Charm City’s bustling bar scene scored a win today as Mt. Royal Tavern was listed as one of the best bars in America by Esquire magazine.
The magazine’s editors call Mt. Royal Tavern—which is known for its old-school jukebox and iconic Sistine Chapel ceiling mural—“a great dive bar,” and note that patrons often stay for the “Natty Boh, Pikesville Rye, and religious thoughts.”
Now in its 11th year, the list names the publication’s picks for the top 18 bars in the country. In its introduction, Esquire’s drinks correspondent David Wondrich talks about the evolution of the nation’s bar scene, mentioning that a decade ago, options were limited for cocktail enthusiasts.
“There’s something going on in these new bars, particularly in the best of them, that needs more attention,” he writes. “For one thing, these places are full. People are paying double to drink in them, and they're not outraged. They're coming back, over and over. They're putting their phones away (well, mostly), forgetting about the game, doing their best to act sober.”
For decades, Mt. Royal Tavern, the stalwart cash-only hangout, has been a go-to spot for MICA students and Bolton Hill residents alike, providing a laid-back space to sip cheap drinks and groove to familiar tunes.
The article, released this morning, gives love to worthy watering holes everywhere from New York City to San Diego. Though Mt. Royal Tavern was the only local spot to make the cut this year, in previous editions the list has mentioned beloved Baltimore bars such as Rye, The Brewer’s Art, and Bad Decisions.
The tavern’s regulars have been taking to social media since the news broke, and while some are ecstatic for the neighborhood to be recognized, other dive bar purists are a bit worried that the national nod could ruin its appeal. (The bartenders didn’t have time to talk to us, a sign that they might be dreading the onslaught of patrons.)
though i'm kinda bummed by this distinction because then my beloved mt royal tavern could be overrun by trendsters @tracygosson @esquire
— Maryann James-Daley (@missjames) May 26, 2016
Nevertheless, we’re excited that one of our own has been given some national attention. We summed it up best in our “50 Best Bars” cover story last December, where we observed that “The Bolton Hill watering hole was filled with its usual MICA-meets-salty-dog crowd. We bellied up beside them at the long blue bar, admiring its fading mural overhead as we ordered a round of whiskey, with New Order on the jukebox and the smell of crock-pot chili in the air.”