The largest selection of single malts in the state and a healthy list of craft beers

The Judge's Bench

8385 Main St., Ellicott City, (410) 465-3497,

The story goes that in the 1800s Berger's Grocery Store, across from the then-Howard County Courthouse, was where the county judges would take their refreshment and cool off between judgments during the hot summer months. Now, the drinks at the Judge's Bench, as it is now called, tend toward the alcoholic. They have the largest selection of single malts in the state and a healthy list of craft beers. What drew us here, though, was the impressive range of vegan bar food-not a common trait in local bars. Intrigued, we tried the Gardein veggie burger ($8.75). It's served on a kaiser roll with fried flour tortilla chips on the side. We weren't a fan of the chips and we'll definitely get fries on the side next time, but the veggie burger was straightforward and tasty. We also ordered "chick'n" jammies, meatless chicken breaded and tossed in choice of sauce or Old Bay ($8.75); we went with the hot sauce. These were less impressive: bottled sauce with soy-based, Beyond Meat-brand chicken stand-ins. The sauce was tangy but so watery that the paper liner inside the jammies' basket was deteriorating and dissolving into the chicken. The Bench is a great bar with a lively open mic and lots to love, but when we go back we won't order chick'n jammies. We would, however, like to try the white bean chick'n chili. Too bad they weren't serving it on the night we were there.

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