Boutique Libation Eateries
Roasthouse Pub: another specialty restaurant boosting Frederick’s local economy.
By Bethany Emerson Starin
Photos by Bill Millios
In June, Roasthouse Pub swung open its doors, joining the ranks of Frederick’s eateries that revolve around good alcohol.
Like The Tasting Room, Barley and Hops and Brewer’s Alley, which craft their own microbrews, and the wine lover’s Shab Row Bistro or the Wine Kitchen on Carroll Creek Promenade, Roasthouse boasts an extensive drink list. But the restaurant’s claim to fame is that it carries Frederick’s largest selection of craft beers on draft—20 to be exact.
“We always joke that there is nothing to do in Frederick, but eat,” says co-manager Jeff Beckelman with a laugh. Kris Norris, also co-manager, adds that every time a keg is “kicked” (emptied) at Roasthouse, a new brew is brought in, keeping the list of beers constantly rotating.
Rollie Belles, co-owner of Roasthouse with his father, says he’s not the beer expert, but decided to take a chance at tapping into the local craft beer market with the Roasthouse model.
“We had nothing to lose,” Belles says, explaining that they’d previously closed their Philly Cheesesteak Factory, and thus had space available for something. “I had no idea if it was going to work,” he says.
But it has. There are still those locals that want their Budweiser, Belles says—so Roasthouse carries it—but their craft beers are actually selling quite well.
Now in their second quarter, their numbers are still growing. “I think that it’s part of this truly great population here [in Frederick] that people are looking for something new,” Beckelman says. “We cater to a person who likes to try new things.”
And that’s exactly what head Chef Kevin Barnette says he is dishing up—and he doesn’t use a grill or a deep fryer. Everything is either roasted or cooked on the stovetop. Why?
For one, there’s no space for a grill.
“It is like cooking in a hallway,” Barnette says with a laugh, glancing down his approximately 6-by-22-foot cooking space. But he loves his hallway kitchen. It’s here that he stirs up his sweet and spicy barbeque sauce, which he hopes to bottle someday. And it’s here that he perfected his recipe for macaroni and cheese, which is cut in squares or triangles, covered with panko breadcrumbs, sautéed in clarified butter and finished in the oven.
“I was tired of dropping [food into] a deep fryer,” he says, adding that while kitchen manager at Eastgate Shopping Center’s Belles’ Sports Bar and Grill before coming to Roasthouse, he began brainstorming about the roasting food concept.
“The deep flavors of roasting food and the deep flavors of craft beers go hand in hand,” Beckelman adds.
Roasted redskin potatoes take the place of fries, Barnette notes, explaining that much of his modern-American cuisine could be considered comfort food.
“I have heard that a beer is like the adult version of a teddy bear,” Beckelman says.
“So you pretty much come in here and get wrapped in a blanket together,” Barnette chimes in. The duo laughs.
For those who visited its predecessor, The Philly Cheesesteak Factory, Roasthouse would seem shockingly different.
Since the cheesesteak joint was not doing well, owner Rollie Belles decided that rather than close it, he would gut it and replace it with custom wood booths for six, a 24-foot concrete bar, hand-crafted tabletops inlaid with bottle caps, and burlap-covered lighting—and create Roasthouse.
They do offer one red and one white wine, Beckelman says, adding that the liquor selection is exotic, including a bottle of Scorpion Mezcal. Here, Beckelman points to three tiny sombreros tacked above the bar. The duo calls this the scorpion squad list, and it signifies those who have eaten the scorpion that is at the bottom of each Scorpion Mezcal bottle.
Norris was the first to take the dare, but Beckelman and Barnette followed close behind.
“It tasted like tequila-flavored a-flavored bark,” Beckelman says.
For more information visit www.roasthousepub.com or go to the restaurant’s Facebook page for beer and menu updates.