Local Life and Lore in Baltimore

All you need to know to blend in with the crowd in Baltimore, Maryland.
By: Christianna McCausland
Related To:

Big Mac’s Baltimore Connection

More 50 years ago, two immigrants from Greece began baking bread in the basement of their Baltimore City row house. That operation, H&S Bakeries, is now the largest specialty hearth baker on the East Coast and makes the buns for McDonald's on the Eastern seaboard. More importantly, this Fells Point-based operation gives its neighborhood the mouthwatering scent of freshly baking bread and locals know to pick up a bargain loaf at the H&S outlet store on Fleet Street.

Funky Food Fetishes

You aren’t a Baltimorean until you know how to steam and pick crabs, and you will be chided as a novice if you don’t know that the only way to steam crabs is with Old Bay Seasoning. The zesty seasoning mix in the yellow, blue and red tin often keeps company on restaurant tables with the salt and pepper and is as good stirred into shrimp salad or shaken over French fries as it is on the state’s beloved crustaceans. The only thing Baltimoreans miss more than crabs when they're away from home are Berger Cookies. The invention of German immigrant bakers, Berger Cookies consist of a doughy cookie slathered with a thick layer of rich chocolate icing.

What’s a Hon, Hon?

If there is an icon of Baltimore’s big-hearted, blue collar roots, it is the "Hon." Popularized in movies by Baltimore filmmaker John Waters, a Hon is both a kitschy stereotype -- a working-class gal with a beehive hairdo and cat's-eye glasses -- and a friendly local phrase as in, "Would you like coffee with that order of pie, hon?" While a dying breed, hons are still celebrated at Cafe Hon in Hampden, which puts on a "Hon Fest" annually.

"O" Say Can You Sing

Baltimore’s baseball team is the Orioles but are known as 'O's. When the national anthem is sung at sporting events -- or anywhere, really -- be prepared for everyone to shout "O!" in the line “oh say does that star- spangled banner still wave” in honor of the home team.

Remember the Mayflower

Baltimoreans have a keen memory and a deep love for their past, which is why the city has some emotional baggage when it comes to football. The city revered its former team, the Colts, which had a storied past and birthed some of the most iconic players in the history of the game, chiefly Johnny Unitas (also known as "The Golden Arm.") In 1984, the Colts infamously left town under cover of darkness in Mayflower moving vans. Getting NFL football back in Baltimore has alleviated the sting of that nasty breakup, but people still speak wistfully of the Colts and no one looks at a Mayflower truck without a pang of bittersweet regret.


The sport of lacrosse has gained some national prominence in recent years, but it has always had importance of close to biblical proportions in Baltimore. Children are given miniature lacrosse sticks at birth; schools like Johns Hopkins are practically synonymous with the game. If you need to brush up on your stats, hit the Lacrosse Museum and Hall of Fame.

Natty Boh

Locals never ask for a National Bohemian beer, they ask for a Natty Boh, the unofficial beer of Baltimore. This is the home-brewed brand that invented the six-pack and whose one-eyed mascot with the handlebar mustache, "Mr. Boh," has become a fixture of Baltimore folk culture (and is immortalized on a huge, winking neon sign atop the former National Brewing Company).

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