Racers' Cafe


7732 Harford Rd
Baltimore, Maryland, 21234-6404
United States

(410) 882-5212 | map

View: Place Reviews | Events
Reviews: 15 | Ratings: 19
Photo of mynie
4.58/5  rDev +14.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.25

What the heck? I've been living in my current place for a year and half and no one bothered to tell me that Baltimore County's best beer bar was 7 minutes away, straight down Harford Road?

Racers' is not a cafe in the usual sense, as such places tend to have food. It is a dedicated beer and liquor bar. BYOF. There's like a dozen good takeout restaurants within a 3 minute drive, too.

The vibe is kind of divey, but completely bereft of pretense. There's a large backyard patio for smoking, a jukebox that mostly plays indie rock from the 90s and early 2000's, and plenty of seating. It is, in short, a neighborhood bar--they host concerts and cornhole tournaments and 75% of the patrons at any given time are regulars. But they're still friendly and welcoming to newbies.

As Racers' is pretty old, their selection is of a sort that would have been super impressive ten years ago but it now what you'd find at most newer restaurants, and far more narrow than what you'd get at a place like, say, Max's. This is not a bad thing, because it means the selection is more focused and carefully curated, and the prices are about as good as you're gonna find in a major city in 2018. The taps are constantly rotating and listed on a chalkboard and the bartenders are wonderfully blunt about each one. If they don't like something, they'll say so--they don't patronize you by trying to get you to try each beer. They also don't ask the dumbass "what style to you like" question, either: good beer is good beer, and they realize that good beer is good beer.

Also, the lack of snobbery means that you can actually access the rarer stuff without hassle--it don't sell out right away, and you don't need to be best buds with the bartender.

They do a happy hour on weekdays before 7 PM. You get three 12 ounce pours all served to you at once for 9 bucks. I defy you to find a better deal.

Now, as a caveat, I've only been there a few times, and always during daylight (evening daylight, in the summertime). I can see a crowd like this (mostly white, working class townies aged 30-65) getting weird at night, because that's what always happened at the places I hung out at in Iowa. But if you're in the area, I'd definitely recommend you stop by.

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Photo of JOldewurtel
4.03/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

I really love this place. Probably the best craft beer selection for a bar in the area. As others have noted, no food, but other than that. No issues at all. Solid service and always a great selection of beer.

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Photo of toolg
3.76/5  rDev -6.2%
vibe: 2.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Essentially this is a craft beer mecca for locals, located in a hole-in-the-wall bar. The selection is awesome, they have 15 drafts which they rotate continuously so I can usually find something new or interesting available. If not, they have plenty of choices available in bottles. There is a liquor store attached with a nice selection to get something to go. I don't always go out to drink, but this is easily my #1 choice for local (to me) beer bars. I would not necessarily recommend this to out-of-towners unless they were coming through the immediate area, since parking is only available on the street (and the nearby meter-parking lot is about to be sold to build a Walgreens).

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Photo of AngusOg
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

i'm a little biased to this place because it is my go to watering hole because it is very close to home. The thing i like about it is it has a very laid back neighborhood bar type vibe, but with good beer. There's always a ton of regulars in there so i'm always running into some one i know or just some one i have seen and talked to over the years in there. But even if you're not a regular, the people are almost always friendly enough that you can strike up a conversation. The beer selection is pretty good, they have 15 taps which are always rotating, and two regulars, Guinness and Miller Lite. The always seem to have about 2-4 hoppy selections. They have a good bottle selection of Belgians and other interesting things too. The other great thing is that this place is reasonably priced. They are also expanding soon with a bar on the other side with a bunch more taps, and food which right now they do not have. I don't know when this is going to happen as it has been in the works for years, but it looks like they are almost there, and i'm curious to see if it changes the vibe of the place at all. The other great thing is that it is attached to an abone average liquor store. And sice it is attached to a bar, it is open on Sundays, holidays, and always open late. This is not the place i would recommend for someone coming in from out of town to seek out unless you're already in the area for some reason, but for anyone near NE Baltimore or Baltimore County area that's close to here that has not been here it is definitely worth a stop.

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Photo of weller1js
4.28/5  rDev +6.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5

From the outside, Racer's looks like a hole-in-the wall that only is there to substantiate the adjoining seven-day liquor store Harford Beverage Co. (got to love MD liquor laws). But looks can be deceiving.

atmosphere: While currently the place is rather small with only a 20-25 foot hook-bar, two bar-height island tables, and 7-8 regular tables, they have acquired and renovated the other-adjoining storefront for additional bar space that has yet to be opened as of Thanksgiving 2010. Even with its current accommodations, the place never seems too cramped even when they're busy.

Up until recently, a rustic part of the atmosphere was the presence of peanut shells all over the black and white checkered flag linoleum floor, dispensed from an old Quaker-State oil can (they did away with the peanuts due to pest problems, but now offer less-messy bar-mix free of charge). Moreover, the place highlights its racing theme with displaying of NASCAR on race days on its 6-7 TV's. On other days you'll find on the TV's anything from Orioles and Ravens games to other football, baseball, soccer, whathaveyou. The bar also has a pool table in the back, some MD lottery-sponsored games (KENO, Racetrax-virtual horse racing), as well as a couple of arcade and "for amusement only" machines.

quality/service: In the proper context, quality and service at Racer's is great. Usually only 1-2 bartenders working (which is usually more than enough), friendly and tend to remember you if you come in enough.

selection: Surprisingly diverse. You would never think a little place like this would have such a great selection. Two chalkboards highlight both the bottled and on-tap selections.

Bottle selections are heavy on European beers, with Belgian ales being the most predominant, but they also have some of the more premium beers from local/regional craft brewers, the prices of which are not much more expensive than what you could buy them for at carryout in either their store or elsewhere.

The true crowd-pleaser is in their on-tap selection. With at least 12-13 beers regularly on tap (with what looks like a capacity for 16 total), there is an ever-changing selection of domestic craft and not-so-typical imported beers. There is something for everyone, the only mainstays on the tap rotation appear to be Miller Lite and Guinness (but that is usually as main-stream as they get, it is very common to hear someone come in and ask for a Bud or something similar and hear the bartender respond with "don't got it"). On-tap selection usually highlights a few seasonal beers, but you will occasionally find they put something rare or out-of-season out there. They have also been known to do special out-of-season events like Christmas beers in July. The adjoining Harford Beverage Co. also has a nice selection of craft and imported brews that is sometimes stocked better than some of the larger liquor stores in the area.

food: As noted before, free bar snacks upon request. They have no kitchen, but they usually don't mind if you bring in outside food.

value: The price is right, outside of their happy hour, beers on tap usually run no more than $6 for their rarer/special/seasonal beers, but most are usually in the $3-5 price range (with the Miller and Guinness running even cheaper).

Their happy hour special is the best around. Everyday (and that means Mon-Sun) before 7PM, three (3) different beers on tap for $6.99. Some of their more special beers are excluded from this deal, but there is still enough to choose from to make this deal tough to beat.

If you live in or around Baltimore, this place is worth many-a-try and will not disappoint.

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Photo of jgasparine
4.01/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

A total dive that you'd never expect to have such a fantastic selection of craft beer. From the outside it appears to be nothing special, and even on the inside (at first glance) one might take Racer's to be a simple neighborhood dive bar...

...but one look at their "beer menu" (really two chalkboards) and you will be amazed to see a fine selection of domestic and imported craft beer! What is that- a pint of Franziskaner Hefe for $3.50?? A 12oz mug of Palo Santo Matron for $5.00?? This is the CHEAPEST hi-quality craft beers I have seen at any bar! But wait, it gets better- order any three [different] mugs of draft beer simultaneously for $5.99!?!? THIS IS LUDICROUS!

Draft lines seem to be well maintained, which is good; but the bar staff don't seem to know about beer. No food available at the bar either other than chips.. but you can bringin take out though.

For the money i have to see this is hands down best value for craft beer at a bar in baltimore.

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Photo of belgianale
4.08/5  rDev +1.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

My gf finally convinced me to check this place out. It's in a fairly seedy part of town but not dangerous. Parking is pretty easyif you don't mind meters.

We walked in and it reminded me of many of the area dives complete with local color, free peanuts & shells all over the floor. But when we walked up to their beer lists (2 blackboards on the side wall) my jaw dropped.

Not only did they have one of the better lists of hard-to-find drought and bottled beers, but the prices were crazy low. Old Engine Oil and Corsendonk bottles for $4, Persuit of happiness and clipper city taps for $3.

Their selection isn't the biggest in Baltimore, but it's the most strategic and well thought out and by far the best value.

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Photo of gobias
3.94/5  rDev -1.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

This is a great bar for beer fans. They have a rotating supply of 12 to 16 micro brews on tap. Each week they change so they have a chalkboard listing the beers, the brewery, the location brewed in, and the alcohol content. As someone who likes to try new beers its nice to walk in and see what is new for the week.

A pitcher is 12.75 which is a fair price in this area for micro brews.

This is not a fancy place, they provide peanuts so there are shells on the floor. They also do not play the TV or music loud, so its an ideal place for meeting others and talking while enjoying the beer.

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Photo of orangedive
3.8/5  rDev -5.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5

I tried this place recently and had a pretty good time.

A - Racers definitely had a dive-bar atmosphere about it. Personally, I enjoy that laid-back, neighborhoody feel, so that was a plus. It was a little dark and the bar is situated in such a way that the TVs are a little hard to see. If you're looking for a great spot to watch sports, this isn't the place.

Q - Quality was good. Nothing to complain about. Place seemed fairly clean for a dive and beer tasted fresh and clean.

Ser - The service was the only thing not great. The bartender was attentive but rather unfriendly. If you're looking to chat with the bartender and be welcomed in like one of the family, don't go here. Other than that, the service was fine. I was never without beer and never had to ask.

Sel - The selection was outstanding. They had over 15 craft beers on tap.

F - I didn't have any food. I don't think they serve food.

V - Beers were cheap. Two pints for $5 during happy hour. Not bad at all.

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Photo of John_M
3.75/5  rDev -6.5%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3

Can't really add too much to what Umbra had to say. If I lived in the area (I'm very happy I don't) I'd probably frequent the place, as they do have a decent selection of beers with a couple of surprises (Harvistoun bitter and twisted on tap for instance). Racer's is sort of a local's dive bar, with very much of a blue collar vibe. Got the impression that most of the folks there were regulars and knew one another. The inside of the place is drab green color with old, shopworn looking chairs and stools. Racers has free (salty) peanuts, and patrons are encouraged to drop shells on the floor. This only adds to the dive/dump perception of the atmosphere here. There is a pool table in the back, but I've never seen anyone playing pool here. There were also 6 overhead televisions, 4 of which were tuned to the NASCAR station. Given the name of this place, I guess that should come as no surprise.

Service is OK. The bartender was attentive, if not particularly knowledgable about what's on tap. The list of beers is numbered on a chalk board, and when I ordered a Laganitas, his immediate response was "what number is that?" There were roughly 10 to 12 craft brew and import choices on draft, as well as 25 or 30 beers by the bottle (listed on a separate chalk board).

Some of the things here defy explanation. The chalk board has miller lite listed on it twice, with a "regular" version and a "wisconsin" version. They were not sold for the same price, so who knows what that means. I wasn't sufficiently interested or curious enough to ask.

So.... food. They don't really have a kitchen, but they have free peanuts and, the Sunday I was there, free hot dogs as well. I'm not sure if they have the dogs available all the time, or if they're only available on weekends. Again, they weren't so wonderful that I felt like I had to ask.

Once upon a time this place was considered one of the better beer bars in town. The annual Baltimore cask beer festival was held here every year and was always well attended. Nowadays Racer's holding such an event is unimaginable and they've long since stopped carrying cask conditioned ales (probably wouldn't be much appreciated by the local NASCAR crowd). Across the street there is a large gun shop that is/was having a going out of business sale. There are also quite a few fast food and somewhat decrepit looking restaurants on Harford Rd. The whole area sort of looks a bit seedy and rundown. Sort of describes racer's in a nutshell.

One thing I should add... due to a curious loophole in Maryland's archaic liquor laws, Racer's is able to sell beer to go on Sunday's. There is an attached but separate liquor store, but because it's attached to Racer's (you can walk from the bar into the bottle shop), I guess technically it's considered part of Racer's, who have a license to be open on Sunday. The beer selection in the bottle shop (strangely) is absolutely outstanding (nugget nectar, oak aged arrogant bastard, Southern Tier and Southampton to name but a few). This is all the more surprising as the Sunday I was there, most customers were buying pints and half pints of liquor (it's that kind of neighborhood). Whatever. This is one of the few places in Baltimore where you can buy 6 packs to go on Sunday. Anyway, because of the attached bottle shop, I upped both my selection and quality score by a half point (the bar itself pretty clearly doesn't merit a '4' IMHO).

Oh, almost forgot... At one time Racer's would serve 3 mugs of beer for $5. That has now changed. It's now 2 beers for $5, although the two beers are pint size (the mugs were 12 ounces I believe). Still one of the better deals you are likely to find in Baltimore.

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Photo of Umbra
3.81/5  rDev -5%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Ten year’s ago, I’d probably have told you that Racers was a great dive bar. But, I can’t seem to drag myself to tell you that it would be a worthwhile beer bar destination for anyone (save those folks who happen to live around these parts). Place is a bit dirty and rundown, with free snacks and cheap drinks (3 for $5). Selection better than most swill establishments and change somewhat. Would be great in Southern New Jersey.

Service was okay. Nice place to go for the Ravens games. Probably the only time people in the burbs will own up to be a Baltimorean. Great package joint next door that can even get kegs of good stuff.

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Photo of ecoboy
3.01/5  rDev -24.9%
vibe: 2 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5

Why does Racer's get such high marks in other reviews by my estimation? BA's like dives and have a soft spot for the "reality" of a situation [Racer's feels a lot more "real" than say, DuClaw or Iron Hill?] BA's like scrappy underdogs? BA's like to encourage microbrew appreciation in odd places? BA's liked the selection at the attached package store? BA's like to imagine Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen writing a song about them?

Because when I visited, the place was a pit. A woman with an infant was painting the woman's rest room door. I walked to the back room, where I thought I spotted a pool table and was confronted by what has to be the dirtiest, most broken down room I have ever seen in a well-reviewed BA bar. The main room has been bashed all to hell: ripped chair seats, marred walls painted in industrial green. Smoke has seeped into everything porous. There's a "Cherry Master" one-armed-bandit type machine from 1996, fer chrissake.

A for effort in terms of selection, but that's partially because of surroundings. 15 taps, and only 1 not available. Beerfly's from out of town who use the site to find "can't miss" beer bars (Okay, that's me, and that's why I ended up here) have certainly all been to a long list of establishments with a better selection.

Service was polite, but seemd to need to know the number of the beer tap, rather than the actual product name when ordering. Do I detect that you don't really know much about what's coming out of those taps?

Baltimore area has Max's, Oliver's, Brewer's Art, DuClaw and the Owl, and beeradvocate is citing this place?

Only, I repeat for the uninitiated, ONLY if you have been listening to "Nebraska" or reading Bukowski and have fun feeling seedy and downtrodden. (The movie on the TV when we stopped in could not have been more appropriate: Clint Eastwood with tuberculosis in "Honkytonk Man." At Racer's, they should only play movies with main characters who cough all the time.)

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Photo of ChrisBowers
4.34/5  rDev +8.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

This is a true gem of a place. Don't go here expecting fancy decor, or even passable decor for that matter. If you just wandered into this place you'd think it was the local neighborhood dive. Kinda a cross between a racing theme and beer bar, it does neither convincingly in the decor department. This place's strength is its beers, its staff and its character. 16 taps are constantly rotated on a "no crap" policy, with the exception of 1 miller light. Rouges, Stones, imports and regional craftbrews are constant fixtures on their tap list. You order by number here since the taps are changing so often (beers are listed on a chalk board). The staff, while sometimes gruff at first, really open up once you get to know their names and give em a tip or two. They always have prompt service and know what they're talking about. Beers are cheap at $2.50 or 3 for 5 during happy hour and game days. There are fresh free roasted peanuts at all times in giant cans and you can go get yourself a bowl. This place is also the best place I've ever been to to watch a game. Everyone in the place is pretty much a local, and they are DIE HARD fans.... free pit beef, pit ham and oysters are served up to hungry patrons crammed in to cheer on the Ravens. Its loud and smokey, but friendly at the same time. This will be my weekly hangout on sundays some next year's Ravens season!

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.11/5  rDev +2.5%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Wow! What a diamond in the rough! I drove by this place several times on several occassions and never found it. But maybe that's good... it's so small that it may need to be on an "insider only" basis. From the outside it looks like an old, deserted storefront. There are no signs other than a neon in the window... and that's usually not on. Once inside it's not much nicer. In fact, it's pretty much a dive. It's an old place with a drop ceiling, retro chrome bar stolls, institutional green walls and a black & white checkered linoleum floor. Checkered curtains round out the theme, and a handful of televisions lend to it's "sports bar" atmosphere. But no-one's here for the sports! They're here for the 16 taps that constantly pour excellent craft brews!!! They're all good choices (except for Miller Lite) and during happy hour you can get three mugs of beer (12 oz) for $5! There's a line of tap handles displayed along the ceiling and a few retro video games and a Golden Tee Golf machine, but for more entertainment check out the package store that's right next door. They have a good selection of six-packs and singles, as well as wine, liquor and snacks - I've never left empty handed!!! Apart from the bar (which starts to fill up at around 4 pm during the week) there are two "islands" where you can perch your drink, or 4 four-top tables along the wall. But wherever you sit (or stand) be prepared to talk with some friendly local-yocal's as this is still very much a neighborhood bar. And that's it's real charm. Any place can put in even 50 or 60 taps, but if it's not a fun place to hang out in, it's just not worth going.

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Photo of farHillsBrewer
4.3/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

My favorite beer place without a doubt from 1990 to 2000. Sixteen taps with rotating selection bringing you the best of the US and the world. Draft beer and bottled Belgians only, (although a well stocked package store is connected). Great events: The Annual Christmas Beer Judging, Real Ale Challenge, Christmas in July along with a friendly staff. Free peanuts and pretzels, and a bonus on Sundays, usually some decent hot dogs, but sometimes free oysters. Three-fers are now $5, up from $3. There's always something new on tap. Seven TV's in the main room, plus a back room and an outdoor beer garden. One tap is reserved for a "lite" beverage, "for senior citizens", but otherwise there's no trace of weak watery lager in the tap room. A real gem.

Racers has slipped somewhat over the past few years.
No more Christmas Beer Judging.
No peanuts last time I went in.
Two-fers instead of Three-fers.
Selection is still worth the visit anytime.

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Racers' Cafe in Baltimore, MD
Place rating: 4.01 out of 5 with 19 ratings