An Ode to the Quarry House Tavern

Tim Carman/Washington Post

Tim Carman/Washington Post

Instead of writing about sports and statistics today, I have decided to take some time to reflect on a place that is near and dear to my heart.

Before 1 am last Thursday, an electrical fire was set off at the back of the closed Bombay Gaylord Indian Restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, causing damage to the restaurant and two other surrounding locations. One of them was set downstairs in one of the oldest and most unusual establishments in the area’s (or, as wikipedia would like to call it, a “census-designated place’s”) history.

The Quarry House Tavern is a dive bar located on the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street: a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Wayne Avenue, Fenton Street, Colesville Road and Ellsworth Drive. It was one of the few speakeasies still standing from the prohibition era and remains one of the few old relics from a location that experienced a decade old facelift. Latest attractions from this makeover have included the AFI Silver Theater, the Fillmore, the Classics, the Discovery Channel Building with its inflatable shark parts propped up during Shark Week, the outdoor ice rink that pops up every Winter with its signature push penguins and various other shops and restaurants like DSW, Burger Fi, Whole Foods and Thai of Silver Spring. While new buildings open, it feels like the old is starting to be forgotten, like the City Place Mall, the Mi Rancho restaurant and anything within a block from the Silver Spring Metro Station. Heck, even a complete jerk had to ruin everyone’s old fun habits in a local cable show.

Quarry House has been known for not only its long and extensive list of craft beers and “whiskey and what not”, but also it’s short, simple and cheap but still unique bar food that included burgers, hot dogs and even old-bay seasoned tater tots. You would pick your choice of drink and/or “grub” with menus that looked like someone were told to only make every one of these via typewriter on 11×14 sheets. Even if that’s not a smart idea for every restaurant, the beer stains on each of these buddies make it a work of art in itself.

When entering the establishment, newbies almost always have to double-check that this is the right location with its stairway wall blocking the view of the location with its exterior. When going down, you may or may not pay attention the Medieval style flags labeled “QH” and it is not until you hit the absolute depths that you begin to hear the chaotic, yet welcoming noise from the patrons. Most bars tend to find ways to be too modern, too cookie cutter or surround themselves with types of people that create uncomfortable vibes. This basement under an Indian restaurant brings a sense of chilled out friendliness by vast arrays of people young and old that you rarely see anywhere else. The two-roomed basement still had posters and signs from old punk concerts and the vast array of metallic beer advertisements would be perfect in an episode or ten in American Picker’s. As a person over six feet tall, I still remember the men’s bathroom ceiling always being two feet two short and having there be an elevation from one toilet to the next. You enter perplexed but leave fascinated.

On Saturdays, a spot where couches signify the end of the restaurant are replaced by a makeshift music stage. The stacked boxes of alcohol that surround the performers were perfect for the eyes and the walls that divide one open room to the next were perfect for the music not to drown out your own voice and conversation with others. Even when the bands aren’t playing, the juke box was there to remind you what the radio was really playing from the 60s and 70s. Unlike the one’s at any Silver Diner, this jukebox looked like what a jukebox should look like: right on a wall and able to play James Brown’s worst song from his best album.

To me, all you needed was Queen’s “Don’t stop Me Now” blaring through the device to grab some cues and perfectly reenact the zombie defense scene from Shaun of the Dead. I mean, Silver Spring does have annual zombie walks, so why not?

For this 27-year old, it might as well be my Winchester.

I certainly know that plenty of others that feel the same way. It’s quite symbolic that a few blocks from the Quarry House stands a statue of Norman Lane, the only mayor ever known in these parts. Except, the man literally was a beggar roaming the streets of Georgia Avenue but unlike most beggars, he brought a positive attitude towards others when they were at their worst. On his plaque, Lane’s famous line (granted, probably in drunk overtones) was “don’t worry ’bout it”. Washington, DC, let alone all parts of the country have people like Lane that always are seen as an eyesore, but just won’t go away until they get back on their feet. That’s what the Quarry House Tavern is to plenty of people. Even in our worst of times, our weaknesses most prevalent and our problems sometimes ignored by others, we still keep living; finding ways to make it through one footstep to the next. With that spirit, the Tavern’s facebook page says they’ll be back soon.

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