A finalist in the 2003 season of Nashville Star, Grammy-winner Miranda Lambert's lively, heartfelt country rock sets toes a-tapping and eardrums abuzz with catchy Southern tunes. Strumming such well-known country songs as "The House That Built Me," and "Heart Like Mine," Lambert's virtuosic singing and guitar playing lends life to touching ballads and high-energy tunes alike, touching even the most curmudgeonly hearts and compelling weeping willows to wave their tendrils with unabashed excitement. Aural oceans wash over listeners in the Frank Gehry–designed Merriweather Post Pavilion, nestled among 40 acres of forest between Washington and Baltimore. Today's deal lets concertgoers relax with a Bud Light on the lawn, where they can watch the show beneath the open sky or whisper movie endings to clusters of furiously immobile grass stalks.
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.
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.
Pure Wine Café invites wine aficionados and casual winers alike to their welcoming space, where burnt-sienna tabletops nuzzle against modern aluminum chairs. A quiet escape from the outside world, the café focuses on providing healthy and inspired bistro cuisine to accompany the various flavor profiles of its carefully selected wines, including 2.5 oz. samples, 5 oz. glasses, and bottles (ranging $20 and up for bottles). Friendly and knowledgeable sommeliers are more than happy to educate curious customers in the ways of different wines and guide them toward their perfect liquid match. Drink in, or bring home a bottle from Pure Wine's generous stock of affordable whites, reds, and bubblies. You can also use your Groupon toward the more expensive Reserve Cellar Selections ($96¬–$135), which are an elegant choice for marking any rare occasion or Stratego victory.
Winner of four dining Awards for 2009 in Howard Magazine, including Best Bar Food and Best Late Night Dining, Victoria Gastro Pub puts a gourmet spin on traditional pub cuisine. Chef Joe Krywucki’s menu draws on fresh, seasonal ingredients—including herbs grown right outside the restaurant—to hit diners with a flavor tornado, providing a mix of comfort and creativity. Begin with the Duck-Fat Fries, which can be served by the bucket, alongside the Roasted Garlic Aioli ($7), or partnered with their duck confit, gruyere cheese, and duck gravy to make poutine ($8 small, $12 large). More substantial fare includes the official sandwich of Flemish royalty, Lobster Grilled Cheese ($16), a duo of beef that pairs braised beef short rib with a petite filet and cheddar potato gratin and broccolini ($19), as well as the "Mushroom & Swiss" Snake River Farms Kobe burger with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions, and served with smoked paprika fries ($13, $15 with truffle cheese).
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.