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Change is a stranger at Judge's Bench


The Judge's Bench Pub has hardly changed in the 21 years since it opened at the top of Ellicott City's historic Main Street. Oh, it's changed hands a couple of times, but not in the 18 years since Buzz Suter took over.

And the menu hasn't changed much either. It features hamburgers with names such as the executioner and the chair, crab cakes, crab fluff (a crab cake fried in a seasoned beer batter), pizza, chicken sandwiches and other casual fare.

The name certainly hasn't changed. The history of the name stretches back to the 1800s. Back then, the building was a mom-and-pop grocery store. The stone building across the street that now houses the tourist information center was the county courthouse.

On hot days, the black-robed judges would amble across the street at lunch time, buy cold drinks and sit on the benches in front of the store. They became known as the Judge's Benches.

Even customers are resistant to change. The regulars appear again and again. Suter, who lives in Ellicott City, was a regular himself before he became the owner of the Judge's Bench.

When he took over, he didn't see any reason to tinker. "We stay the same all the time," he said. "We're just a friendly little pub."

He estimates that about 40 percent of his business is food, with the rest coming from the bar.

The atmosphere is the opposite of hoity-toity. It's dark and smoky, dominated by a bar. The first floor seats about 65. The second floor, used occasionally for private parties, seats about 30.

As with most pubs, the appetizers are greasy, salty and good. They include such favorites as crab dip, fried mozzarella sticks and potato skins. On Sundays, eat all the buffalo wings you want for $7.99.

Soups, salads and steamed shrimp are available for the more health conscious. Food is served until closing.

Entertainment includes karaoke on Tuesdays and live acts Wednesdays through Sundays.

Suter said he has no plans to change a winning formula. "Everything's going fine the way it is," he said.

Judge's Bench Pub

Where: 8385 Main St., Ellicott City; 410-465-3497.

Hours: Opens 4 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; 11:30 a.m., Thursday through Sunday. Closes about 2 a.m. daily.

Prices: Appetizers, $1.50 to $6.99; entrees, $3.99 to $13.99.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

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