On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon in Fells Point, groups of friends enjoyed mimosas out on the sidewalk of Thames Street, dog walkers stopped to greet one another, and families strolled along the waterfront promenade. But the faint sound of a blues guitar drew us into Cat’s Eye Pub (1730 Thames St., 410-276-9866), just as it has been doing for decades.
Opened in 1975 by the late Tony Cushing Sr., the bar is now run by his wife, Ana Marie (who books the bands), and son, Tony Jr., who can be found working the main bar most nights. While there is no shortage of live music emanating from the bars in Fells Point, Cat’s Eye is one of the few places to hear a band every day of the week—including holidays.
There are resident bands like Nothin’ But Trouble, which plays its brand of blues many Friday nights; the soul and blues artist Ursula Ricks, who frequently shares her smoky vocals; and the rockabilly stylings of country artist Sean K. Preston, who occasionally drops in. The Saturday we visited, it was the Tony Denikos Band who took the stage at 4 p.m., playing twangy originals and covering artists that ranged from the Bee Gees to Bruce Springsteen to Tracy Chapman.
While the music is the main draw at Cat’s Eye, the bar also excels at a being just that—a bar. There’s the good-humored doorman out front and longtime bartenders Jen, Rob, and Terri providing some of the best service in town. It’s a shot and a beer place, to be sure, but the draft list is always excellent. We sipped on selections from regional breweries such as Dogfish Head and Heavy Seas while tapping our toes to the band.
And in case there’s any doubt that the bar channels the heyday of Fells, look no further than the recent passing of Tom Cooper, who owned the now-closed, iconic music bar Leadbetter’s. When Cooper died a few months ago, his friends planned a New Orleans-style marching band (or second line) for his funeral. The brass players trotted down the cobblestone streets of Thames in Cooper’s honor with one clear destination in mind: the stage of Cat’s Eye Pub.