Let's get one thing straight: Quarry House Tavern is a dive. You know it, your friends know it, and the owners revel in it (Their slogan: "Silver Spring's favorite dive"). Walking down a bright and bustling Georgia Avenue, it would be easy to miss this classic bar nestled in the basement of some Indian food joint. Quarry House had a real sign at some point, but now they rely mostly on their dedicated regulars and word of mouth. It seems to be working.
The Quarry House has a long history in Silver Spring. Having been around since the 1930s(!), the bar is one of the few classic taverns left in the area, and local residents will tell you that the appearance and feel hasn't changed much over the years. Credit that to low turnover in the ownership department. The previous owner had the place from 1975 - 2005. The bar is most recently owned by Jackie Greenbaum, owner of Jackie's just a few doors down.
Noticeable features of Quarry House are exactly what you might expect of a good dive: Dim lighting, low ceilings, and old wooden furniture. But a few things really make it stand out: The beer and scotch selections are excellent; the live music is entertaining; and the food (including tater tots!) is generally regarded as above-average for a tavern.
The DMVBW crew hit Quarry House during the late afternoon of a Silver Spring burgscursion. Truth-be-told, this place was one of the primary reasons we made the trek to Silver Spring at all. We had heard great things about the burger and several of us had previously been to the place to sample the beer and scotch selection.
As we left the bright sunlight and descended the stone steps, it was like entering a different world. The dim lighting and low ceilings were exactly right - we felt like we had been in the bar for hours even before we sat down. Being early evening on a Sunday, we got to actually look around a bit, taking in all the eccentricities and history that the place had to offer. Antique beer posters, stuffed animal heads, and lots of old books and beer steins lined the walls. You could learn a lot about booze in a place like this.
We sat at a table next to the bar and placed our order. It had already been a long day of burgering, so I took the opportunity to visit the men's room. A cross between a hallway and broom closet, the dark bathroom looked like it hadn't been cleaned or updated since the the 1950s. It was truly one of the dingiest bathrooms I've ever been in. Naturally, we loved it. As long as you know what you're getting into with Quarry House, you're bound to enjoy the place.
You could learn a lot about booze in a place like this.
The service was fast - we placed our order quickly and had beers in front of us before we knew it. We waited with anticipation for the burger to come...
After a few minutes of waiting, our burgers arrived, and we weren't disappointed by the mountain of tater tots that came with them. The burger came in a plastic tray with checkered paper - good enough to carry on the divy-ness of the place.
Given the loyal following by many locals, we were extra excited to learn that the meat came from local grass-fed beef (a switch made by Greenbaum upon taking over the place in 2005). Upon the first bite, I immediately tasted the well-seasoned meat and the extra slice of cheddar, and couldn’t wait to dig in further, extra-greasiness be damned. As I continued, I realized that the first taste was a little deceiving. Some bites were extremely salty, while others could have used a little more.
The bun didn’t really take away from anything, though it looked and tasted like something purchased from a supermarket. We think there was lettuce and tomato, but no one seemed to remember with all that cheese dominating the flavor. All-in-all, this left us with an average burger with above average potential.
Look, we love Quarry House Tavern. All of us agreed that we should hang out there more often. The venue is definitely unique. In fact, take a girl there on a first date. If she sticks with you, she's a keeper.
But in a day filled with burgers, Quarry House's fare just didn't stand out. It was what you'd get at any local tavern, and that's not what we had heard before coming here. The tots were the most memorable food item from the visit.
Maybe after a night out on the town, we would have appreciated the greasy burger more. But if you're looking for the best burgers in the area, we simply can't recommend this one. Will we be back? Definitely. Will the burger be better? We sure hope so.
1/3 lb. Hamburger (with cheese) at Quarry House Tavern