At the The Royal Mile Pub, servers and regulars alike greet guests with a hearty "Cead mile failte!" It's Gaelic for "a hundred thousand welcomes," and the sentiment permeates every brew, stew, and show. Juxtaposing the local with the far-flung, Royal Mile cultivates a communal mood while maintaining a Scottish identity. To wit, the menu spotlights haggis, Orkney Scotch eggs, and traditional British-style breakfasts.
Spotlighting Scotland is a trend that also permeates the eatery's decor. Colorful tartans hang from the rafters, some of which match the kilts of live performers. The pub even takes its name from the region: Between Scotland's Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyroodhouse, there's a 1-mile series of streets traditionally traveled by Scottish royalty. The Royal Mile Pub is named for this thoroughfare, and its staff has welcomed its guests as it would kings and queens since it opened in 1981.
At Quench, Chef Ed Hardy and barman Matt Allred aim to live up to the hype stemming from the Favorite New Restaurant and Best Cocktail Program awards they earned from the Restaurant Association of Maryland. They, along with their team of chefs, go beyond simply making food and mixing drinks?they prepare artful dinner specialties and unique, out-of-the-box cocktails. Though their meal creations arise out of seemingly simple ingredients?local produce, house-ground meats?the team crafts wildly creative send-ups of typical pub fare in addition to traditional comfort foods. Short ribs are braised for days, bacon is cured in-house, and fresh ground lamb meatballs fill out the seasonal risotto with fresh local ramps. Quench also plates healthy fare such as edamame hummus served with local cucumbers and apples and a fresh and locally caught fish of the day, all complemented by inventive cocktails. The seasonal dessert menu of house-made ice cream sandwiches and rhubarb cobbler round out the dining experience.
The drinks, with clever names such as Sex in the Burbs and Django Juice, draw on a palette of blood-orange juice, house-made foams, and uniquely infused spirits. Mixology classes prepare students to delight party guests, and Quench also hosts events such as Saturday and Sunday brunches scored by live music and scratch-made weekday lunches.
Though devoutly British in name, Union Jack's British Pub is actually a transatlantic blend of both English and American conventions. Inside the expansive space, stone walls and a fireplace bear a distinctly European feel, though HD plasma TVs and projection screens broadcast games of hockey and American football. The food menu retains a similar dichotomy, offering up options such as Maryland crab cakes, fish and chips, and Caribbean jerk chicken sandwiches. The two nations fully unite at the handsome wooden bar, where guests can sip on one of 16 drafts, ranging from Fuller's London Porter to state-sourced Samuel Adams. Should cultural clashes persist, patrons can retire to the billiards room after their meal to settle disputes over the proper pronunciation of "aluminum."
Deftly blending New American and Spanish culinary propensities, Nicaro's menu changes daily to accommodate fresh flavors and culinary innovations. Recent offerings include bold, seafaring starters such as the shrimp bruschetta and the blackened, grilled, or barbecued salmon bites (each $9). The blackened chicken sandwich ($12) is served with steak fries and chipotle aioli, and the tossed house salad ($4.50 for a small and $8 for a large) unites julienne peppers, mushrooms, croutons, and bruschetta tomatoes in the perennial battle against boringly bagged grocery-store salads. The fettuccine with Alfredo sauce and basil pesto ($24) and the grilled vegetable platter ($15) both come stamped with the chef's recommendation.
Light from 16 big-screen TVs flickers from the walls at Big Play Sports Grill, meaning diners can catch their favorite team from almost any seat in the house. The grill's menu embraces the sports theme by offering hearty portions with playful, sports-related names. Guests can step up to the plate for some slow-roasted triple double smoked ribs, hole-in-one tilapia, or a hat trick half-roasted chicken flavored with a robust blend of 12 spices as opposed to ice shavings carved by minor-league hockey players. Lighter, more snackable options run the gamut from Mississippi catfish po'boy sandwiches and grass-fed burgers to boneless wings and crab cake sliders.