We were passing through downtown, historic Ellicott City and – lo and behold! – there was an empty parking space almost right in front of the impressive looking Ellicott Mills Brewing Company!
We took it as a sign from the great beyond (specially since the sky looked like it could start pouring rain at any minute and we were hungry!), took the space and got a table on the atmospheric first floor. Ellicott Mills Brewing Company occupies an old store front on Main Street in Ellicott City – there are huge two-story copper brewing vats, a tall long bar and about ten tables on the main floor, a bar and a few tables in a downstairs “Rathskeller” and a really large room on the top floor with a couple dozen tables. (FYI – The top floor is only reachable by stairs – no elevator – and since the first floor is about 20 feet tall, getting to the 2nd floor involves climbing the equivalent of two stories of stairs!)
A large sign on the wall indicated brews that there were currently available. With less than a month to October, Tom decided to try the pumpkin ale while John tried the Firecracker Bock. (Both turned out to be $7 a pint; Tom couldn’t detect any pumpkin flavor in his brew and wouldn’t order it again. John’s bock with 7% alcohol not only tasted good but packed quite a punch – and it was a good thing that he wasn’t driving home later that evening! )
The menu offers two dozen appetizers ($8-$12); we decided to share an order of fried calamari ($10). Compared to what we’ve had at other restaurants, the portion wasn’t particularly generous for $10. Half of the calamari were very small pieces (none bigger than a pinky fingernail in size – and that’s including the breading; the rest tended to be small octopuses! While ok, we probably wouldn’t order this again (let’s hope that there must be something more memorable and enjoyable out of that list of two dozen appetizers!)
The rest of the menu offers five entrée salads ($11-$14), a dozen sandwiches ($10-$15), and eighteen entrees ($18-$30). Entrees included some unusual German style offerings including Kasseler Rippchen ($18 – pork chops), a Sausage Mixed Grill ($19 with Venison sausage, bratwurst, bockwurst and wiener wurst), Venison Steak ($21) and Jagers Chnitzel ($20 – pork loin with mushrooms and tomatoes). Tom opted for the “Smokehouse Chicken Sandwich” ($11), Paul ordered the Brew Pub Burger ($9) and John decided to treat himself to a special, “Wild Boar Stew” ($18).
The best part of the chicken sandwich according to Tom – which may tell you a lot – seemed to be the house-made potato chips! The sandwich (perhaps like the calamari which preceded it) was ok but the grilled chicken seem a bit more overcooked than melted cheddar cheese, a bit of bacon and a dash of bbq sauce could compensate for.
John’s “Wild Boar Stew” seemed mostly potato, carrot and onion with a half-dozen pretty small pieces of meat served on a bed of white rice. It probably didn’t enhance his impression that the surface area of the rim of the dish was so wide that it made the food portion look skimpier and it seemed odd to have that much potato included in a stew served on a bed of a rice. But for $18, I was disappointed to find more protein in my friend’s sandwiches than in my stew. Once was enough – I wouldn’t order this again.
Our server engendered a reaction similar to that of some of our food – adequate but leaving the feeling that something was lacking. Despite the fact that we were sitting in the bar of a brewery, he didn’t ask us if we wanted a drink and started in to ask for our food order. Both our server and the other man who was working the tables in the bar area seemed overly formal and less outgoing and friendly than you’d expect in a bar.
After several dining experiences at Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, I’ve never ordered something that was so good or so memorable that I’d want to order it again “the next time” (or where I ended up talking to a friend the next day and saying “You’ve got to try the… “. ) Which probably will explain why my “next time” here won’t be any time soon…
FACTS: Ellicott Mills Brewing Company – Ellicott City; 8308 Main Street; 410.313.8141; http://www.ellicottmillsbrewing.com ; Open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner; full bar; limited vegetarian options; on-street parking only (which can be a challenge on weekends); Located in the midst of historic downtown Ellicott City; Last DiningOUT visit on 9/7/2014.