Don’t be fooled by the rows of Harley Davidson and Kawasaki motorcycles parked out front.
Daniels Restaurant and Open Air Bar in Elkridge is much more than a biker bar.
It’s home to what customers call the “best bacon cheeseburger in Maryland.” It’s where county residents like Jatana Vanek of Columbia join friends for Thursday night dinner and trivia on the deck. It’s where veterans receive free meals every Veterans Day. And it’s a favorite, after-service breakfast spot for St. Augustine Church parishioners.
“I’ve never seen such a community-minded, family and patriotic place as this,” Vanek says.
“This is Elkridge’s ‘Cheers,’” adds Jayne Fischer of Elkridge, referring to the 1980s bar-based sitcom. “Everybody knows your name.”
For three generations, the Daniels family has owned and operated the restaurant, which is located on U.S. 1 just inside Howard County’s eastern border.
In the early 1970s, the late family matriarch Emily Daniels owned The Ridgeway Inn in Catonsville (now home to Matthew’s 1600 Restaurant and Bar). But by 1975, she was ready for a change, says Barbara Daniels, Emily Daniels’ daughter-in-law and Stellwagen’s mother.
“She wanted a place on her own that she could handle,” Barbara Daniels says.
So she bought Daniels, which was then just a “biker bar,” Stellwagen says. While she still welcomed biker customers, she added a kitchen and a full menu to make the business more restaurant-focused. Her son and Barbara Daniels’ husband, Dan, also helped run the restaurant.
Over the years, the Daniels family, menu and number of customers grew.
Barbara and Dan Daniels have four children, who all worked at the restaurant at some point.
“When I was tall enough, I was washing dishes,” Stellwagen jokes.
They added dishes like crab soup, crab cakes, their well-known bacon cheeseburger and a Delmonico steak sandwich, made with steak from J.W. Treuth and Sons butcher in Oella, to the menu. And they continued their commitment to the community by raising money for everything from Operation Santa Claus to the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department.
Emily and Dan Daniels remained involved with the restaurant until they died 11 and 10 years ago, respectively, Stellwagen says.
Today, Barbara Daniels owns the restaurant, and Stellwagen manages its day-to-day operations.
While they enjoy the restaurant’s food, many customers say they come to Daniels for the family-like atmosphere.
“I’ve lived here for 19 years, and it took me a few years to come in,” says Buddy Oliver of Elkridge. “I was hesitant to bring my kids in. Once we came in, we saw there were other kids here.”
Oliver, who has never ridden a motorcycle, is now a regular. The Daniels family even named a drink after him — a fitting gesture for the place where everyone knows your name.