It’s a wint’ry night, say towards the end of the work week, the weekend is coming upon us, and the first flakes of snow are dotting the streets of Mount Vernon. The heart yearns for a cold pint of stout to warm the “deep heart’s core”, as the great Irish poet W.B Yeats might say. It’s nights like this make me feel most poignantly the fragmentation of our modern condition. And it’s on nights like these that I feel my myself drawn to the warm hearth of Dougherty’s Pub at 223 Chase Street in Mount Vernon. There I might down a few drams o’ stout, chuckle with friends, and on the first Thursday of every month hear the sounds of a traditional Irish music session. Despite its large size Dougherty’s always feels comfortable. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s never too crowded, and it’s not a “meat market” where one must engage in The Hunt. It’s more of a place to meet up with old friends for burgers and beer. Their burgers are made from real groundbeef (not always the case), and if you want it rare they will cook it up rare and serve it with homemade fries. Staple Irish beers Guinness and Murphy’s flow freely from tap and can. Recently I’ve gotten into Murphy’s (see picture), which has a little more flavor and a drier mouth feel than Guinness. Many people describe Murphy’s as tasting like chocolate milk, so maybe that adds to the spots homey feel. Whatever you think it tastes like, its smooth, creamy, and inky black like the night from which you are seeking shelter. The clientele is diverse, which speaks to the good quality of the bar, the bar lends its walls to MICA artists so there’s a Baltimoreesque contradiction between the dark pub and the trippy canvasses.
On the first Thursday of the month, Dougherty’s hosts an Irish session. Like a jazz jam session, the Irish variety uses common melodies as the starting points for improvisation. The trio we saw was made up of acclaimed local accordion, piano and fiddle players. There’s a low key yet energizing feel to the tunes which lead in and out of one another, and, whether one hails from the Emerald Isle or not, the traditional melodies tap into the common folk past of all peoples. There’s an uplifting feel to it all. What I mean to say is, this music has got SOUL. One more thing to report, last week a friend left her phone at Dougherty’s, and Mr. Bill Dougherty himself was at the pub at 9am the next day, holding on to the phone. This clinched Dougherty’s for me as my new Favorite Bar in Baltimore. Next time that you’re feeling as alienated as a young James Joyce, picking your way over the cobblestones of Old Baltimoretown, stop in for a swig of black malt, warm up with hearty fare, and take a brief respite against winter’s chill.