Those who long for good old unpretentious Old Baltimore, for backyard crab feasts and affordable rowhouses and step-sitting and the days when the Oreos won games and corner bars served as the neighborhood’s living room, cheer up.
Go to JR’s Bar & Grill at 1229 Hull Street in Locust Point. And there in the dimness you will revisit the glory days of an honest workingman’s bar with draft beer that is not named after a sporting dog or carnivorous fish, great grub, friendly barflies and the soothing clack of billiards in the back.
Wait. At JR’s they call it pool, of course. Forgot where we were for a moment!
JR’s is a place where you can settle in for the long haul, make yourself comfortable for the evening and watch the game or hang out with friends. There are three large tables on the side of the room, the pool table in back and a long bar with the traditional mirrors and a few TVs turned to sports. At lunchtime, a couple are tuned to sports.
You can choose to eat at the bar or at the tables. We chose the bar, a long copper-topped bar with wooden cafe seats, attractive and comfortable.
Advice: Go hungry as well as thirsty. The menu is the normal pub-grub array of sandwiches, burgers, subs and snacks, but the servings are mountainous.
Take the burgers, and you should. The menu describes them as 1/4 pound, but these are not your average quarter-pounders. For one thing, they’re at least half a pound. And they are perfectly grilled to order–my medium came medium, with a little pink in the middle and nicely browned outside.
I ordered the Fort McHenry, which is topped with bacon. cheddar and some very good, smoky imported ham. It also came with about an acre of excellent fresh-cut fries. All for $5.75, and you will not find a value like that anywhere in, or out of, town.
The crab cake sandwich is amazing–a very large cake, with lots of sweet crabmeat and very little filler. The crab cake fills the oversized roll—it’s six ounces at least, probably closer to eight. The crab cake is well-seasoned with Old Bay, not too much of it, and a little pepper. This sandwich also comes with a vast number of fresh-cut fries, and it costs only $10.95.
Another advantage of JR’s, the good old-fashioned Baltimore bar, is that the owner, Mary Armstrong, is often working the bar. She is one of the nicest women in the world, recently widowed and keeping the bar going with the help of her son. She also knows everything you need to know about Locust Point and South Baltimore.
I was there with someone new to town, and we chatted about steamed crabs and where to have them, crab feasts in general, the Fort Avenue Bridge, the neighborhood, the Os, the Ravens, and had a great time. A gentleman down the bar joined in. It was fun.
The whole enjoyable experience came to $18.71 including tax but not the tip.
JR’s Bar and Grill, 1229 Hull Street, is open daily for lunch and dinner. It’s a Locust Point treasure, and one of those places everyone needs to visit at least once. Once you have tried it, you’ll go back.
by Jacqueline Watts