The Ottobar is a no-frills club in Remington. On the first floor, they host local bands. Upstairs is more of a regular bar, which happens to host a free Comedy Night every other Saturday. Last Saturday Bill and I went to catch the comedy and walked in on the fourth quarter of the Ravens-Broncos AFC divisional play-off game.
The first time I moved to Baltimore, the city had no NFL team. Residents still mourned the loss of the Colts and talked about the trauma they experienced that morning in 1983, when they awoke to discover that their beloved football team had decamped for Indianapolis in the middle of the night. I had dinner once at the Golden Arm, a restaurant founded by Colts idol Johnny Unitas. I remember when the Canadian Football League’s short-lived foray into the U.S. included a Baltimore team that they tried to name the Colts, until the threat of a lawsuit prompted them to fall back on “Baltimore-CFL,” and finally Baltimore Stallions. The Stallions won the championship their second year in Baltimore, then transferred to Montreal when the CFL gave up on its southern strategy.
Baltimore residents pined for an NFL team of their own. That dream finally came true when Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. The Ravens started playing in Baltimore 1996, and we left in 1998. Vinnie Testaverde was quarterback.
When Bill and I moved back to Baltimore last year, we were unaccountably surprised to see how important the Ravens had become to everyone here. Everyone wears purple on game days. I once saw a child at the Safeway with a purple mohawk. The density of Ravens fans in Baltimore is much, MUCH higher than the density of Redskins fans in Washington, DC, and the intensity of their admiration is much more powerful.
But Bill and I are not huge sports fans. So we didn’t plan to join the folks at the Ottobar to watch the Ravens win the AFC semi-final. It just happened. And let me tell you, the sea of purple jerseys in that hipster bar was a sight to behold! Young folks, old(er) folks, Amy Winehouse wannabes, and ZZ Top wannabes. All of them were on their feet cheering when Jacoby Jones made a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game in the last minute of the fourth quarter. That cheering turned to ecstatic screams when the Ravens triumphed in overtime. The Ravens will face the Patriots tomorrow night, in a competition for the AFC championship and the privilege of playing in the Super Bowl. There is a decidedly purple tinge to the lights of downtown Baltimore this weekend.
So anyway, the Ottobar. No frills music venue downstairs, no frills bar with ratty pool tables and ratty seating upstairs. The beer is affordable, and the crowd, not surprisingly, skews fairly young. The comedy show was both funny and forgettable. A fine diversion for a Saturday night, but nowhere near as impressive as the hometown win that came before it.
2549 N. Howard Street (Remington)
Best for: Twenty-somethings keen on indie music; people who are accustomed to drinking beer in their mom’s basement.