A new addition has joined the burgeoning Old Ellicott City food scene, Manor Hill Tavern has replaced Diamondback Tavern and it seems to be a welcome addition. Where Diamondback Tavern fell flat on creativity, Manor Hill Tavern is looking to go down a different path that’s centered on having good food with quality ingredients.
Much of old Ellicott City has been ravaged by the summer flood of 2016, many of the stores and restaurants have yet to rebound and reopen. Fortunately, the Manor Hill location did not sustain enough damage to prevent them from staying open. Inside, Manor Hill has been gorgeously renovated, the old Diamondback decor was dark and uninviting.
Manor Hill Tavern is owned by the same restaurant group that owns Victoria Gastro Pub and they are banking big that this will be another success for them. The group has said they have spent upwards of two million dollars to renovate the space to bring it up to their standards.
Manor Hill and Victoria have a lot of similarities, I would say the Manor Hill menu is paired down more than Victoria’s but the same emphasis on comfort-gourmet food is there.
For the beer drinkers out there you’ll be happy to know that Manor Hill also operates their own local brewery and much of the beer served at the tavern is sourced from their brewery.
The menu is comprised of “snacks (i.e. appetizers)”, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and “supper” items. It has plenty of appealing options, but it’s clear from the set up the restaurant that they’re really banking on you loving the snacks and the pizzas. The pizzas are made in the tavern’s brick oven and are then infused with even more smoke prior to serving them. While I didn’t get to try the pizza it did look very good and it’s something I would want to try if I returned.
The snacks portion of the menu features many fun ideas and bar food staples with a twist. From soft pretzels with beer cheese to funnel cake their menu has a lot of fun snack options.
Obviously, I had to try the funnel cake. It’s a great idea, but it sort of missed the mark, the funnel cake is not served nearly warm enough so end result is a funnel cake that’s slightly too crunchy. The sweetness of it still goes well with the crab dip which is very light and flavorful. This dish would be better suited with a soft pretzel. The crab flavor in dip is pleasant, I wouldn’t call it a fondue as they call it but I guess tomato-tomahto. The charred corn and crab relish is a bit of an afterthought, it’s a good concept but it’s mediocre. You’ll notice that’s a trend.
Hoping the funnel cake was more of an anomaly we switched things up a bit and tried the General Tso style chicken wings. Another miss. The wings are mediocre, they miss the mark, the confit wings are a bland attempt to hit the Asian style chicken wing fad that’s become very popular. The sauce is overly sweet and doesn’t have any real depth that usually comes with a good General Tso sauce. I would skip this appetizer for some of their other options that appeared to be far more tantalizing.
Having both of these appetizers made me have almost immediate appetizer FOMO of the other items on the menu, I’d suggest trying the pretzels with the cheddar cheese dip that looked amazing.
After the snacks, we moved on to the main entrees in hopes of a redemption of the sorts. The end result was another mixed bag. First I need to describe their entree menu to you, it’s a little puzzling. Why? It’s bizarrely limited (at the time of my dining, it’s expanded slightly), I’m not saying that you need to provide so many options, but the entrees seem more like an afterthought on this menu than a main attraction. This is the entree menu: a steak, a seafood boil, a risotto (odd placement), and a roasted half chicken.
That’s it. I find the menu selection to be bizarrely miscast and a missed opportunity, as a tavern there’s a ton of fun things you can do with entrees to play up.
All of the options seemed meh to me, so I opted instead to try their Bird’s the Word sandwich because I saw it as I walked in and I had to try it.
But first the steak. Manor Hill sources their meat locally, their beef comes from J.W. Treuth which is a local butcher and farm that provides some of the best beef I have ever had. The cut of meat varies from time to time, the steak is grilled and topped with a chimichurri sauce with a side of french fries (they’ve since updated this menu item to be a bone-in 18 oz. ribeye with broccoli cheddar mashed potatoes). The steak was well prepared and the chimichurri was flavorful, but overall there was nothing special about this dish. It was a decent steak, but nothing memorable.
Now the star of the evening, out of everything we tried the “Bird’s the Word” fried chicken sandwich was the best thing we had. I’ll set the scene it’s a pickle brined fried chicken breast with pimento cheese and a spicy honey drizzle all on a brioche bun. If there was anything that I would change to this sandwich, it would be two things. One, would be slightly more pimento cheese to accent the well prepared chicken breast. Two, if this is possible, the chicken breast is so big that it kind takes away from the sandwich, it’s so big that you can barely get your mouth around it. The chicken pops out of the breading and makes eating it sort of a sloppy affair. Still though, it’s really freaking delicious. I would definitely recommend getting this or trying one of their burgers in lieu of the entrees.
Overall, Manor Hill Tavern is still trying to work things out and find its way towards becoming a top restaurant in the county. The food is not mind blowing, but it’s also not terrible, I would definitely give them another try and it’s definitely worth a visit if gourmet style bar food ala Victoria Gastro Pub is your thing.With affordable pricing, ample parking, and friendly service Howard County diners will definitely give them a chance. My final grade for Manor Hill Tavern is a B.