To get a sense of The Greene Turtle's commitment to the neighborhood, one need only sit at the bar and look up. Dozens of mugs hang above the counter, emblazoned with the pub's logo and a unique number—each one belongs to a recurring patron. The Mug Club awards its members with draft-beer discounts and other specials, but more importantly, it allows loyal patrons to feel as though they own small slices of the venue without tattooing their names on the bartender's arm. This sense of shared familiarity is what fuels the entire franchise, which refrains from calling its locations "restaurants" in favor of friendlier terms: gathering places, communities, havens.
Many of the locations contribute more than mugs to their districts. Staff members who participate in the annual Tips for Tots program donate the entirety of one day's tips to a nearby Toys for Tots initiative, and Tuesday Funds for Friends events benefit local organizations. These efforts have been chronicled by press sources such as Food and Drink magazine, with features that liken The Greene Turtles' philanthropic generosity to the generous portions of comfort food that leave the kitchens.
From cheeseburger sliders and flatbread pizzas to handmade lump-crab cakes, the offerings on the menu embrace barroom traditions along with ingenuity. The steak and chicken entrees arrive with classic sides of green beans and yukon gold mashed potatoes, whereas the eastern shore mac ‘n’ cheese updates a comfort staple with chopped bacon, lump crab, scallions, and Old Bay seasoning. Diners can enjoy their meals by the glow of private flat-screen TVs—there's one in every booth—or beneath one of many larger televisions broadcasting sports games throughout the venue.
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.
Just above the open window of Elliott's Pour House, there's painted a row of draft beer taps. Look inside that window, and you'll discover that the paintings are merely a taste of what's in store. Behind the bar, 20 colorful taps bear the names of craft breweries such as Star Hill, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues. Guests sip on pints of craft beer or the locally beloved Natty Boh (also on draft) as they watch NFL games on the TVs or play ping-pong on the bar's own table. Elliott's is known for taking care of its regulars, who are rewarded with perks such as a $10 gift card for every $100 spent or enrollment in the Draft Club, which begins with a ritualistic bath in beer foam.
Finger fare dominates the appetizer menu, including meaty chipotle-barbecue shrimp hugged in grilled bacon strips and kissed with cheddar grits ($12), local and New England artisanal cheeses served with fruit and blueberry honey ($14), and southwestern eggrolls ($8.95). Those in search of greener grub will appreciate the fresh nine salad offerings. The farm salad ($11) features chilled hunks of chicken tossed with crumbled goat cheese, sliced green apples, grape tomatoes, and dried cranberries. For lunch, grilled cheese grows up with Tavern's farm-fresh take on the classic ($8.25) in three different styles. Main dinner courses include aged-USDA-beef selections, such as the brandy-flamed New York strip tavern steak ($27), and jumbo day-boat scallops pan seared and coated in decadent lobster butter ($25). Vegetarians can take solace in the vegetarian sauté, a garden blend bedded atop wild-mushroom risotto ($20).
The allure of Bill Bateman's Bistro increases exponentially with a glance at the wide-ranging menu. Locally lauded for its superlative wings, Bill Bateman's Bistro's offers glazed poultry in a variety of sizes and sauces. Combine cuisines with 10 ($8.49) of the Sweet Thai Chili Wings, or firmly uphold winged tradition with 30 original buffalo wings ($22.99). Fifty Wings from Hell ($36.99) will sate the fire-deprived tongues of fearless wing devourers and can be ordered via a Ouija board that until recently was just a game. The shrimp-melt wrap ($10.99), jalapeñoed Heat Wave Burger ($8.99), and grilled-chicken-topped California Salad ($10.99) are but a few of the numerous bites capable of complementing the various cold draft beers. For the full rundown of possible palate pleasers, see the complete menu for each participating location: Parkville, Severna Park, Glen Burnie, and Reisterstown.