16 August 2008

Rocky Run


Rocky Run was one of my favorite places. It was a place to have a beer with friends, a place to chat, and a place to eat a simple (but satisfying) meal. I am certainly not the first to blog about this (Columbia Talk, Howard County Maryland Blog). I first walked into Rock Run in 1996, and I kept coming back. Here are a few reasons why:


When you walked into Rocky Run, you knew this was not a national chain. It never took itself too seriously, and this was reflected in the d├ęcor. One of the few restaurants in Columbia that had its own brewery, there was a quirkyness about the place. The enormous hot sauce collection, the Elvis booth, the Beatles room, the Buffett room. The peanuts on the floor in the bar (great when fashionable, even better that they stuck with it when it fell out of fashion). The foreign language tapes on continuous loop in the bathrooms. The Rocky Cocktails (I confess, I had a Jamaican Bobsled just last week!) The endless trivia games.

The Food

Since it opened, Rocky Run’s menu has always been full of offerings. Standouts in my mind where the chicken wings, which always seemed larger than the wings served at other restaurants in town. Crab Pretzels on Fridays during lent. The salads (the cobb salad was a personal favorite), of course the burgers, and the impossibly large “loaded” baked potatoes. The Cuban pannini was a late, but welcomed arrival on the menu.

If people asked me about the food at Rocky Run, I would always respond “It’s the best comfort food in Columbia.” I think that said it all.

The Staff

Over the years, I have gotten to know many of the people behind the bar and waiting tables. It all started with Alex, who on that first day I walked into the bar, shook my hand, introduced himself and asked me what I would like to drink. I quickly came to know him and many others. The always bubbly Liz, Adam, who insisted on being called Fish. Mary Ellen, who was in training to become an EMT before she trashed her knee. The always nice Amy. Ruthie, who had issues, still managed to have a good time and smile.

During the late 1990’s Heidi and Sean tended bar on Friday nights, and they always managed to serve an impossibly large crowd. At that time, Margarita Maggies was still open, but not doing well, and people would park in the Maggies lot to go to Rocky Run. Heidi and Sean performed their craft well. They were fast, charming, and seemed to enjoy themselves.

As time passed, some interesting bartenders made their way through. Art was always fun with his libertarian views and his dislike of public displays of affection. Jeff was a master of many subjects. Henri, was just an all-around good guy; smart, witty, and a die-hard Wizards/Bullets fan.

There were a few that found love at Rocky Run. Caleb and Christy are still together and Tommy and Jenny were an item.

But, over the years, three stand out. Jason, who started as a busboy, became a waiter, host, bartender, bar manager, store manager, and I’m sure is still doing well. Jason, I have seen you grow so much over the last twelve years. I am honored to call you friend, and wish you well. Christy (as mentioned above), you have been part of my nights out for so long that I will miss you. Dave, you are a great man and I am sure good things will happen for you.

I know that I have missed so many (oh, I remember another, Wendy!) who wore the bright orange “Rocky Rookie” shirts on their first day, I will miss you too, as well as everyone in the kitchen.

The Smartest Patrons Ever Known

I am serious about this point. Since the day it opened, Rocky Run always ran the NTN/Buzztime trivia games; Half hour trivia contests that linked thousands of restaurants across the United States. Rocky Run attracted a clientele that was adept at these games (and for a long time, I was one of them) and often times Rocky Run would be ranked in the top 20 in the nation. Occasionally, a person would arrive at Rocky Run just based on seeing the restaurant on the trivia boards at other restaurants. During the late 1990’s, Rocky Run and Nottingham’s were engaged in a battle of trivia supremacy. Trivia players were courted. Scores were displayed; cell phone calls were exchanged after games.

What gave this rivalry depth was that at Nottingham’s, it was known that the trivia players typically shared answers. At Rocky Run, the unwritten rule was that you played your game. Shouting out answers was considered bad form. That is not to say that the trivia players were stoic and silent. After playing for a while, players got to know each other. Most were witty, some were outright funny, and all liked passing time together.

So Moron, Phlegm, Farkle, Redgirl, Karl, and all the many people who got the trivia bug, I will find a place to play, and I hope to see you on the board too. I will miss you all.

Beyond the trivia, the folks at the bar were generally well versed in the topics of the day. You could always have a good conversation about national or local news. Just smart, wonderful people.

Where do we go from here?

I was at Rocky Run just last Friday. A friend of mine had just accepted an offer for a new job, and we went out to celebrate. We had dinner, discussed the job, what’s new in our families (my son wears a Size 1 shoe, and he starts kindergarten this month), sports, and the local politics scene. We had arrived at 6 o’clock, and the bar was busy. When we left at 9:30, the place was nearly empty. Christy, Dave and Jason were there. We said hello and things seemed all right.

I guess all we have are memories now. I can still see Joe and Ellis sitting at the end of the bar. Bobby holding court at one of the short tables. Don and Deanna discussing their latest travel plans. Bill and the trivia faithful playing trivia and chatting up each other. Jason and Terry stopping by for dinner. Some stranger saying out loud “Oh, I LOVE this song,” and me saying to myself “I love this song too.”

Yesterday I stopped by to take the picture to accompany this post. The owner came out and said hello. We talked for a short while and then I just had to ask: What happened? He told me that business had really dropped off drastically in the last four months. I thanked him and inquired how the staff were doing. He had told me that more than a few had already found jobs. I was relieved to hear that. I just smiled and thanked him again. He smiled back and thanked me, then quietly went inside. I took a minute and sat on the bench outside. As I sat there, four cars pulled up, and each asked the same question: What happened? I told each what I had heard, and they all, hesitantly, walked back to their cars, muttering “This is awful…This was my favorite place…”

I don’t know where or when my friends and I will get together for happy hour, but when we do, we will loudly toast the memory of a place that enriched our lives (better said, provided an atmosphere that allowed us to enrich each others lives).

I hope we can find a place that will have that same feel; that will give us a Second Chance.


Ed C said...

This captures the Rocky Run that I remember. A minor omission, Angela one of the most efficient bar tenders that I've seen.

B. Santos said...

Ed C,

Angela! You are correct. A terrible omission on my part. Angela, if you read this, you are certainly one of the best bartenders and people I know.

macsmom said...

Thanks for the write-up on Rocky Run. I have had a variety of experiences there "food-wise", but the service was friendly and helpful, as you say. Is it possible that local blogs could begin to function in a rescue role rather than merely lamenting favorite places after they are gone? Would locals rally around a worthy business if they knew if was in trouble? (Rather like dolphins keeping the sick member of the pod afloat while it recovers.)

I'm not sure how this would work, I'm just thinking it might be possible. Somehow.

Henri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henri said...

Thanks so much for your support Bill. It was always fun waiting on you and the vast amount of regulars we had. Even a week later it seems a little unreal to think after six years of being there its over so quickly. Im sure we will all move on at some point but it does hit hard to home at least right now. On behalf of myself and the rest of the bar crew thanks to all of the people who gave us jobs......Bill,Bobby, Scott and Mike, Linda and Beth and Ro, Karl, Sondra, Scott G., Parker, Todd and Sam, Billy Vanilly, Jeff, Danco, DaveNoco, Kellyco, Stacie and Becky, Alan and Belinda, Alan and Brenda, Deb and Rob, the entire NTN crew, the Football crew, the service industry crew, and the HOCKEY crew!!!! This list could literally go on forever and if I forgot anybody please feel free to come yell at me at Frisco Grill in Columbia. I have started bartending up there and would love to see everybody again. Once again Bill, I am glad somebody else is upset about this and has put it out there for everybody to see. See yall soon----Henri

sfhunt said...

Bill - Nice post, you covered just about everything that I would say about Rocky Run. In addition to the fun, I have fond memories of it as the place where my wife and I began our relationship 10 years ago. Glad that we got one last happy hour in before the place closed. Looking forward to toasting its memory at our next happy hour (wherever that might be......).

jhuggins said...

Henri, This is Jim, former manager and GM for a few years. I am too sad to see Rocky Run close. I hope you are doing well. Do you know how I could get hold of Jason M.? I'd like to talk to him. I will check for a message on this board later. How is everyone else, Dave, Christy, and Jeff.

Hineway said...

Very sad. First JK's Pub, now this. Bill -- did Bert say whether or not he closed all of the Run's, or just Columbia?


B. Santos said...


It is my understanding that the Rocky Run at the Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie is still open.

Jen said...

I was saddened to hear the news from my boyfriend the other day. I thought he was joking, because, wow, that place always seemed busy and popular. We loved to go for the spicy Deans and beer now and then.

It was much frequented by the staff of Columbia Scuba where my boyfriend works as a divemaster sometimes, a favorite hangout spot for them. Now where will they go that's as conveniently located and has such a great atmosphere? Rocky Run in Columbia will definitely be missed.

Yom said...

Yes, the RR was my oldest son's first job outside of life guard at CA pools.
He was one of the original staff and had a great time working there.

Tom said...

Yat's Tom not yom

Gary and Alice said...

This really hit home for us as I too was shocked to be laid off unexpectantly at the end of July. However, we still made it to the Run, as it was the most economical place to get a drink, great food, be treated like family, and catch up with all our friends. No matter where we end up, Rocky Run can never be replaced in our hearts.

Rocky Run was Columbia's version of "Cheers". So often would we enter and be greeted by our favorite bartender (there were so many) wondering where to put our drinks that had already been prepared when they saw us get out of our car in the parking lot. That's service! We always loved checking our tab at the end of a stay to see what witty but affectionate tag line Jason, Dave, Christy, or Henri had used for us that night. Our favorite from Jason and Dave was "Mommy n Daddy". It seemed to fit as we would pull them aside to see baby pictures or discuss Real Estate and especially to solicit their help in solving a Shark Attack question.

NTN'ers, we'll see you in Owen Brown at Sonomas
Jason, congrats on moving up to Chop House in Maple Lawn
Henri, save us a seat at Frisco Grill
Christi, good luck with the title and tag stuff
Dave, let us know where you end up
Ruthie, enjoy working on your tan and let us know when you're ready to go to SC
Nicki, Jeff, Mikey and especially Nicki's bother (the best sundae maker around), we'll miss you all and hopefully catch up with you soon.

Crip and Justy

Go Bucks!

mdduckman said...

I share in everyone's sentiments...it's a very sad day when a place like Rocky Run has to close its doors. My wife and I practically grew up there - well, we spent a good portion of our 20's there (we met at Margarita Maggies). When we moved to Florida in the late 90's, we really missed places like Rocky Run (in fact whenever we were visiting MD, we HAD to visit there). We eventually moved back, and frequented RR from time to time over the next several years. My first daughter's first experience out in a restaurant was at RR (she was probably about 2 or 3 months old, and we were terrified to take her out!)...and yes, we used to play Trivia (NTN) and we remember Pflegm (sp?). And of course, how about Shamoken Dem Nachos (or something like that!) and the crab dip and the mini dessert shooters...YUM! We'll miss that place...I just wish we got one last chance to say goodbye. Very sad...but we'll always have the memories!

Anonymous said...

I will miss the Voodoo Pasta and the 80's music. But the Glen Burnie one is still open for now. I went there yesterday to watch the Ravens game and it was packed.

Christy said...

Bill, Thank you for writing such a great post. And thanks to all of you who had nice things to say about our little "family" at The Run. I will truely miss the place and many of the regulars. I still have a hard time trying to figure out what I should be doing on Friday nights! I got so much out of working at Rocky Run. I met my husband working there, my three very best girl-friends, and so many other friends that it will always have a special place in my heart. It was my home away from home and now I sometimes feel a little lost. I know I always talked about wanting to get out of there and finally have a "normal" job, but I still miss it and many of my faithful regulars.

Ashley said...

Wow. This is depressing. :(

slightly salty said...

Depressing indeed! My husband and I had our first date there back in 1998 and would periodically go back when we would be up in Maryland visiting. It was our favorite Columbia hang-out. :(

Eric Perlman said...

I visited Columbia this weekend with my family, first time back after moving to Florida 2 years ago. We were all really sad to see Rocky Run had closed. After 3 days visiting friends and family, and of course Centennial Park, we were all looking forward to lunch there before heading out. What a shame. Thanks for this blog entry -- it really brought back memories.

Pete B said...

Wow...I was floored to hear today. Planet Rocky was such a huge part of my life for so many years. I compare every eatery I go into to Rocky Run. Most don't come close to the Staff we had, the atmosphere, the crowd, the golf tourney etc. I haven't had any good nachos here in Ga yet and the wings are weak. I think about many of the great people I worked with often and wonder how they are doing. I hope they have moved on well. All the best. Pete

lucky louie said...

Would like to hear from the loyal supporters of Rocky Run. I am trying to work out a deal to reopen the restaurant. If anyone would be interested in being an equity/owner participant or can contribute in any way to helping the effort to update the look and bring back the good times, pleas Email me.

luckylouie said...

luckylouie forgot to post his email.

Contact me at lucky1louie@verizon.net

There must be some hardy souls who have the guts to fund the comeback of Rocky Run location. An updated look, fresh paint, some new furniture and fixtures and fantastic food and drinks, especially the TIKI Bar, can once again pack the restaurant. Wouldn't all the regulars show up and drag along new faces too?