When it comes to the history of Baltimore and the theme of Halloween, the first place that comes to my mind is Annabel Lee Tavern, a small corner restaurant located off the beaten path in Canton. The name, Annabel Lee, is based off author Edgar Allan Poe’s last completed poem before his death in 1849.
When I was in my senior year of college, one of my classes focused on influential American authors and Poe was one of the writers we were able to spend time learning about. During that time, two friends and I made a road trip from California, Pennsylvania, to Baltimore for a Chuck Palahniuk reading, and we were able to stop at several of the Poe establishments while there.
Poe has obviously had a huge impact on Baltimore, perhaps most notably the city’s football team, the Ravens, being named after his famous poem of the same name. Many articles written about Poe describe him as an unhappy man who focused his work on the death of beautiful women. His writing is described as dark and gothic, and history of the author is littered with stories of his bouts with alcohol and opioids (though now most literary critics simply say his downfall of fame was more about him having a bad PR team, rather than substance abuse).
Either way, it is believed that Poe knew how to enjoy a good drink when it was needed, as his last noted public sighting before being taken to a hospital was at a bar called Gunner’s Hall on East Lombard street. Though that bar is no longer in existence, Annabel Lee Tavern is, and what better way to get into the Halloween spirit than to do what Poe would do and enjoy a drink at a little tavern in my neighborhood?
I have been to Annabel Lee several times since living in Baltimore. Not only does the restaurant host locals and regulars but it also has become a draw for Poe fans who come from out of the city. Famous lines from the poets work are displayed both outside and inside the building and the dimly lit atmosphere fits Poe’s dark romance themes perfectly.
The menu features a cocktail list with Poe themed drinks, such as Masque of the Red Death, and my personal favorite, the Manhattintabulation. The appetizers and main courses are delicious as well, making it the perfect spot for an afternoon drink or even dinner. My friends and I like to order a bunch of different things and then share, and we haven’t found a dish we don’t like! Our favorites include the duck fat fries, Resurrection Mac n Cheese, and the BBQ Shrimp and Grits.
If you haven’t been to Annabel Lee Tavern then make it part of your Halloween plans this year. It combines the spookiness of the holiday with the charm and history of the city. And if you’re visiting from outside the city, make sure you visit Poe’s house and museum, and his grave, both located in the city as well!