Neighborhood Restaurant Group, burnished by its reputation for popular beer-focused restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, will open its first Maryland restaurant Monday at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda.
Owen’s Ordinary will open in a space next to the Carluccio’s restaurant at the Federal Realty development along Rockville Pike. The restaurant will offer 50 draft beers and 150 in bottles and cans—an expansive list for a Montgomery County restaurant.
“We’re used to having to push for the stuff we want,” Neighborhood Restaurant Group Beer Director Greg Engert said while inside the restaurant Friday afternoon. And he said that’s what the restaurant group has done to create the beer list that will be served at the North Bethesda restaurant.
The beers at the restaurant are served out of these tiled taps that line the back of the bar. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Engert, an English major who ditched his plan to pursue a career as a professor after becoming enamored with craft beer, has been with the restaurant company since 2006—a time when he says craft beer started to expand from a niche audience to the mainstream.
He’s helped develop concepts in D.C. including Churchkey, The Sovereign and Birch & Barley that focus on offering unique, ever-changing beer lists. And for the new concept at Pike & Rose, he’s had to deal with the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) for the first time. Unlike some other local restaurant owners who have complained about the department’s service and products, Engert said he hasn’t experienced problems dealing with the DLC.
For decades the DLC has controlled the wholesale distribution of beer, wine and liquor in the county, but Engert said a recent change in 2014 that allowed craft breweries to distribute beer directly to restaurants in the county has enabled him to create a beer list that he believes is unique.
The bar area at Owen's Ordinary
The direct distribution allows him to work with breweries such as Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville and Manor Hill in Ellicott City, which deliver their kegs to the restaurant. He said this enables him to receive beers that he knows are fresh and handled with care by brewery employees—rather than delivered by a third-party distributor.
He also said he met with the DLC to ensure the department can order the beer he wants well ahead of time, especially products the county distributor doesn’t regularly stock in its Gaithersburg warehouse.
“I worked with beer producers and other distributors directly first, then I went to the DLC to tell them what I’m trying to do,” Engert said. “The process has been in the making for months.”
As a result, the opening draft list is heavy with products from Maryland breweries—there’s an Imperial Ale from RaR in Cambridge, a pumpkin ale from Jailbreak Brewing in Laurel, a Saison from The Brewer’s Art in Baltimore and multiple varieties from Denizens and Manor Hill. The list also includes a number of beers from the restaurant’s Bluejacket Brewery in D.C. as well as other varieties from around the U.S. and world served on draft and in bottles.
The keg room at Owen's Ordinary. The restaurant uses state-of-the-art draft line technology to control the temperatures of the many varieties of beer it serves.
The restaurant uses temperature-controlled tap lines to make sure beers are served at temperatures that accentuate their taste. And employees undergo a one-week training program, followed by daily training sessions to provide them with knowledge about the beers served at the restaurant, according to Engert.
The design of the restaurant is steampunk. The lights installed above the booths and tables in the bar area resemble heat lamps. Copper pipes on the ceiling transport the draft lines from the keg room to the 50 taps at the bar. There’s a beer garden with picnic table seating as well as an outdoor and indoor bar with TVs facing both sides.
Design elements inside Owen's Ordinary
Part of the dining room (left) and host stand (right)
The dining room is split into two sections, one side of which can be reserved for private or semi-private events. The opening dinner menu is heavy on American fare such as burgers, half-smokes, macaroni and cheese, slow-roasted pork shoulder and cheese fondue. The entrees are priced between $20 and $30, while most of the burgers, salads, appetizers and fondue are less than $15.
Neighborhood Restaurant Group co-owner Michael Babin said the buildout of the restaurant took about seven months. He said the company has been looking to enter the county market for the past 15 years, but was waiting for the right opportunity.
At Federal Realty-owned Pike & Rose, the company found the perfect fit, he said.
“They put people together really thoughtfully,” Babin said.
The outdoor seating area at the restaurant.
The restaurant is next to the Italian concept Carluccio’s, nearby is the beachy Summer House Santa Monica, the pizza place Stella Barra and the American grill Del Frisco’s. On Friday, construction was ongoing nearby on the new buildings that are part of Pike & Rose phase two that will house more residential units, business space and a hotel at the massive mixed-use development.
Babin said the restaurant company tries to identify places where its eateries can help define a neighborhood.
“This is an opportunity to create a center of a community and we like that,” Babin said. “We hope we become part of the neighborhood and entice people to not just go to their garage and get into their cars, but walk around and explore.”
Seating in the bar area.
Bottles of beer lined up inside a fridge at the restaurant.
Another angle of the beer garden. All photos by Andrew Metcalf.