Outside of Baltimore, the tiny, historic town of Elkridge, Maryland, just got a dining upgrade with the recent opening of an old world German basement bar that has a menu designed by a chef at one of the most respected restaurants in the state.
The Rathskeller (5782 Main Street, Elkridge) is half of a two-part business that recently opened in a former 18th-century quilt shop. The Rathskeller is in the basement, naturally, and the other floor is a coffee shop called Screamin’ Agnes.
Owner John O’Connor, a structural engineer with German roots, brought in Brian Cieslak, chef de cuisine at ferment-forward Preserve in Annapolis, to consult on a menu featuring spiced chicken schnitzel and goose liver mousse. While veggies are the focus at Preserve, the Rathskeller brings more meat to the table. Highlights include a lamb doner kebab, a cold cut sandwich with head cheese and tongue bologna, and a “Hamburg” sandwich built with Roseda dry-aged beef and German cheese on a sourdough bun.
“We didn’t want to do the whole beer stein and lederhosen thing,” Cieslak says. “We want to showcase the other side of Germany.”
Robert Vogel, an alum of the Elk Room in Baltimore — one of Esquire’s 50 top bars in 2018 — designed the drinks. Wines and beers go heavy on German labels, and Vogel is having fun incorporating European spirits like Goldschläger and Jägermeister into cocktails.
There’s just dinner to start, with lunch and brunch joining the mix later.
The building, which is about a mile from the Guinness Open Gate brewery, took over four years to renovate.
Salvaging much of the wood on-site was a primary goal, and banquettes fashioned by a local carpenter include repurposed material. A refurbished jail cell — reportedly used by a local judge as the town’s “drunk tank” on weekends — is part of a 30-seat patio. O’Connor sourced two historic doors from the old prison in Jessup, Maryland, to augment its old-timey feel.