It’s true. We Picky Eaters love fine dining. We favor local establishments that use locally sourced products and serve up creative, handmade delicacies.
But on Game Day, if we can’t be there in person, we enjoy a sports bar where we can cheer on our favorite teams, where we can groan aloud when the ref blows a call and shout with joy when our team scores—and not get tossed by the bouncer. The convivial atmosphere seems to sweeten the thrill of victory and ease the agony of defeat. High fiving with strangers and toasting miraculous plays seems completely acceptable at a sports bar.
So, on a Sunday a few weeks ago, we found ourselves at the 404 Taphouse in Denton. This sports bar can be found, just as the name suggests, sitting alongside U.S. 404 in an ever-expanding strip mall outside of town. Tucked into a line of businesses that includes Petco, Dollar Tree, a liquor store and the Y, the place is so inconspicuous that you might look past it if you didn’t know it was there.
Once inside, you’ll find a Texas-Meets-Maryland vibe. A large bar area consumes half the restaurant, with a family friendly dining room occupying the other. High ceilings reveal exposed ductwork, while yellow walls with splashes of corrugated steel and pine give the room warmth.
Americana is scattered throughout. One sign declares, “Good people drink good beer.” Another claims, “If you tap it, they will come.” The large sign over the hostess stand announces, “Oysters and beer, every day of the year.” (Our server had the grace to blush when she told us that both the fried oysters and raw oysters we wanted were unavailable. A larger than usual Saturday crowd consumed them all.)
As with any good sports bar, televisions circle the bar area and cover two of the walls in the dining room. In all, there are ten large-screen TVs, tuned to sports channels far and wide. Country music blares from the speakers when we first arrive, but changes to the broadcast of the Ravens-Skins game with the first snap.
We discovered on a subsequent visit that this sports bar doesn’t play game sound except on Sundays. On weekdays and Saturdays, you can only imagine what the commentators have to say. Or you can bring ear buds and live stream from your phone, which can be both costly and annoying.
Predictably, beer is the beverage of choice at the 404 Taphouse. The beers on tap vary, but run the gamut from Budweiser to the 404’s own Watts Creek Pale Ale brewed by 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown, Delaware. The wine list is non-existent, with the choice limited to a cheap house wine.
We ordered sodas and beer while we scoured the menu for game day favorites. Soon the table was full of appetizers, including fried dill pickles, onion rings, coconut shrimp and fire cracker shrimp. Though the server admitted, “They’re not homemade; they bring those in,” we devoured them anyway. How can you ruin a fried pickle?
The fire cracker shrimp was nice, too—small, pre-breaded and deep fried, then tossed with a hot-and-sweet sauce and served over a bed of Asian slaw. The cream of crab soup was well seasoned and thick with meat.
A large selection of salads beckons the health conscious and there are quesadillas and flat breads available, too. The pub fare consists of the usual—sandwiches, wraps and spaghetti and meatballs. We liked the fish and chips, beer battered cod with “hand-pulled” fries.
The dinner menu, available after 2 p.m., features a variety of dishes, from grilled salmon to a blackened chicken rice bowl. But, for us, a well-prepared steak is the standard bearer for a sports bar. The ribeye was perfectly seared and cooked as ordered, but both the seasoning and mashed potatoes lacked inspiration. Still, the vegetable of the day was fresh green beans, buttered and crisp, a bright spot on the plate.
Unquestionably, the 404 Burgers are the star of this line up. The patties consist of 100% Angus beef that are hand shaped and cooked to order. The Brioche buns are buttered and grilled, before being dressed. Topping combinations include black beans and guacamole, mushrooms and Swiss, and BBQ sauce, bacon and fried onions. There’s even a Hangover Helper, an 8-oz. patty topped with applewood smoked bacon, a fried egg and cheese.
There are two choices for dessert, plus a seasonal selection, if you manage to save room. Both the strawberry shortcake and brownie sundae are massive showstoppers and attract attention as the server carries them across a crowded room. Sinful and delicious, they make a perfect ending to the meal.
So there you have it. Os or Nats. Ravens or ‘Skins. Terps or Hoyas. Win or Lose. This is a fun place to catch the game and grab some grub.
404 Taphouse: 42 Denton Plaza, Denton, MD; 410-479-0658 or www.404taphouse.com. Open 11 a.m.-12 p.m. daily.