Beer and beyond at Rocky Run

January 08, 1998|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pumpkin. Cinnamon cranberry. Lemon wheat. No, these aren't suggestions for quick breads. They're some of the seasonal brews at Rocky Run Tap & Grill, a Columbia restaurant and microbrewery.

Mike Donnelly, his father, Burt, and partner Jake Middel opened the first Rocky Run at Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie five years ago. In December 1996, they branched out into Howard County and last summer added the microbrewery when their license came through.

Brewing beer is a tricky art. You might come up with smooth, assertive beers, like Rocky Run's light and lemon wheat. Or you might concoct something like its cinnamon cranberry ale, a taste combination that's best left untapped.

But beer is not the only card that Rocky Run can play. The food is good and inexpensive, the atmosphere casual and fun. Red-check tablecloths are covered with kraft paper for crayon doodling, the walls decorated with rock-music memorabilia.

It's hard to imagine a place like this not serving nachos, chicken ++ wings and potato skins. They are on the menu all right, but so are some interesting starters. We liked the hint of horseradish in the five fat, bacon-wrapped Bayou shrimp we tried. I would have preferred a chewier focaccia bread for our wedges of bruschetta, but we loved the garlicky topping of chopped tomato, green pepper and red onion.

The crab dip was creamy and full of flaked crab; soft bread sticks were on the side for scooping. Only the "house favorite" Cheddar soup, thick and bright as Velveeta, was a disappointment.

Ribs are a good choice at Rocky Run. They're cooked long and slow, so that the meat falls off the bone. A friend ordered the popular rib and shrimp combo: half a rack of baby back ribs and a skewer of four enormous shrimp, basted on the grill with garlic butter. Cumin-scented baked beans and a large house salad of fresh romaine were her picks for side dishes.

From the pasta category, we ordered the Cajun shrimp penne. A rich butter and cream sauce offset the slight spiciness of the seasoned shrimp.

The Rocky jerk chicken is a house specialty, our waitress told us. Think of it as a fusion burrito: strips of moist, Caribbean-spiced chicken rolled with bacon, mushrooms and Cheddar cheese inside a warm tortilla. The flavor of the jerk-seasoned chicken really comes through in this jumbo burrito, which is served with a house salad and a monster spud topped with sour cream and bacon.

Besides her helpful, honest advice on the menu, our waitress won kudos for being quick to greet us and take our order. Had we asked, maybe she would have warned us about the gelatinous dressing for the Oriental chicken salad, or the dry "mile-high" carrot cake that stands at least 6 inches tall.

Rocky Run's desserts are better in smaller doses, like the normal-sized, tart Key lime pie and the dollop of chocolate mousse in a shot glass that costs less than a dollar.

@Rocky Run Tap & Grill

6480 Dobbin Center Way, Columbia


Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major credit cards

Prices: Appetizers, $1.98-$7.39; entrees, $5.39-$16.92

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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