The Market Tavern in Sykesville is a place non-locals may never discover. And that would be a shame.
The adorable gourmet market and neighborhood bar on the town’s Main Street is a friendly, laidback space, where visitors can grab a delicious sandwich, charcuterie plate, glass of wine or a classic cocktail.
We were charmed by the Carroll County town, which calls for window-shopping and a visit to the pub. Diners walk through a communal entranceway to get to its front door.
Its simplicity is reminiscent of a European bistro, where you can sit at the bar or a communal table and enjoy a leisurely snack and conversation. It didn’t take long to start talking to other diners about their meals in the small, chic-retro restaurant with an original tin ceiling dating to circa 1870.
When you leave, you can grab a bottle of wine from the racks in the back of the shop or a specialty food product to go — like Salazon dark chocolate bars with sea salt, made by the Market Tavern’s owners, Pete and Jen Truby.
The tavern is a spinoff of their chocolate business, which the couple started in 2009. They needed a retail outlet for their products, and, after a few moves, it evolved into the cozy tavern it is today.
Put this welcoming gathering spot on your must-visit list now.
SCENE & DECOR We walked in during a weekday happy hour and were surrounded by cheerful people unwinding from their day. There is seating at the bar or communal high-top tables with metal stools for 35 diners, though owner Jen Truby said a summer expansion will allow for 50 customers. While waiting for our meal, we checked out the gourmet products and bottles of wine for sale in the back, and were impressed with the intriguing selection.
APPETIZERS I was happy to see Max’s Empanadas on the menu. I was a fan of the eatery’s Little Italy cafe until it closed in 2013, when it decided to focus on selling its Argentine turnovers at farmers’ markets and other venues. Our golden chicken-stuffed pastry ($6), accompanied by a wonderful chimichurri sauce — a flavorful parsley blend — was delicious. We also enjoyed the grilled cheese sticks ($6), with no breading, served with Dijon mustard squiggles for dipping.
ENTREES Besides an assortment of small plates, the menu features eight sandwiches. Our croque monsieur ($7.50) was warm and enticing. The pressed panini enveloped melted Gruyere cheese and thin folds of prosciutto and was set atop swirls of Mike’s Hot Honey, a terrific bottled condiment infused with zingy chilies. The Jamaican jerk chicken salad sandwich ($9), served open faced on a thick roll, was bulging with chicken cubes, apples and walnuts that were dressed with a zippy jerk sauce. The captivating plate included a mound of potato chips and a pickle slice.
DRINKS One of the classic cocktails, the Long Drink ($8.50), was a refreshing libation with grapefruit soda and gin. According to the menu, the drink traces it roots to Finland around 1952. We also sipped on a lovely wine cocktail, a Lillet fizz ($9), bubbling with Lillet Blanc wine, sparkling wine and an orange twist. There are wines by the glass and beer available, too.
SERVICE When you enter the tavern, take one of the clipboard menus by the front door and head to your seating choice. After you’ve decided on your food and drink, place your order at the bar. The engaging bartenders deliver your food and beverages, and clear the dishes.
DESSERT No desserts were available.
Backstory: Pete and Jen Truby opened their newest version of Market Tavern in Sykesville in March. The restaurant started as a retail outlet for their Salazon sea-salt-sprinkled chocolate bars, which they began producing in 2009. Today, Pete Truby handles the chocolate operation in a separate location; Jen Truby oversees the tavern.
Signature dish: The croque monsieur (a ham and cheese panini)
TVs: One TV
Where: 7540 Main St., Sykesville
Contact: 443-516-7516, market-tavern.com
Open: Noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, noon to 10 p.m. Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Does not accept
Bottom line: The Market Tavern is a good excuse to visit historic Sykesville in Carroll County. You’ll be rewarded with a fun day trip and great casual fare and stellar cocktails.