Trinacria is like New Orleans’s Central Grocery or Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros., an old-school sandwich shop with counter staff who love to yak it up with the customers, nearly all of whom are regulars. Any time you can get a taste of neighborhood relationships with your juicy hot sandwich, your day is starting strong.
Properly fortified, we decide to check out what street signs tout as the “Station North Arts and Entertainment District,” a strip of North Charles Street near the Amtrak station that is in early-stage gentrification, that strangely alluring phase in which boarded-up buildings, empty lots, homeless men sprawled across stoops, warmly welcoming coffee spots and experimental theaters share the streetscape, all waiting to be displaced by developers with bigger ideas and deeper pockets.
On a cold morning on the cusp of snow, we duck into the Bohemian Coffee House, which bills itself on a sign inside as “Baltimore’s best place to take awkward dates.” Sure enough, the room is buzzing — literally — with the jew’s-harp stylings of Ian Hesford from the Baltimore tribal jam band Telesma, which specializes in mesmerizing trance and electronic music with a Middle Eastern and Central Asian flavor.
Hesford, accompanied by a jovial drummer who chats mid-session with customers a few tables away, switches from the mouth harp to the didgeridoo, the Australian wind instrument made from hollowed-out eucalyptus trees. And between the music, the hipster vibe, the impressive selection of loose teas and the “Sexy in Soot” wall calendar featuring working guys in hard hats, we feel as if we’ve walked onto an indie film set. (On the other hand, we parked for free and the musicians played for tips. Cheap and easy, once more.)
There’s a self-conscious celebration of the intersection between grit and hip going on here — look how authentic we are, the neighborhood’s new arrivals seem to be saying; or as a local headline put it: “Station North: Is It Brooklyn Yet?” — and it comes off as a bit precious. Somehow, it’s a relief to step outside, walk around the corner and exchange greetings with a couple of guys lying on the pavement in front of a long-dead movie theater.
The art of parking
But the artsy crowd in Station North gets us in the mood for the twice-monthly open house at the Bromo Tower, that delightful bit of early 20th-century corporate fantasy architecture on South Eutaw Street near the ballpark. Modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the ornate 15-story tower is best known for that iconic clock, which spells out the name of the patent medicine once produced in a factory attached to the office building.