This isn’t your typical biker bar. Think more Schwinn than Harley as you enter the newly opened Handlebar Café (511 S. Caroline St., 443-438-7065) in Fells Point. Owned and operated by X-Games champ and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Marla Streb, the cafe’s cycle theme is everywhere—from the repair shop in the back to spoke-heavy décor and artwork, and of course the Spandex-wearing clientele who come riding through the open garage doors throughout the day. High atop the bar are colorful paintings of city blocks and bike racks by local artist Kelly L. Walker.
With an alt soundtrack churning out tunes from ska stalwarts like The Clash and Operation Ivy, the entire place has a decidedly West Coast feel. That vibe carries through on the menu, which boasts many vegan- and vegetarian-friendly offerings like bean and cheese burritos, gluten-free pizza, and a taco salad.
But things really get inventive on the liquid side of the menu, which is curated by Streb's husband, Mark. Even early in the morning, customers can imbibe coffee cocktails like a cold brew concoction with Baileys, Kahlúa, and whiskey. Another pick-me-up is the Verde Mary, which uses a green veggie mix in place of tomato juice and makes us realize we’ve been doing our brunch Bloodys all wrong. While daytime, which brings with it a chance to bask in the sunlight of Handlebar’s large open windows, is the ideal time to go, don’t count out happy hour and evening, too.
There’s an extensive beer selection including, not surprisingly, New Belgium’s Fat Tire but also local favorites from The Brewer’s Art, Jailbreak, and Stillwater Artisanal. A modest menu of wine and Mexican-inspired cocktails rounds out the fun and innovative drink list.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you left Handlebar without chowing down on one of its many boffo burritos. We couldn’t get enough of the flavorful Delmar with shrimp, smoked beans, Cotija cheese, guac, and a lime-tartar sauce. A calorie-burning bike ride might be in order after that one.