An entrancing song plays in the background as plumes of fruit-infused smoke drift from the lips of revelers lounging on ottomans and plush sofas. This scene is typical on a Friday night at Zeeba Lounge, dubbed "the city's swankiest spot for puffing flavored tobacco" by Baltimore Sun writer Sam Sessa. Patrons can blow smoke triangles with more than a dozen flavors of shisha, each releasing flavors such as mint, chocolate, or pomegranate. The hookah's water filters the fragrant smoke, removing tar for a pure taste. Zeeba Lounge pairs its smoky specialty with a menu of Mediterranean tapas such as curried meatballs or saffron-infused shrimp and a BYOB policy.
Even if they were not apprised beforehand, guests at Illusions Bar and Theater would quickly realize that they were in no ordinary watering hole when they noticed the straightjacket suspended above the small stage behind the bar. Far from the state's only psych ward with a liquor license, the venue is the brainchild of former clown and showbiz veteran Ken Horsman.
Typical evenings see patrons sipping on fine spirits while gaping at a show by Ken’s son, escape artist Spencer Horsman, as he wriggles his way free from increasingly secure restraints and dangerous situations, all while tickling ribs with playful banter. Other magicians regularly stop by to show off their illusions, wowing audiences and deepening the depression of real wizards who can't get anyone to believe in their powers.
When Thailand native Penelope Chungsakoon and her husband, Bangkok native Tom Chungsakoon, opened Thai Yum Restaurant in 2010, the Baltimore Sun declared it the city's "best Thai restaurant." It's a testament to the ardent work ethic of Penelope and Tom, who flavor each beautifully plated dish with spices hand-ground in their open kitchen.
Besides staples such as massamun curry, the duo crafts Thai specialties such as duck breasts coated in curry-roasted peanut sauce and frog legs saut?ed in garlic and chili paste. Feasts unfold inside a dining room of shiny hardwood flooring and white brick walls decorated with traditional artwork depicting animals such as dragons and elephants.
It was almost midnight when Sandra found her son Aaron bustling around the kitchen, looking to satisfy a late-night sweet craving. Cooking had been one of the family's shared passions for decades, so it was only a matter of moments before Sandra joined Aaron in digging through old cupcake recipes and experimenting with flavors and frosting. With the counters covered in sweets, the snack craving thoroughly satisfied, and the Sandman growing impatient, the two went to bed, only to awaken the next day and share their midnight creations with family and friends. The reaction was overwhelming. The mother-son team quickly found themselves baking for so many birthday parties and special events that they decided to start a business, eventually earning a spot on Baltimore magazine's list of Our Favorite Cupcakes.
At Midnite Confection?s Cupcakery, Sandra and Aaron continue to channel the enthusiasm and inventiveness they felt that first night. Their selection of more than 40 sweet treats includes signature flavors, such as birthday cake and a carrot-cake cupcake with organic carrots and a bit of pineapple, but also changes to include seasonal favorites. They also top their creations with decadent spreads such as whipped-pistachio or Grand Marnier?tinged icing. Although these handheld snacks are available at the store, Midnite Confection's food truck also travels the streets, spreading cupcakes to working folks.
In recent years, The 8x10’s musical focus has returned to the name and vibe that it first debuted in 1983, serving up nightly live bands alongside a full bar of drinks and draft brews. The tap slings 16 ounces of frosty fermentables into beer glasses ($3.50–$6) and a backing track of bottled brews wets whistles ($4.50–$6; $8 for 22 oz. Fat Tire). Like a giraffe on stilts, drinks at The 8x10 are double-tall, so a goblet of Red Bull and vodka hosts an up-tempo duet of two shots ($8.50).
Crazy Lil’s banishes hunger with a massive menu of meaty burgers, spicy chalupas, and more than 10 kinds of macaroni and cheese. Dairy-loving diners can warm up with an appetizer of Chesapeake tots, topped with crab dip and cheddar jack ($11), before moving on to bacon- ($12) or broccoli-cheddar- ($13) trimmed mac 'n' cheese. The fromage-phobic may delve into non-cheesy specialties, including pierogies and bratwurst served with a spicy bourbon mustard ($11.50), or a chipotle-chicken chalupa, which tastily toasts palates as it twists tongues ($9). Peckish philosophers sate themselves on the paradoxes of Lil’s Hell Yeah burger, whose ground beef, bacon, and sautéed onions come in the mayonnaise-enriched grip of two grilled-cheese sandwiches ($12).