The owner and bartender of Johnny Rads, Rich and Randy, have teamed up to open a new restaurant in the Baltimore neighborhood of Highlandtown. I recently reached out to Rich to hear more about what inspired Snake Hill Tavern and all the delicious details.
Over the past few years, Rich and Randy have often visited friends in other cities, always looking to taste the best local eats. The restaurants that stood out were the ones that had no equivalent in Baltimore and they noticed that there were no sausage-centric restaurants here at home. Many of the places they visited had common thread of great beer, sausages grilled to order, and simple side dishes. Rich and Randy thought “Baltimore doesn’t have anything like this… let’s change that.” With that, they set forward and opened Snake Hill Tavern this past November.
Yes, Snake Hill. Why the name, you ask? Apparently, the area now known as Highlandtown was once farmland (weird to think) and was called Snake Hill (how lovely). As business grew around the harbor, there became a need for more housing, and a community was developed in the area around 1866. Rich informed me that “the residents decided that Snake Hill wasn’t the most inviting name for a neighborhood, so around 1870 it was changed to Highland Town because of the expansive views it offered of growing Baltimore City.”
Rich and Randy were attracted to Highlandtown for this project because to them it is home. They foresee Highlandtown becoming more desirable, and not just for it’s close proximity to Canton and lower real estate prices.
“Highlandtown is one of three dedicated Arts Districts in the city … It is FULL of progressive thinking, ambitious, and creative residents. We see Highlandtown quickly becoming one of the hipper, more in-touch neighborhoods in Baltimore … Why not give something back to the community we decided to live in?”
As for the restaurant itself, a majority the “gourmet” sausages are sourced from local distributors, like the Rabbit & Rattlesnake and the Lamb Merguez. Other sausages like the Chicken Apple are from local makers like Logan’s Sausage. Snake Hill also has an in-house butcher who makes the “FatCityMeats” sausages such as the Pho-Q and the Pig Newton.
I asked Rich which has been the most popular sausage so far. It has been a dead even tie between the ‘Pho-Real’ signature sandwich (the Pho-Q sausage topped with fresh chopped basil, sprouts, sliced jalapeño, and hoisin sauce like a traditional Pho soup) and the ‘Rico Suave’ signature sandwich (pictured above – the ‘Rico’ Peruvian chicken sausage topped with the popular “green” and “yellow” sauce found at popular Peruvian chicken restaurants around town). The Rico Suave has been my favorite so far, until I met their DiPasquale (pictured below) that was a special on the day I visited, but hopefully soon to be served every day.
For the adventurous eater, Rich would recommend the Rabbit & Rattlesnack or the Alligator Andouille, paired with spicy peppers and one of their house made whole grain mustards like the Old Bay Mustard or Duckpin IPA mustard. “Most people get scared of the Rabbit & Rattlesnake simply because they have never even had the option to taste it.”
Rich & Randy have plans to open future locations around the Baltimore area and possibly expand out into surrounding local cities like Annapolis, Frederick, Ellicott City, and Ocean City. Before that though, they plan to fine tune the Highlandtown location and make it part of the conversation. Rich and Randy’s goal is to create a place that when friends visit Baltimore, locals say “Oh man, you gotta come to Snake Hill while you’re in town!”