For years I’ve walked up and down St. Paul Street, buying last-minute groceries at Eddie’s Market and late-night snacks at University Market. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I sat down at the Charles Village Pub (CVP) for the first time.
I want to preface this article by acknowledging that CVP is a community — not necessarily a Hopkins — establishment, despite its proximity to the Homewood Campus. Maybe that’s the allure of this well-loved restaurant; the weekend crowds transcend the connotations of a college bar. They are predominantly Charles Village locals whose faces have become familiar solely from my frequent walks past CVP.
Unpretentious, positive vibes radiate from the restaurant’s socially-distanced outdoor seating. The tables overflow into the street and seem to almost always be at full capacity by the time the kitchen closes at 8 p.m. on the weekends. There is indoor seating, but to be safe and to take advantage of the gorgeous weather, my friends and I snagged a spot outside. We were greeted with a big smile from a waiter and provided with slips of paper to help with contact tracing.
Aside from the overtly pleasant atmosphere and immensely pleasurable people watching, the food and drink options are the most enjoyable aspects of the CVP experience.
In terms of drinks, $5 can get you an appropriately named cocktail, such as a St. Paul Sunrise (tequila, orange juice and a splash of grenadine) or a CV Spritzer (vodka, cranberry juice and a splash of Sprite). For an extra $2, you can opt to substitute rail alcohol with a premium brand. Given their strength and size, one mixed drink could easily last you the evening.
The beer list includes locally brewed brands, such as Mr. Trash Wheel’s Lost Python Ale, a session India pale ale by Peabody Heights Brewery. A portion of the proceeds goes toward the Healthy Harbor Initiative to keep the Inner Harbor clean. Other local breweries include The Brewer’s Art, Oliver Brewing Company and Monument City Brewing Company.
Although it’s entirely possible to go to CVP just for the drinks, it would be remiss not to mention the incredibly indulgent bar food. I highly recommend ordering the burger, but there is a veggie burger option if you’re a vegetarian or don’t eat red meat. Other classic bar foods, including a plethora of things that have been battered and fried, are crowd-pleasing, communal appetizers.
Perhaps due to my senior year nostalgia, or maybe because of the year-long quarantine, sitting in the middle of the street watching Hopkins students meander around — either excitedly darting into Eddie’s Liquor and making plans for the night or trekking home from the library with an overfilled backpack — was oddly comforting.
After a while, the cigarette smoke from passersby and the lively conversations from neighboring tables blended into one warm, familiar ambiance. Part of me was kicking myself for not coming to CVP earlier in my college career, and another part of me was filled with the melancholic realization that I would have to say some form of “goodbye” in May to the people at my table.
Above all, I felt content — happy to sit among the regulars and take in the sights of St. Paul Street.