims — I picked up a copy of Dan Buettner’s “The Blue Zones” after talking about the concept with a friend the day before, and book of Michelangelo’s letters. It’s opened every weekend, even on holidays and in blizzards – and, according to store signs, the apocalypse or the rapture. 3001 Vineyard Lane, Baltimore. (Look up directions before you go – it really was in an alley.)

2.       Birroteca. This Baltimore restaurant is still so new that its website isn’t finished, and it’s worth staking your claim now. We tried it out for Wednesday night happy hour – and were back on Friday. Located in Hampden near the Fallsway, this too is off the beaten path, but an easy bike ride from our place. They do $3 drafts from Evolution Brewing, which recently relocated to Maryland’s Eastern Shore from Delaware, from 5 to 7 p.m. And, as we thankfully learned the first night, their grilled calamari is perfect. It made a man who typically races me for the best bites put down his fork and savor each piece. 1520 Clipper Road, Baltimore.

3.       Housewerks. For me, this is next to heaven. I have ALWAYS loved old architectural elements. My parents taught me to love old craftsmanship – my dad for the quality, and my mom for the beauty. I’ve also always had a soft spot for old houses, even in severely dilapidated forms. Housewerks struck all of my heartstrings. This place definitely has some beautiful and quirky things salvaged from decline: stained glass lunettes, heavy large doors with wrought iron detailing, and industrial shelving, saved for projects yet to be devised or dreamt.  Housewerks also have drawers of old architectural and mechanical blueprints that, famed and hung, would make for a trendy conversation piece. Also, they have a decent stash of Catholic kitsch.  I told my husband I wanted to come here for my birthday, just to look. 1415 Bayard St., Baltimore.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.