Friday, April 3, 2009

where to go out for dinner and a drink?

Today is my 21st birthday, and I have realized that East County is a miserable place to drink. County laws limiting how many liquor licenses a restaurant could get dissuaded a lot of places from opening up on the east side. Meanwhile, the one cool place I might like to go for a night out - Downtown Silver Spring - is often overrun with mobs of high-school kids, making it less-than-appealing to the older, martini-swilling crowd. I would like to go to dinner for my birthday with my family. Suddenly, I have a new problem: where can I go to have a nice meal and a nice drink in East County?

Harry's on Old Columbia Pike was one of my favorite places to eat as a kid, with chicken fingers served in a rich, smoky barbeque sauce that I can still taste now. They had a bar, though in my high school the place (like much of Burtonsville) had a reputation for being kind of "rednecky." I drove by a few weeks ago to see Harry's was recently replaced by a Latino restaurant (I didn't get to see what it was called), which means that my hunger for barbeque sauce will have to wait.

Seibel's, also in Burtonsville, is a great place to take the wife and kids. It's homey, the food is probably good (I've only been for Don Praisner's ice cream social) and it's cheap. But I doubt I'd be able to scare up any drinks here.

The new T.G.I. Friday's in Calverton has quickly become a favorite of the local office-park scene, if only because it's the only place where you can drink at lunchtime and still be within stumbling distance of our desk. I went there for my 9th birthday, though (the one in Rockville, I mean), so it sounds kind of lame for a 21st birthday dinner.

Ellsworth has Ceviche, where I met one Hans Riemer on my first JUTP interview many, many years ago, drinking something foamy out of a large glass. But like I said: skater mobs. Fun for people-watching, bad for drinking buddies. (Doesn't help that many of those kids are, like, twelve.)

Hate to say it, but I might be heading to Bethesda/Rockville/Columbia for my first drink. If my mother has her way, we'll end up at Red, Hot and Blue in Laurel like my last birthday, because she enjoys (as I do) the roasted chicken. I don't know how the Quarry House on Bonifant Street is for dinner. I've been waiting to go in there since I was five, so I'll have to check it out soon enough.


Kim said...

You can't go wrong with Victoria's Gastro Pub in Columbia!

Rob Goldman said...

Stay in District 4--The Old Hickory Grille or Chapala on 198 in Burtonsville. Keep the local economy moving.
Have a happy birthday.
Rob Goldman

Adam Pagnucco said...

Go to the Royal Mile in Wheaton. They have the best appetizer (Welsh Rarebit), the best fish and chips and the best Scotch selection in the area.

Cyndy said...

I second the Royal Mile. I don't think they specialize in mixed drinks, but they do have a bar and they have excellent cider and scotch. Sometimes they have live music. The welsh rarebit is excellent as is the smoked salmon, fish and chips, and everything else on the menu. After Yokohama closed down it became my very favorite place to eat in Wheaton. It's actually pretty unWheatonlike now that I think about it.

rb said...

There are restaurants in downtown Silver Spring --like Ray's the Classics (for steak), Jackie's (trendy), Nicaro (trendy), Olaff, Sergios, Mi Rancho (you get to wear a sombrero while they sing Happy Birthday[???]), Cubano's, and the traditional birthday restaurant Mrs. K's Toll House.

Thomas Hardman said...

Well Happy Birthday, Dan!

Along with Adam, I would recommend the Royal Mile, especially if you want to try some exceptionally good Single Malt Scotch. Their food is pretty definitively UK Celtic all across the board. They supposedly have some of the best beef dishes in the area, in that tradition. But you were talking about staying in District 4?

There's the El Napolito Bar and Grill which is right next to the Nancy Navarro campaign HQ. I've only eaten there a few times, mostly as part of my work in the area promoting anti-gang afterschool activities and that sort of thing. They do have a bar, and evidently the place is a sort of "party central" on the weekends. I personally wouldn't walk in there at such a time, as I value my life. However, for an afternoon lunch they are excellent, and their surf-and-turf and samplers were excellent. It may come as a surprise to many readers, but I both know Mexican food and love Mexican food, and this is very good central-Mexican food, more of the sort you'd find in Jalisco than what you'd find in Baja California, though they do have some specialties that are more from the northern desert. The quality is at least as good as you would find in some of the high-dollar Mexican restaurants downtown, the only better quality I have had was at a place in Front Royal (who knew?) called Jalisco, which is worth the drive if you're going out there to bring back a hundred bucks of take-out for the folks at home.

In the same shopping center (Plaza del Mercado) there is also the new Rooster's Thai Chicken Restaurant which I seem to recall has a bar permit.

There are also various Chinese restaurants right there or right near there, which almost certainly have bar permits. And right around the corner in the Layhill Center Shopping Center is the Sol D'Italia Restaurant with the attached "Papa Nick's Sports Bar", which I wandered into one time and discovered to be about what you'd expect of a sports bar. I haven't eaten at Sol D'Italia but it's pretty much the same outfit as in Ashton, which has an excellent reputation for Italian food. In the same center there's Lee's Kitchen and Azucar Restaurant, I've never eaten at any of them but they've been in business for a while, I imagine they're not bad at all. Call 'em and see if they sell booze before you head out.

I do have a fairly comprehensive list of "Dining, Food, Grocery" in Aspen Hill, but most aren't noted in that listing as to whether they have a license to serve alcoholic beverages, clearly I need to note that.

But off the top of my head:

Azucar may, China King does not, Dad's does, El Napolito definitely, Fu Lin may, Lee's Kitchen probably, New Mandarin probably, Outback probably, Pho Hong-Ahn probably, Rooster's likely, Silver Fountain definitely served a "zombie" that will make your brains fall out, Papa Nick's/Sole D'Italia definitely, Three Amigos Mexican/Salvadoran Restaurant probably.

No doubt there are places in Glenmont, especially there's that steakhouse/pizza-joint/bar right next to the Metrorail station on Layhill Road just north of Georgia Avenue. Get there early or don't expect to find parking, the place is usually packed. Damn if I can remember the name.

Have fun!

Cyndy said...

And there's a pirate-themed restaurant on Georgia Avenue - I think it's called Piratz. That might be fun! I haven't been there though.

Cyndy said...

I don't know if I'd choose the Stained Glass Pub in Glenmont for a nice 21st birthday celebration with my family. However El Nopalito and Azucar are both outstanding and both have a bar section. Azucar is a little more upscale than El Nopalito and has a festive yet cozy decorating scheme. They are not afraid of color in there.

Unknown said...

Third or fourth the Royal Mail. If your tastes run to Asian, Suporns (Thai) or Paul Kee (Chinese) in Wheaton, or trek up the road to the Olney Alehouse.

Jimmy Bingo said...

I'd head to the bar at Ray's The Classics. For 21, do it in style!

Have a great birthday.

Lea said...

Quarry House has some great burgers, especially since Jackie took over and uses good meat. I don't know about their other choices, though, or how it would be for the parents. Their beer selection is incredible -- the best I've seen in the area. Can't say the same for their wine and bar drink selection; the bourbon I had tasted like paint thinner.

Dumbek said...

I'd vote for Ray's for a really good, classy dinner with the family. Then head to The Quarry House to get your drink on and eat tons of tater tots. They're both downtown, but not on Ellsworth, so you should be able to quickly avoid the crowds.

Did I mention the tater tots? ;-)

Happy Birthday.

Unknown said...

Quarry House wins, no contest! Food is all very good, beericulum vitae (no seriously, that's what it's called) is full of great choices, and they have tater tots.

Unknown said...

Happy birthday!

Quarry House for a burger and a great beer; Royal Mile for some pub food and a Scotch or beer, or Rays the Classics for a great steak and a mixed drink.

Thomas Hardman said...

Piratz was fun the one time I was there, didn't have time to eat, though. Great decor and the staff were a cast of characters, too. ;) One of the bartenders is apparently originally from the Aspen Hill general area. Fellow name of "Dallas".

Quarry House? Been there one time. Could have been great but I was there for the Zombie Walk, some idiot thought they'd "made" me as a cop and passed the word, and the level of disrespect ballooned so rapidly I'll never go there again. They did in fact have a fine supply of beer, especially Belgian makes.

Cyndi, thanks for the heads-up on Azucar. I've been wondering for a while. And you're right, Stained Glass Pub might or might not be the place to take Yer Mom. But I did once drop in there with a GF from 20 years before back in HS, and in walks Tom Principato with a guitar and amp, and everyone did indeed enjoy their dinner and beer.

Seriously, some of the best places to have a drink are Chinese Restaurants, they're serious about their mixed drinks. Be really careful if you're a novice or your friends will have to drive you home in a bucket 'cause you'll be sloshed.

Oh! I hereby declare that it's time to build the Definitive District Four Pub Crawl List of Places to Drink with Friends and Family, ideally with the sublist of "Pubs That Rock".

Nancy (Councilmember Floreen) said...

What about the olney Ale House or Mannequin Pis in Olney? Some of the finest eating in the county!

Thomas Hardman said...

Ms Floreen, I keep hearing about the Olney Ale House -- I've been hearing good things about it for probably 30 years -- but I have never been there. Frankly, I'm poor, and I've been told that I can't afford it, especially since everything in Olney seems to have gone all frou-frou and doubled their prices.

Out at Muncaster Road on MD-108 there used to be a roadhouse that was a plain and simple country bar that had some awesome shows out there. I've seen some fantastic talent out there, especially playing blues guitar.

Now it's some uppity place that has lace doilies on the table and a glass of water is three dollars.

When is Montgomery County going to start promoting and enabling the local Popular Culture? Honestly, we don't all long to have the box-office seats at the Strathmore.

We just want to pull on up to some neighborhood bar where everyone's welcome to kick back and listen to a live band rockin' the house.

Cyndy said...

Olney Ale House is not frou-frou and it's cheaper than El Nopalito and Azucar. It's in an old house and it's kind of rustic. Le Mannequin Pis is frou-frou, and expensive, but in a very awesomely delicious sort of way.

retgroclk said...

Ferdinands is still a good place for a steak and salad bar buffet.

Lunch is a great deal for about ten dollars ts a soup and salad buffet with two types of soup.

For some kick ass drinks and some damn good chinese food- try the new Chinese Restaurant that replaced Barnabys on University Blvd. in Wheaton.

Their Navy Grog will knock your socks of.
Royal Mile does have mixed drinks- they make a very good gin and tonic and their beer selection is very good.

Joe said...

Actually, that replacement for Harry's, La Palapa 3 (the first two are in Howard Counnty) is now open. they have quality Mexican food and good Margaritas with which to toast your big 2-1.

Happy Birthday!

Dr. F. said...

Happy 21st Dan!

Stick to the east county (EMOCO?).

Old Hickory Grille for ribs and a beer.

Hunan Manor Burtonsville for great Chinese/Japanese and a beer.

Cafe Oromia (same strip mall) for Burtonsville's only Ethiopian and a beer.

Dan, please don't give up the East County for Rockville!! (Who's gonna champion us if you go? Seriously).

Thomas Hardman said...

Dan appears to be nursing his first legal hangover. ;)

BTW I have just discovered a bar in District 4 that has live bands. I shall report on this later, probably tomorrow.

C. P. Zilliacus said...

Dan, congrats on turning 21.

I second Old Hickory Grill and Councilmember Floreen's suggestion of the Olney Ale House.

But your posting should lead to a larger discussion - about one of the worst and most-meaningless enduring legacies of the Ronald Reagan presidency.

Why in Sam Hill does this country have a legal drinking age of 21? If people are old enough at 18 to sign legally-binding contracts, serve the military in Iraq or Afghanistan at 18, then they sure as Hades ought to be able to have a drink legally.

As a nation, we are rightly questioning and undoing much leftover from Reagan these days, and his 21-year-old drinking age limit ought to go. Now.

retgroclk said...

How about lowering the drinking age and raising the driving age.

I have seen too many accidents of teens over indulging in alcohol(illegally) and then getting killed in driving accidents.


My experience with 16 y.o. is that they are too young and immature to be driving.

Thomas Hardman said...

Well, I just had my first Live Band Bar Experience in MoCo in probably 25 years. (That horrid experience at Studebakers in 1996 does not bear discussion, or even comparison to anything other than H.P. Lovecraft stories.)

And a good time was had by all. Not only did they not kick me out (or do worse things), it's within walking distance. Furthermore, there were nice admirable tricked-out motorcycles out front.

Jessica McFadden said...

Oh Dan, it's the perfect time for the A Parent in Silver Spring Bar Crawl!

For a nice dinner with my mom, I'd go to Olazzo on Georgia Avenue - they have a great martini list and I love the booths in the front of the restaurant in the bar section.

Happy happy birthday!

Delegate Al Carr said...

I've worked on and off near Route 29 & Musgrove since 1990. Old Hickory Grill is one of my favorites.

I also second the Royal Mile Pub.

Jane Weaver said...

Seibels cheap? LOL