Ram's Head seeks to be `local place'

Tavern brings full service to Historic Savage Mill

July 22, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Less than two weeks after its grand opening, there's already a buzz about the Ram's Head Tavern at Savage Mill.

Amid the Mill's antiques stalls and boutiques, the weekday lunch crowd at the 260-seat restaurant spends as much time enjoying the eatery's homey decor as they do its double-decker sandwiches, steaming plates of juicy calamari and micro-brewed ale.

The Ram's Head Tavern, the first full-service restaurant to open at Historic Savage Mill, is owned and operated by 21-year-old Kyle Muehlhauser, son of the owner of the original Ram's Head Tavern in downtown Annapolis.

Though Muehlhauser is emphatic that the new double-decker bar and grill is a separate entity from its more famous brother, the Savage Mill restaurant is clearly counting on name recognition and word of mouth to lure patrons into the 6,700-square-foot space.

And slowly but surely, word of the restaurant's opening is reaching Howard County residents, said Wayne Fertitta, the restaurant's general manager.

"Business is growing daily," Fertitta said. "People knew we were coming to this location, and they've been waiting. We've also been getting foot traffic from the Mill."

And Savage Mill foot traffic isn't such a bad thing. The Mill attracts about 750,000 people every year, and is one of the 20 most visited sites in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region, according to Mill owners.

It's just the kind of ready-made clientele restaurateurs love, but it's not the only thing that brought the Ram's Head Tavern to the Mill, Fertitta acknowledges.

"The way we envision it, anything we get from within the Mill is just gravy, an added bonus," Fertitta says. "We're going to focus on making ourselves the neighborhood bar and restaurant. We want to make this their local place."

Ram's Head proprietors also are betting that Savage Mill is close enough to Columbia, Laurel and Anne Arundel County that it will be able to compete with the many eating places in those areas.

The Savage restaurant won't push to be much different from the Annapolis location, which was established in 1988 and has expanded to include a 600-seat dining area and popular amphitheater.

Fertitta said Savage Mill owners contacted the Muehlhausers about building a restaurant on the historic property.

The Annapolis restaurant had "grown from a downstairs bar to a space covering half a city block," he says. "We just couldn't grow any more at that location. It also helped that the Mill is one of the most visited places in county."

Bill Kocan, general manager of the Annapolis location, said superior food and service will be needed to set the restaurant apart from its competitors in nearby Columbia and Laurel.

"Food is what keeps people coming back," Kocan says. "They have a large menu with an eclectic American flair, which will really fit right in with everyone."

The Savage restaurant menu will feature many of the same items as its Annapolis counterpart, including a large sandwich and seafood selection, prime beef, salads, pasta dishes and specials.

Some of the more popular offerings include a jumbo crab cake meal, black bean soup and a spicy shrimp-salad sandwich. The bar serves 100 brands of beer, including Fordhams, the house beer. Soon, the Ram's Head Tavern will feature live music, Fertitta said.

"Initially, we'll start with tavern music, probably one- or two-piece acoustic-style local bands," he says. "We'd also like to feature jazz on Sundays for brunch. Eventually, we'd like to expand to book larger acts, but our first priority is to get the restaurant going strong before we tackle that project."

Ram's Head at Savage Mill

Where: Historic Savage Mill, 8600 Foundry St., Savage; 301-604-3454.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $6.25-$9.25; entrees, $9.95-$25.95.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express.

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