By Gracie Lou Monster, Merle Great Dane
Lately, there’s been talk that one of my owners might be moving to Maryland. I’m excited about his potential work relocation since it means new doggie scenes to explore and claim as my own. Also, there’s a good chance I’ll be getting double doggie treats in the split-living scenario. Both owners, Ange and Alex, recently packed up the car for a fur friendly trip to some highly regarded Maryland spots and I happily tailed along to aid in the final decision.
We arrived in a peaceful Annapolis on Sunday afternoon eager to check out the dog-friendly hotel and the surrounding neighborhood. Every crew member at Loews was surprisingly inviting toward a big puppy like me. While some may have been intimidated by my tall stature and 110 lbs. behind it, they didn’t hesitate at all! In fact, they were even kind enough to send a doggie tag, doggie mat, water bowl and “#2” bags to the room. Only the second floor rooms permitted pets so my owners said a quiet celebration woof wouldn’t be too disturbing. I squeezed a friendly growl in as well before we headed down to the hotel’s premier dining spot, West Kitchen and Tavern.
My owners were quick to take advantage of the complementary garden-fresh cocktails that came with check-in, especially since West boasted Ted Carducci of Tippling Brothers as their Master Mixologist. I didn’t waste any time finding a cool, shady spot for my furry bottom.
Ange picked the Johnny Hawkins, after asking the server for a customer’s favorite. I knew she was enjoying the mix of Tanqueray gin, grapefruit, tonic, & basil with a salted rim when I overheard her order a second. My other owner, Alex, doesn’t fancy gin so he tried the West Street Swizzle and had his taste buds awakened with hints of fresh lime, mint and pineapple married by Blackwell Jamaican rum and Angostura bitters. Since I was the designated dogger for the evening, it was just cold water for me and a quick nap.
Realizing tonight was a chunk of the time reserved for exploring Annapolis, we departed from the hotel’s fine dining scene and took a leashed walk toward the water. There were cute restaurants and boutiques almost one after another and I didn’t think they screamed “come here tourists” too loudly. I did hear a few welcoming furry friends, though. Many restaurants and wine bars boasted outdoor seating and a couple apparel shops let me walk right inside.
I used my puppy eyes to get Alex and Ange a free beer from some boaters docked up by the main square. Ironically, they were from a town only 15 minutes from where we live back home. One of the boaters resided in Annapolis for two years while teaching and he was happy to shell out advice on food, fun, and the general lifestyle. He didn’t give me the scoop on where all the handsome doggies were hiding these days but the water he dished out was much appreciated.
They finished their beers graciously then returned to exploring the roundabout of happenings near the water. It was more like a triangle of inviting restaurants and live music with a coming soon community market in the center. It was hard to choose a dining spot since everything appeared picture perfect in the sun’s setting light. We finally decided on McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar.
I assumed my usual position at the foot of the table, waiting for scraps to accidentally get shoved off the edge, but not an ounce of their crab ball or crab dip appetizer fell to the ground. I had to sit nearby witnessing Alex, Ange and their local friend, Marcus, dunk plump pieces of bread into the seafood goodness. It was torture but I managed to get by on cold water and a bone somehow.
Ange washed down her crab overload with their Aviator Lager before placing an order for the baked chicken and artichoke sandwich. I heard her rambling on about how their house lager tasted sweeter than others she had in the past but was still very enjoyable. Although I poked my snout around a little, it was certain I wouldn’t be slurping one of my own. Don’t get me wrong, I was loving every bit of the petting action from people walking by, but I would have done anything, even rolled over, for a taste of Ange’s juicy sandwich. She did end up sneaking me a few leftovers during our pier walk later so, turns out, my puppy eyes still got it.
We packed it up earlier than I expected and headed back to the Loew’s hotel for a little arrr and arrr. I was clawing to howl my way around Annapolis nightlife but it was only a Sunday so I reserved my energy for the next day’s explorations which began at the West for breakfast.
Ange and Alex cashed in their food voucher, another gift from Loews, and joined me al fresco for some excellent eats. I wasn’t surprised that Ange ordered the baked eggs in a basket with creamy spinach and oven-dried tomatoes since I’ve smelled her making something similar at home. It arrived at our table in the cutest little black oven skillet with a side of fresh fruit. She raved about every bite as if it was her sole purpose to rub it in my face. I couldn’t wait to get back to the room and brag about my bowl of Beneful.
We wandered around the quiet town of Annapolis for a little longer that morning in search of a dog friendly smoothie, maybe something with beef and rice, but for some reason it was hard to find so off to Baltimore we went. There were two areas of Baltimore Alex heard he “needed to check” if considering a move to the area so we plopped down in Canton, the first of the recommended neighborhoods.
The dog park scene wasn’t too happening so I suggested trying DOGMA, a quirky pet supply store located in the Shops at Brewers Hill. They had these dynamite all natural smoked dog treats which Alex caught me shoplifting from a lower level shelf. I had no choice but to shamefully admit my wrong to the store owner, because “it will make me a better dog one day,” or something like that. They weren’t too upset and even let it slide as a complementary treat. Ange must not have felt too much punishment was necessary since she picked me up a big time bone for the road and a nifty water bottle/dish for quick hydration needs throughout the day.
We wandered about Brewers Hill for a little longer but a lot of renovations were underway. Apparently the project’s goal is to restore two landmark buildings, Gunther Brewery and National Bohemian Beer factory (where the local favorite, Natty Boh, was first brewed), into a hip work, live and shop community only steps from Baltimore’s waterfront and downtown scene. I didn’t understand why they’d want to transform perfectly good dirt and dust for rolling around in into restaurants, shops and jobs but Ange seemed enthusiastic about it.
I imagine when everything is done at Brewer’s Hill it may be a bit livelier like the next place we visited, Canton Square. There were several restaurants, specialty stores and quaint shops to choose from but our unofficial tour guides said the hubcap margaritas from Nacho Mama’s were perfect for sharing with a round table of friends. Although the “No Dogs Allowed” policy kept us out of the Mexican themed bar, their sister restaurant, Mama’s on the Half Shell, was nearly right next door. The crew made a kind exception and served us the big round hubcap drinks even though they weren’t a regular item from the Half Shell bar menu. Then they went any extra kind mile by bringing me an ice cold doggie dish of water and a few treats here and there.
This place was top notch for canines and Ange loved the food, too! She ordered a watermelon salad from the daily specials menu with feta, arugula, onions and a balsamic drizzle. Sometimes I think she purposely orders something because she knows I won’t like it and, thus, has a reason not to share. Typical. Anyway, I know if they had more time, she would have definitely tried the beer mussels and an orange crush, since her quick foursquare research showed those items are big favorites at Mama’s….and she eats a lot.
We backtracked a little after Mama’s and before heading to the next neighborhood, Fells Point, because Ange was tipped by her fellow Town Dish-er, Amy Strauss, to try Of Love and Regret, a Stillwater Artisanal curated production. It was located toward the top of Brewer’s Hill, sneakily hiding three finely decorated stories behind dive bar walls. This was a not so friendly place (for dogs anyway) so they let me rest in the shade while Ange popped in for some quick half pours that were dreamier than she could have imagined.
She emerged from the pub smelling like a combination of Stillwater samples, the Stateside Saison, Cellar Door and Existent. You could tell by the look in her eyes, she desperately wanted to return for more artisanal ales and pair them with Of Love’s unique menu items like Grilled Duck Tongues or Crispy Pig Ears. Of course, I was able to snap her out of that trance with a quick lick of the face and off to Historic Fell’s Point we went.
This place was more up my alley. Less city traffic, lots of dogs and historic cobblestone streets running between historic brick houses, plus plenty of outdoor seating! We took advantage of the first table we could find, which happened to be at Riptide by the Bay. Savory scents of seafood wafted out the front door and it took a lot of self control to keep me from darting inside on a food brigade, most likely trailing a chair or two behind me. My crew didn’t order food. I guess they were saving up for a big dinner but when I smell something good, I eat, so it was hard for me to grasp their “sit down for a drink only” concept.
Ange attempted to blend with the ancient locals by ordering a Natty Boh (National Bohemian Beer from before, remember?) and Alex wasn’t far off by selecting the Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas Beer, a Baltimore based brewery. They sat drinking their brews while enjoying the waterfront view and I got a lot of good sniffs in during the wait. Before I knew it, we were up and moving again. They must have been lost because we did a whole lot of exploring but our next and final spot was only a few stops down from Riptide. Silly humans should let my nose do the leading next time.
The grand finale stop was clearly dog friendly. If the outdoor seating and white lab picture on the “Kooper’s Tavern” sign weren’t dead giveaways then one could easily conclude from the extensive Flying Dog selection. Even on a Monday night the gastropub was fairly crowded. In fact, I noticed that town quickly filled up all at once. It’s like there was a force holding all these humans back until after 5 p.m. or something. Weird. I decided I’d make Scooby proud and investigate that matter later on. For the time being, my mystery solving mind was focused on the food. Best biscuits around! I found that out first paw.
Maybe the doggie treats weren’t as good as Ange’s Gonzo Sliders or her Kooper’s Nachos but to each their own, right? However, I began to think Ange’s “own” wasn’t far off from mine when I found out the meaty miniatures were made with bacon and onions reduced in Flying Dog’s Gonzo Porter. That delicious combination got tossed in an Angus beef blend, grilled, then served with jalapeño ranch, cheddar, Roma tomato & caramelized onions. She managed to sneak me a taste of the beef when nobody was looking. Wooo-oooof!
I heard the nachos were not even close to disappointing and the Heavy Seas sampler paired well, too. Every other diner also seemed to be satisfied with their meal since they weren’t in a hurry to share some with me. Kooper certainly entered the running for my number one doggie idol and apparently his bro used to rock a place called Slainte down the street. Maybe I’ll grow up and own a restaurant like them one day? Only time can tell. In dog years, that could be soon!