Picture it (you should be reading this in the Sophia from “Golden Girls” voice, by the way):
Silver Spring, Maryland, 1926. A time when alcohol was banned in the United States, and we young folks found ourselves in strange establishments called “speakeasies,” hunting for booze in secretive locations around the city. It was exciting! It was romantic! It was probably unhygienic, given that we were in basements and back rooms. (God, I love that show. I may or may not be writing the rest of this review with her voice in my head.)
One of these former speakeasies can still be found today, open and operating in a basement under an Indian restaurant (how’s that for sitcom-esque?) right on Georgia Ave in Silver Spring. This fantastic, deliciously dive-y establishment is known as the Quarry House, and after visiting several times since I’ve moved to the DMV, I’m totally in love.
First, the booze: The Quarry House is known for having one of the most extensive whiskey and beer menus in the area, and for good region: their 10+ page beer menu is known as the Beericulum Vitae, and that doesn’t even include their dozens upon dozens of whiskeys, scotches, and other spirits behind the bar. There’s a shorter menu of rotating draft selections, too, if
your indecisive self you want fewer choices. My advice? Try something a little unconventional. If it wasn’t for the Quarry House, I wouldn’t have come to appreciate various local Maryland brews, like The Raven Special Lager (how literary is that Poe-cuteness?) and others that they proudly display among other American, European and global offerings.
Then, the grub. In some ways, you have your classic bar snacks, but with some twists: sandwiches, tacos, homemade chips, three kinds of pupusas, a.k.a. filled-nuggets-of-Salvadorian-deliciousness. Most of us ordered their super-tasty burgers on our last outing — if you opt for beef, they’re cooked just as you like — none of this “undercooked beef will cause you all sorts of nasty diseases” nonsense for the red meat lovers. The History Teacher (the boy’s official nickname from now onward) got a burger with bacon, Swiss, barbecue sauce and grilled onions, along with your basic burger fixins. Let’s just say its time of extinction was around 5 minutes after it arrived. I went with a veggie burger — a flavorful blend of what looked like beans, carrots and other veg-friendly ingredients — topped with soy cheese and grilled onions. Very happy camper, party of GKG.
But the ultimate, incredible, oh-good-Lord-do-I-need-these-now item that we ordered? Old Bay Tater Tots. I’m sorry, did my computer start malfunctioning? It must have, given that it’s covered in drool.
So simple: fried little potato nuggets, smothered in Old Bay’s spicy mystery blend of goodness. But they were, seriously, a revelation. Especially with a brewski and burger on hand.
To recreate these at home, you can easily just sprinkle Old Bay on top of your garden-variety tater tots. Or, you can take them to the next level, and try these Old Bay Sweet Potato Pan Fries. Thank the History Teacher for this one.
- Old Bay
- 2 Sweet Potatoes / Yams
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups oil (vegetable works fine)
Here’s what you do:
- Peel the sweet potatoes, and slice them into whatever size fry you prefer. (They make great steak fries)
- Heat the oil on medium-high to high heat, until a drop of water sizzles when you drop it into the pan. (If you have a deep fryer, trust whatever indicator it gives you)
- Fry the potatoes for about 10-ish minutes, or until crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. You can also give ’em a pat down with those paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Once they’re slightly cool, sprinkle ’em with as much Old Bay as you like. (Unless your sodium levels are a concern, there is no such thing as “too little Old Bay.”) Toss ’em to coat, and serve to the ravenous hordes.
Any Marylanders out there who can speak to the wonders of Old Bay? Or, if you live in the DMV, have you been to the Quarry House? If not, get your butt to downtown Silver Spring!