By Karlyn DeSteno

‘Tis the night before Thanksgiving, and it falls to you to find a bar where every member of your family can comfortably tie one on without disagreement. But on the drinkiest day of the year, where is there a quiet, all-welcoming watering hole where everybody from your stuffy aunt- in-laws to your art school cousins can get along? Below are our top picks for Baltimore’s best Thanksgiving Eve bars. These not-too-divey, not-too-snobby spots offer plenty of elbow room and big tables, keep the noise level low enough for conversation, and are sure to offer a little something for everyone. This may be the one time all season when you really succeed in pleasing everyone at once.

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The James Joyce

616 President Street
Baltimore, Md. 21202-4411
(410) 727-5107
Hours: Daily 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.
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The interior of the James Joyce–like all good Irish style pubs–is parceled into charming nooks, booths, and side rooms where you and your family or friends can eat, drink, and be merry in peace. Dark wood paneling and stained glass add to the Joyce’s old world charm. The house specializes in heavy Irish beers and whiskeys, has a full menu of traditional Irish fare, but there’s plenty in the way of wines, liquors and light dishes. Hunker down with some fish and chips or new potato nachos by the fireplace, or raise your glasses across one of the Joyce’s big wooden tables.

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Ale Mary’s

1939 Fleet Street
Baltimore, Md. 21231
(410) 276-2044
Hours: Mon – Thurs 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m. -2 a.m.; Sun 10:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.
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Ale Mary’s is the gold standard for old-style Baltimore hospitality. This Fells Point classic is home to some of the friendliest barkeeps in town–Tom and Mary–who are sure to answer all your questions about Belgian beer, Baltimore history, or the collection of photographs of Catholic communions that have decorated the Ale Mary’s walls since time immemorial. Plenty of space, big tables, and hearty pub grub in the local style will keep everyone low key and loose. Appetizers start at $6.95; we recommend the oh-so-Baltimore shrimp steamed in Natty Boh and Old Bay. Inexpensive, unpretentious, and a certain escape from the shot-guzzling party scene.

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Dionysus Restaurant & Lounge

8 E. Preston St.
Baltimore, Md. 21202
(410) 244-1020
Hours: Mon –Sat 4 p.m. -2 a.m.; Sun 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.
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Dionysus can pack quite a crowd into its cozy basement room, but even first timers always seem to leave feeling like regulars. Loyal locals, random academics, young punks, and everyone in between mingle effortlessly amongst this bar’s cozy couches and high tables. The upstairs dining room provides extra room to stretch out, and both floors offer some of the best late night grub in town, as well as a capable beer list. For those looking to easily escape awkward family conversation, there’s usually a good movie playing on the screen in back, and the bartenders are  sure to join you in a round of picklebacks (liquor chased with pickle juice, a local favorite) if you and the in-laws get to feeling wild.

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Birds Of A Feather Restaurant And Scotch Bar

1712 Aliceanna Street
Baltimore, Md. 21231-2901
Hours: Tues – Sat 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Not sure what to talk about at social gatherings this holiday season? How about the intricacies of booze? Birds of a Feather is Baltimore’s one and only specialty scotch bar, and with over 160 scotches on offer, you ought to find plenty to discuss. The staff is knowledgeable and welcoming, and the bar’s backroom is cozily secluded, with big tables, a fireplace, and the dim strains of old ragtime or jazz. Birds of a Feather stands out in Fells Point for its ultimately relaxing interior and old world décor, sans television. What more could you need? A reasonable and tasty menu of basic bar fare, perhaps? Check.

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Jay’s On Read Street

225 W Read St
Baltimore, Md.
(410) 225-0188
Hours: Mon – Sat 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Jay’s is known as a piano bar, but it’s home to some of Baltimore’s best cocktails. Its spacious wooden interior, charming golden lighting, and plush leather seats will make everyone in your crew feel comfortable and treated. Entertainment features pianists Jon Adelson and Joel Holmes. The bar specializes in high end mixed drinks–the rail scotch is Dewar’s White Label–but for eats you’ll have to head elsewhere. One warning: while Jay’s is perfectly suited to sophisticated tastes, after a few cocktails the thrill of live piano may loosen some family vocal chords. Family members with YouTube quality singing voices may need to be taken elsewhere. On the other hand, there’s nothing like a couple of crooning locals to make a holiday feel like a holiday.

Karlyn DeSteno is a writer and artist living in Baltimore.