With a diverse mix of events, a roster of live music, a pool league, and a full kitchen—plus a new sushi bar—it's hard not to find something to like about Fish Head Cantina. The back patio houses a two-stage venue accommodates up to 1,000 music lovers, as well as a full tiki bar and koi pond. Inside, patrons can sidle up to a table to peruse the enormous menu, which ranges from wings to tacos to more than 20 maki rolls on a sushi menu.
Jovial crowds of sports fans line the wooden bars and maroon booths at both Loafers Sports Bar and Grill locations to unwind with cool brews and a tasty spread of seafood and pub eats. Flat-screen TVs broadcast football games for die-hard sports enthusiasts and Antiques Roadshow reruns for appraisal fanatics as they enjoy burgers and plates of wings, nachos, and potato skins. Chef Joe Rocco packs jumbo lumps of meat into his crab cakes and steams pots of crabs year-round to complement pints and the Big Loaf beer, a 1-liter pour of draft ale. A variety of nightly events draw in revelers with specials, karaoke, and live DJs, as opposed to old computers programmed to play "Glory Days" in binary.
Built by a group of friends interested in camaraderie, cold drinks, and good food, Diamondback Tavern aims to put a contemporary spin on a traditional Maryland tavern, and its pub menu has earned accolades from the Baltimore Sun and Howard Magazine. Wrangling local meats, seafood, produce, and bread, the staff builds fresh sandwiches filled with garlic-braised pulled pork and caramelized bananas, crab-cake platters loaded with two 5-ounce jumbo lump crab cakes, and veggie risotto topped with grilled portobello.
Behind the bar, chilled local and domestic brews and sangria blended from a family recipe cleanse palates and put out fires after fire-eating competitions gone wrong. Diners enter under a traditional hanging tavern sign emblazoned with a brown diamondback-turtle shell before nestling into a spacious sports bar or dining room. Diamondback Tavern also hosts open-mic nights and screening events around NFL games to keep ears and eyes entertained as mouths gnaw on the minimalist, modern decor.
The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company reinvigorates classical theater tales with exquisite emotions and lively language. The troupe's production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline chronicles the story of a princess who, after being separated from her beloved husband, faces the sting of betrayal, a war-torn king, an evil stepmother, and a Roman invasion. Spectators can sip wine and munch popcorn as the actors sink into the romantic tale, its stage set amid a historical venue built in the 19th century and an intimate seating area. Groupon customers must acquire their tickets at the ticket table no later than 15 minutes before the start of the show.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, the streets of Ellicott City echo with the footsteps and laughter of revelers making their ways between the city’s pubs and breweries. Bar crawlers visit four local pubs; The Diamondback Tavern, Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, Judge's Bench Pub, and La Palapa Grill & Cantina. Revelers sip domestic beers, spirits, and wines as they tactfully ignore bar-trivia rivals inside the Diamondback Tavern's rustic interior, between the wooden trim and hanging amber-colored lamps of Ellicott Mills Brewing Company and the Judge's Bench Pub, or between the exposed brick walls and colored glass mosaics at La Palapa. To help stomachs soak up excess alcohol, some bar proprietors lay out snacks for touring groups. Participants on both earlier and later crawls walk away with a souvenir T-shirt, as well as a new layer of bar-crawling memories to replace lingering remembrances of high-school-trigonometry lessons.
Husband-wife duo Julio and Lily Soto opened Azul 17 to celebrate not only Mexican cuisine, but to also embrace the culture through music, vibrant design, and a selection of more than 100 tequilas made with 100% blue agave. Their chefs all hail from Mexico and bring family recipes to the kitchen—including one chef's grandmother's recipe for black beans. It's “old world style with updated presentation,” says manager Peter Bonohue. Peter has been in the restaurant business since he could legally work, and to him, Azul 17 has an especially fun atmosphere. “I love tequila now,” he confessed.
While chefs simmer their signature mole sauce and servers add fresh lime juice to margaritas, guests recline atop white leather banquettes or modern chairs. Eyes dance with murals and shimmering blue-tile mosaics splashed against white walls. Those whites are illuminated with a multicolored neon glow as DJs spin club, house, and Mexican tunes starting at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays at 8 p.m., guests can spice up their tired hokey-pokey routine with salsa lessons.