There is always something comforting about a dive bar that pops up out of nowhere, a residential block that by some miracle of zoning laws still features a timeless dive. Baltimore’s Butts & Betty’s Tavern in the Upper Fells Point neighborhood is a perfect example, the only indication that a business of any kind exists on its city block a small door cut out of the corner of a towering townhome-style building. The signature Butts & Betty’s Tavern sign hangs above the front door on an angle, no embellishment needed to the block letters on a yellow background. Around the corner, a marquee offers a sometimes rotating message often advertising the presence of an ATM and keno-style gambling inside.
The neon here is restricted to one of the bar’s two transparent windows, the inscription a list of everything important in life: “Lottery & Sandwiches.” The neon’s pale red glow offers some of the scarce illumination inside, giving everything a light red tint. Opaque glass blocks appear in spots along the exterior of the building and around the front door, ensuring that only the suggestion of daylight creep inside.
The business is proudly woman owned and operated, a family-run business across four generations (so far). Yuengling is the drink here, the glowing clock in the center of the bar one of a few references to the regional favorite. Liquor sits in closed glass cabinets among other perches inside, giving off the vibe of a curio cabinet in a grandmother’s living room, which only adds to the ambiance within. A classic neighborhood corner spot in southeast Baltimore, Butts and Betty’s is about as straightforward as a dive bar experience can be.