The Rendezvous Lounge, located at the corner of 25th and Howard streets, is Baltimore's premier dive bar†. It's not nice, it's not pretty, but it's cheap as hell, and, according to at least some people (your faithful writer included) it's the best bar in the city. It is populated primarily by serious alcoholics, current or former crack whores, and other such miscreants. Since the Ottobar moved into a space down the block last year, the indie rock contingent has increased dramatically, and a fairly significant portion of the patrons seem to work in the restaurant business (Anthony Bourdain's books seem to provide some insight into this). Be warned that you will have to deal with some rather weird situations at this place, especially if you are alone. I am, by far, not the most approachable looking person in the world, and I have been propositioned by extremely nasty women, had people try to talk me into lending them money or staying at my house, and so on. Just tonight‡, I had to finish off most of a whiskey and coke in 20 seconds and escape out the door while a homeless women, who was trying to convince me to let her stay at my place in return for certain 'favors', was in the bathroom. If nothing else, this place teaches you how to do quick thinking under pressure while drunk.
The jukebox is one of the best in Baltimore - Tom Waits, Radiohead, Patsy Cline, and Black Sabbath are all well represented. Unfortunately, most people insist on playing either really bad '70s crap or pop punk, but if you get fed up you can toss in a couple of quarters and show the plebeians what real music is. There is a single pool table, which is almost always in use. Never, ever play with anyone you don't know, because otherwise you will get ripped off or fucked with, somehow. I'm warning you.
The 'vous is staffed by two types of people: young, hip 20-somethings who will get you your drinks quickly and efficiently, while seeming to maintain conversations with roughly half the people at the bar, and older (45-60) bartenders, who are cranky, slow, and rather hard of hearing (so you either have to repeat your order 3 times, or you'll get the wrong drink). The oldest and crankiest of these bartenders is the owner, who usually only works in the afternoons but does occasionally show up at night. Be polite or he'll have you thrown out. The younger ones are usually pretty friendly, especially after you've been there more than a few times; Valentine's Day 2001, my roommate and I got completely hammered when a bartender took pity on us and gave us free drinks all night.
Perhaps the most telling characteristic of the Rendezvous is that if you order a "whiskey and Coke", you'll get Coke and some seriously nasty rotgut that the bottle claims is whiskey of some kind. But it's only $2, and it's about 50% 'whiskey' - if you're a drunk it's a really nice deal. On the other hand, if you're looking for something fancy in your drinks, you better tell them up-front (or, better, go someplace else). This is a bar that is for serious drinking first, socializing second or more likely third. That said, a fair number of rather cute girls are there at any one time (sorry ladies, I don't keep track of the number of cute guys who show up), though it varies strongly from night to night. As an aside, most of cute girls that are around are completely crazy, and not in a good way, so be careful. You can buy crack in the bathroom, but enjoying your purchase on the premises would be a bad move.
The number of people in the 'vous seems to follow some mysterious pattern that could probably only be discerned by that guy in Pi. I've been there on Tuesdays when the place was completely packed, and Saturdays nights when there was only a half a dozen people. In some cases it's based on what show (if any) is going on at the Ottobar, but usually it seems completely random. Of course in general Friday and Saturday are the busiest nights, but there is no guarantee that you'll be able to sit down if you show up on a Monday.
At last call, all of the lights come on, which is not pleasant at all. Even less pleasant is that last call is 15-30 minutes before 2 AM (the official cut-off time in Baltimore City). And to make it even worse, unlike last call at normal bars, where it means "now is the last time you can order drinks", last call the the 'vous means "get the fuck out now, or we will toss you out". If you want a drink after the last call has been declared, it helps if you have a few brownie points with whoever is on duty that night (such as
having given them cigarettes or fat tips in the past, or being a well-behaved regular).
The 'vous is not exactly in the nicest of neighborhoods. While I have walked there, often alone, well over a hundred times in the last two and a half years without any problems, many people might feel uncomfortable doing the same. In particular, I would in all honesty recommend that women not walk in the area alone -- a friend of mine, Lucianne, tuff girl extraordinaire, well versed in kung fu and women's self defense, would refuse to walk to the 'vous unaccompanied by a male, and I have known people who were robbed at gunpoint within half a block of the place.
The 'vous is open 365 days a year (Christmas, Thanksgiving, you name it), between 2 PM and 2 AM. Show up, get loaded, pass out on your couch. Truly, the Rendezvous is an American tradition.
†: Not to be confused with the other Rendezvous Lounge in Baltimore, a recently opened, hoighty-toighty, $10/drink singles bar. Fuck them.
‡: By tonight I'm referring to a night in late July 2003, which is when I wrote this. If I wrote it all the way back then, why is it only getting posted in March 2004? Long story....
This is a redo of one of my earliest writeup attempts. No, not relevant to anything.