Eclectic Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. `lends itself to a little uniqueness'

Restaurant profile

Howard Live

April 06, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Except for the huge copper brewing vats in the front window, the old granite stone building built in 1870 to hold E. A. Talbot's lumberyard looks like it always did.

But what a difference inside the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.

Instead of sawdust, hardware bins and an ancient wood counter, there's a long copper-covered bar, hanging lights and serving areas on three levels, including a small bar for smokers in the basement.

On a recent Friday night, the first-floor bar off the main dining area was more crowded than the smokers' bar downstairs and diners filled nearly all the tables.

The big square opening once used as a conduit for moving lumber between the first and second floors remains, but is dressed up with a wooden railing that allows diners to see those below. Much of the flooring and ceiling of the first floor is the same wood refinished, General Manager Richard Franklin said. The building holds 250 people, he added.

"It lends itself to a little uniqueness," Franklin said.

That's partly the reason for unusual items on the menu such as buffalo and venison steaks. "Rick Winter, our executive chef, wanted to have a menu that's a bit eclectic," Franklin said.

Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. opened nearly three years ago and produces 2,000 barrels of beer a year, he said. To bolster the desire to carve a new niche on quirky Main Street's offerings, master brewer Justin Robertson, who is from Australia, brews a German-style lager called Alpenhof -- ranging in alcohol content from 4.9 percent to 8.5 percent, depending on the variety ordered. Some beer is sold to other restaurants and taverns in kegs, Franklin said.

The menu includes chicken, vegetarian offerings and steak and salmon sandwiches. But it also offers entrees ranging from Marsala chicken breasts sauteed with wild mushrooms and a brown wine sauce to seafood fettuccine with shrimp, lobster and salmon in a light cream or marinara sauce with Parmesan cheese and mushroom, garlic and tricolor pasta.

Business has been good, Franklin said, but publicity about the fire at Main Street Blues in November hurt business for a few weeks, though Ellicott Mills is more than a block from the fire scene. "Getting into the brew pub business is not for the faint of heart," said Franklin, manager for the past year. Operating a brewery, even a small one, along with the restaurant can be complicated and difficult. People think it would be cheaper to produce their own beer, Franklin said, but that's not necessarily true.

A big advantage of the site is the county-owned parking lot next door, where large wood storage sheds once stood, virtually in the shadow of Howard County's 1843 courthouse on the hill.

The classy restoration adds another element to Main Street's mix, which includes everything from old-style taverns to Mexican fare to the older places nearer the Patapsco River.

Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.

Where: 8308 Main St., Ellicott City; 410-313-8141.

Hours: 11: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11: 30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bar is open nightly until 1: 30 a.m.

Prices: Appetizers, $3 to $8.95; entrees, $13.95 to $19.95, with specials up to $23.50.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover.

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