The Rock Bottom Brewery in Bethesda has managed to make a chain restaurant-brewery feel like a comfortable, if sprawling, neighborhood brewpub. But you had better not mind crowds and long waits, especially on weekends when the line can stretch down the block. The convivial feel is definitely due to the friendly service and atmosphere; the beer (brewed on site) is good but not remarkable.
The ceiling by the bar is low, the colors are soft and warm and the air is a bit smoky. The main dining area is large and open. A second-level balcony sits above it, with pool tables and an area for private parties. The high-backed booths manage to keep the noise level around diners to a comfortable chatter rather than the roar it might be with these crowds.
Rock Bottom has four to six beers on tap, including local names like Rock Creek Pale Ale. The bar gives customers discounts on beer although a person has to drink a lot and come back often to make it worthwhile: The "Mug Club" allows regulars to purchase an attractive ceramic mug, then have it numbered and kept behind the bar. The racks of mugs lend to the local-joint atmosphere. The entrees add just as much, with homey comfort food like ribs and chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes, plus a nice selection of salads. The quality is above average for a brewpub, and the prices are pretty good for Bethesda -- $6.50 for a burger, $8 to $17 for entrees. Friday and Saturday nights feature live rock music, with no cover.
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