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Danny Coker: Baltimore Born and Bred

Posted by on in July 2016 Editions
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Baltimore has changed a lot over the last few decades, but Danny Coker is one man who has remained pretty constant throughout his life growing up here in Charm City. From his days of playing shortstop at Calvert Hall, to now co-owning Bartenders on Boston St, Danny embodies the spirit of the city and the industry. Just five minutes and five customers into opening it is easy to see how entrenched in the fabric of the community he really is.

Danny is well known by locals who grew up with him as a fun-loving and loquacious "Highlandtown boy" from Clinton St. Now he has become better known for his work behind the bar with his wife Dana; and still for that unending energy.

There is no secret or mystery behind the name of the bar as Danny explains, "It was for friends that happened to be bartenders and we figured we'd name it simply." The simplicity of the concept and name is just as evident in the feeling while you're there. To say that Danny makes everyone feel comfortable is an extraordinary understatement.

Perhaps it was that comfortability that lead to Danny and Dana's first encounter and eventual marriage. "She came up to the service well and asked if there was anything she should know. I told her, 'Don't call your tickets out of order and don't fall in love with me.' She didn't listen." Another example of how Danny's exuberance and humble confidence attracts the people around him.

While only there for an hour-or-so, Danny told stories about growing up on Clinton street, watching old Orioles games at both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, and telling Cal Ripken Jr. he was going to take his spot as shortstop. Needless to say he was never able to take Cal's spot, but Danny is certainly becoming his own kind of hometown hero.

With much more than enthusiasm, Danny explained what he thinks his reason for success is, and what has earned him the award for best neighborhood bar from The City Paper. "We're the locals. I'm born and raised a spitting distance from the bar. I think most people can attest that everything I do has stayed pretty consistent. Even the good and the bad."

Upon each customer's entry Danny offers an embrace that only a Baltimorean understands. More than obvious is the "come on in, Hon" attitude and the constant reminder that all are, not only welcome, but well-known.

Bartender's was also featured in Baltimore Magazine as one of "Baltimore's 50 Best Bars" and has won a variety of other awards. Again, Danny's answer rang out consistency. Attributing the simplest things to the successes of the bar he said, "Pizzas, whiskeys, and beers; the everlasting." While it may seem too easy and too simple, It is Danny's energy that makes it look so smooth.

He continued, "Cocktail bars, wine bars, martini bars, but that stuff goes up and down."

Danny's focus on the things that stay consistent helps convey that relaxing, end-of-the-day-drink feeling. The go-to's that are always behind the bar and always on tap help convey the warm welcome feeling through the menu too.

As much as Bartenders is a neighborhood and industry staple, Danny and Dana don't shy away from trying their own things that aren't typical. "The Bartender's Last Waltz" from Glendalough Distillery is one of two different batches of whisky specially made for Danny and the bar. The second is "Coker and Hansen: The Danny James Barrel" from Jim Beam. 

Even as they branch out, Danny keeps bringing business back to Baltimore as he hooked up with Key Brewing Company out of Dundalk, Maryland. Using the Jim Beam barrel, the guys at Key are aging a batch of their "On Point Ale". An exciting collaboration that makes Bartender's the great neighborhood bar that it is.

Part of being in the industry is having that late night place to go and get food and be comfortable after a long shift. Part of being a hard working individual requires the same. Every part of Danny and Bartender's offers exactly what every day needs.

If you could have any other career, what would it be?  (Almost before I could finish the question) Shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles.

One person you'd most like to serve?  Brooks Robinson. Besides my dad, I have a tendency to use people that aren't dead... that'd be a little freaky. 

Favorite restaurant experience?  Having fresh octopus in Santorini, Greece

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Doug is a graduate of Albright College with a Bachelor of Arts in both Psychology as well as Sociology.  He is also a talented bartender/server and enjoys writing about the licensed beverage industry.