A night in the Judge's Bench Pub is by far a more pleasan prospect than a day in court.
Located near the Howard County government complex in Ellicott City, the Judge's Bench makes it easy for pun-conscious pub-goers to put their own behinds in the "county seat." That's because pub owner George "Buzzy" Suter personally built the court-evoking benches lining one wall. He also put up judicial-themed prints that make satirical points best suited to after hours and outside the courthouse.
It's just as well that the legal-minded decor isn't pushed any further, because the Judge's Bench is definitely a neighborhood pub, not a theme bar. Open since 1978, it is thus well established by pub standards, if not by those of a picturesque mill town dating back to the 18th century.
A regular draw is the live entertainment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Solo and duo acts usually play folk and acoustic rock. The roster includes Ellis Woodward, Frank Thomson and Greg Everhart. And the crowd here is not exactly a passive one, with people needing little encouragement to clap along or bang on a tambourine. (Most of the patrons are in the 25-to-35-something generation, but older regulars amble in, too.)
More entertainment is offered by the four dart boards upstairs, which are used by the dart leagues that provide spirited competition for bars in Ellicott City and Columbia.
Behind the bar, beer choices include Oxford Class and Killian's on tap. Also worth knowing is that all wines are the same $2.25 by the glass; this might not make bar management sense, but there is no need to ask for prices while placing an order.
The seafood- and sandwich-oriented menu has some good nocturnal deals to consider: an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet Monday nights from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for $10.95, and steamed shrimp Wednesday nights for $3.95 per half-pound.
The Judge's Bench Pub
Where: 8385 Main St., Ellicott City.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.
Menu: seafood, salads, sandwiches, steak.
Credit cards: AE, MC, V.