You don’t need anything in Hampden. (Except for the stuff from Royal Farms and cash from the bank.) But if you take your wallet and your sense of adventure you’re going to bring home everything.
Hampden is a slice of old Baltimore northwest of downtown. It definitely has its own quirky flair. Chain-smoking teenagers, hipsters and well-heeled ladies-who-lunch share the sidewalk as they window shop. Some of the shops are open every day. And some open only on weekends. Parking is usually pretty easy to find during the day — It’s 50 cents an hour but some spots you have to back into.
More than 100 merchants have shops on The Avenue, 36th Street between Falls Road and Chestnut Avenue, as well as around most of the corners. And they sell everything: baby clothes, antiques, old books, jewelry, shoes and chocolate — in the same shop — furniture, household goods and The Perfect Gift. I know I’ve bought The Perfect Gift here a dozen times.
Paradiso has everything from antique furniture to trendy earrings. Atomic Books has books from comic to well, go look. Trohv has lots of those Perfect Gifts, with new and vintage home gifts and all kinds of stuff you discover you can’t live without. For men, stop at Sixteen Tons for classic threads, accessories and clothes you can’t find anywhere else around town. The Wine Source probably has that wine you were looking for — as well as beer, spirits and some great cheese.
And while you’re shopping, you’ll meet the shopkeepers, including Nancy Brady who will probably be at her potters wheel, if it’s her day to staff Wild Yam Pottery. If you like brightly painted furniture, stop in Hanging on a Whim.
It’s near Ma Petite Shoe — a couple of porches away from Ma Petite Shoe, where brides go for their wedding shoes and heartbroken women go for comfort. It’s okay to stop in just for shoes and chocolate, whatever your romantic condition. The shop owner has opened Choux next door, a little cafe with coffee and tea drinks, pastries and light lunch favorites.
Which brings me to lunch. If you’re going to Hampden, bring your appetite. Whether you like a slice of pizza or an ice cream cone — or a craft beer and the chef’s newest whim — you’ll find it here. The restaurants range from carry-out to gourmet, with a range of menus and price points in between. Some of them always have room for another diner. Some are so popular you can’t get a reservation without advance planning. With nearly 40 restaurants, you’ll find something you like.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman
Top photo by Brigid Truitt