Open Bar


(Dan Eldridge)

Baltimore, MD

Year opened 2013

Distinguishing features Don’t expect to spot Eightbar from the sidewalk. Instead, you’ll need to enter Baltimore’s legendary Atomic Books, a pop-culture emporium where local journalists often appear to read from their latest books, and which offers an unmatchable selection of hard-to-find magazines. Inside Atomic is where you’ll find Eightbar, tucked into a modest, living room-sized space at the back of the shop.

Artistic license Eightbar’s most eclectic feature? That would be the top of the L-shaped bar itself, which acts as something of an homage to Daniel Clowes, a comic artist and illustrator. Indeed, every last square inch of the bar pops with Clowes’ neurotic, oddball artwork, including magazine covers commissioned by The New Yorker. Clowes’ best-known comic book series, “Eightball,” provided inspiration for the bar’s name.

Signature drink Eightbar’s drink menu is heavy on locally-made ales and craft beer. The best seller? Probably a 12-ounce can of Duckpin Pale Ale, which happens to be brewed less than a mile from the store.

On the record It may sound like the stuff of urban legend, but among Baltimore’s literary cognoscenti, it’s a well-known fact that filmmaker John Waters has been having his fan mail forwarded to Atomic Books for the past 20 years. “When [Waters] saw that we’d opened a bar,” says Atomic Books co-owner Benn Ray, “I think he was rather concerned that we would have to deal with drunks.”

Off the record While nearly every bit of artwork in Atomic’s backroom bar displays the telltale signs of Clowes’ trademark style, Ray claims to have hidden small samples of other underground art throughout the space. Cult cartoonists who’ve been given the Eightbar treatment include Chris Ware, Peter Bagge, and Tony Millionaire.

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Dan Eldridge is a CJR contributor.