Apparently, our little ‘ville is #49 on Money Magazine’s top places to live in 2007. It must be the picturesque Friendly’s downtown that tipped the scales. Or, maybe it’s the drunks stumbling out of Bar at 9AM. Whatever their criteria, the fact remains: we still don’t have a good restaurant within walking distance of the house. (Word has it that the one restaurant that’s actually worth a damn has been chasing off other prospective restaurateurs with obscure liquor ordinance rules, something that has soured us on ever ordering crabs from them again.)
I was talking with a client who’s in a semi-related field a few weeks ago, and he mentioned the recent implosion of the Baltimore advertising community. He compared this town to New York and DC, and said that we’ve never fostered a real advertising community here because all the shops in town are founded on a burning hatred of one another. Everyone steals clients from everyone else, the employees bounce from place to place, burn out, and eventually all the firms blow up and reform into other firms.
If that’s how it actually is, then they should take a chapter from the bustling restaurant scenes downtown, in Fell’s Point, and over in Canton. Having one good restaurant in town is great, until the regular patrons get sick of the menu. Having two restaurants across the street from each other is better, because A. if one is full, people can go to the other, and B. people flock to areas where multiple restaurants are concentrated. We are Americans. We want choices, because we’re fickle Wal-Mart shoppers, not Soviet citizens waiting in lines for soap and toilet paper. Look at every homogenized strip mall erected in the last twenty years: there’s a mexican chain, a steakhouse chain, and an italian chain. Around them are smaller fast food chains. None of them are hurting; on the contrary, there’s a two-hour wait for an overcooked, underflavored slab of meat, and there’s only Miller Lite on tap. But there are choices, and that makes us happy.
There is strength in numbers, in both advertising and local restaurants. When an area has enough of one thing to reach a critical mass (quality advertising shops or locally-owned restaurants) then people will start showing up. People will come from the other side of the country and the other side of town to check out the scene. And if the food is good, they’ll keep coming back.