Owen’s Ordinary, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s first restaurant in Montgomery County, debuts on Oct. 17 with a massive beer list.
Located at 11820 Trade Street within the Upper Muse Alley portion of the Pike & Rose development (in Rockville/North Bethesda), the Victorian-era themed eatery features tavern fare and a Maryland-focused beer list.
The nucleus of the 6,000-square-foot operation is a temperature-controlled draft room that connects kegs directly to the bar via a complex pipe system. Out of the 50 debut drafts, half will be Maryland brands and the rest will be American labels. And of the 150 bottles and cans at the ready, 50 are from Maryland and the rest are from the Mid-Atlantic, the U.S., and overseas. "No one is pouring 70 Maryland drafts, bottles and cans right now," said NRG’s Beer Director Greg Engert. Like many of NRG’s locales, the menu is split up by a flavor profiling system developed by Engert.
The three-tier system serves beers at an exact 42, 48, or 54 degrees, depending on the type ("more heat encourages aromas to jump out of the glass," he said). More intense dark ales, for instance, taste better at a higher temperature, he said. The temperature-controlled draft system debuted at Churchkey in 2009, and it’s since expanded to NRG’s other restaurants like The Sovereign and Bluejacket. Owen’s system, outfitted with tubing and stainless steel, is "as complex and high end as anything we’ve ever done," he says.
Michael Babin, president of NRG, says the name "Owen’s" is an ode to Rockville’s history; an "Owen’s Tavern" nearby functioned as a makeshift town hall when the city was being born. Babin says the decor plays off the mechanics of the draft system, with industrial steampunk elements throughout. Between indoor and outdoor spaces—including a bar that wraps along the building—the bar area seats 100. Another 120 seats balance out the restaurant.
The tavern fare is described as "comfort food—with a little more finesse," according to executive chef Anthony Piscioneri. Starters include a tomato bread soup with basil and Parmesan for $7 and a house-cured Gravlax with lemon crème fraise and pumpernickel for $13. Fondue—a popular beer pairing—is a focal point of the menu. One is a beer and cheddar variety paired with bread, apple, potato and broccoli ($13.50). Burgers are also big, ranging from vegan to the Virginia Angus double stack with special sauce, an East Coast spin off of In-N-Out’s Double Double "Animal Style" burger. Most mains are priced at $26 or below, with a focus on beef and pork entrées as well as salads, like the crispy grains and rice with shallot mustard vin and baby romaine with radish, anchovy powder, parmesan, and red wine vinegar.
Brunch will be tacked on in its second week of opening, and the restaurant will stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends and 1 a.m. during the week.
Now that Montgomery County has loosened up its alcohol supply regulations, more Maryland breweries have popped up over the past few years, like 7 Locks Brewing and Denizens Brewing Co. Now certain-sized breweries can self-distribute direct to a retailer, so that means "hyper fresh" beers can make its way to Owen’s. It’ll be the first NRG spot selling Bluejacket beers outside of its D.C. brewery, for instance.