Get Outta Town! Explore Baltimore's Hippest 'Hood With Our Go-To Guide

With pre-spring temps already reaching the low 80s, we’ve really only got one thing on our minds: cooking up kick-ass day trips to get us out of D.C. before the tourists roll in. While it feels a little early to plan outings to big bodies of water, it's the perfect time to look to nearby metropolitan areas for a well-deserved break. Baltimore is but an hour’s drive from D.C., but has a decidedly different feel than our nation’s capital.
Charm City is small-town, kitschy by nature (John Waters, etc., etc.), and not nearly as terrifying as a certain award-winning HBO series would have you believe. There are tons of worthwhile neighborhoods to explore, but today, we’re focusing on Hampden, since most of its coolest points of interest are centrally located on or around West 36th Street (also known as "The Avenue"). Here, you can chow down, fuel up, and check out superb shops without straining one bit to see it all. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite go-tos, but since "cool and unexpected" is Hampden's M.O., be sure to venture off our beaten path with some spontaneous wandering.
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Golden West Café
The Golden West is a Hampden standby — if the thrift-store-cool furnishings don’t lure you in, the awesome meal choices for carnivores and vegans/vegetarians alike will. A hip staff slings everything from Tex-Mex egg dishes to burgers, with a palpable farm-to-table bent. Busier on the weekends, Golden West is also perfect for a quiet mid-week dining experience. Stop in to indulge in breakfast-for-dinner — check out the (vegetarian!) huevos monteleños for a little slice of eggy heaven.

Where: 1105 W. 36th Street; 410-889-8891.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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Doubledutch Boutique
Doubledutch is the modern-wear boutique you want to hit while in Hampden. Stocking an array of lower-priced brands — Dear Creatures and BB Dakota, for starters — Doubledutch is also a great place to pick up affordable, unique accessories. Most necklaces clock in under $30 and take the shape of whistles and bows; most earrings are under $20 and are just whimsical enough to go with everything. Be sure to peep the small but well-curated rack of handmade apparel, too.

Where: 3616 Falls Road; 410-554-0055.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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Airy home-goods emporium Trohv stocks new and vintage goods for every room of your house, from the kitchen to the home office to the bedroom. There are fun novelties (freezable whisky stones), baby gifts, substantial furniture pieces, and even candles and personal accessories (read: jewelry!). It’ll be hard to leave this multi-level shop without a new favorite item — but go ahead and try.

Where: 921 W. 36th Street; 410-366-3456.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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16 Tons
This handsome store — which smells amazing, by the way — is the spot to hit for classic heritage menswear. Japanese raw selvedge denim and Portland General Store grooming supplies? Yep, 16 Tons stocks ‘em. Beyond the new clothes, there’s also a well-curated stock of vintage, and any sort of button-down or basic pant a dude could desire. Be sure to check out the shelf devoted to Lowside magazine, a glossy about homemade motorcycles, or “garage-built suicide machines.”

Where: 1100 W. 36th Street; 410-554-0101.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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9th Life
Looking for a Charm City souvenir that doesn’t necessarily have “Baltimore!” cheesily emblazoned on it? Check out the quirky goods at 9th Life, where the accessories — like a plastic toy pizza slice-turned-hair barrette — are more accurate reminders of the city’s kitschy feel. Expect plenty of handmade fun, plus a good selection of vintage clothes.

Where: 833 W. 36th Street; 410-534-9999.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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“Progressive American Coffee” is this joint’s tagline, and right they are — the brews at Spro are good enough to make the most adamant coffee-hater sing a different tune. Java geekery is encouraged and celebrated here, where they grind up all sorts of tasty artisan beans and employ seven taste-tested brewing methods to ensure you receive the most delicious cup. Drip-coffee haters won’t know what hit ‘em. Refuel for the rest of your Hampden adventure at this chill spot.

Where: 851 W. 36th Street; 410-243-1262.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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True Vine
The music nerd’s dream retail experience, True Vine is an honest-to-goodness record shop that also sells a rad selection of cassette tapes (yes, tapes!) and CDs. Dedicated lovers of recorded sound will find their favorites and something new and cool to check out here, not to mention releases from local labels Ehse and Megaphone.

Where: 3544 Hickory Avenue; 410-235-4500.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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Atomic Books
Atomic Books is something of an institution — no matter what you’re in the mood to read, it’s probably sold at Atomic. Here, you’ll find a superb selection of everything from literature to graphic novels, hard-to-find magazines, and smutty indie comics. The offerings are rounded out with a solid toy stock: action figures, plush goodies, and highly collectible art toys. It’s a one-stop shop for pretty much all your indie-minded literary needs — and don’t neglect the back of the store, where you’ll find the Celebrated Summer Records vinyl shop.

Where: 3620 Falls Road; 410-662-4444.

Photographed by Alison Baitz
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Grano Pasta Bar
Time to double down on your starchy cravings: Grano Pasta Bar is where you want to head for straight-up, so-tasty pasta dishes. The Hampden location is a cozy incarnation of the nearby Grano Emporium, with a handful of tables to make all patrons feel like total royalty. You choose your sauce (Hint: gorgonzola-walnut is mighty tasty) and type of pasta, and round it out with an appetizer or dessert, if you're really famished.

Where: 1031 W. 36th Street; 443-869-3429.

Photographed by Alison Baitz

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