Restaurant Spotlight: Founders Tavern & Grille

Restaurant Spotlight: Founders Tavern & Grille

8125 Ritchie Highway, Pasadena, MD 21122 |

We had the pleasure of speaking with the co-founders of Founders Tavern & Grille, Steve Sumner and Janet Sumner, about what makes the restaurant different, how they’re involved in the community, and what’s next for Founder’s.

What makes Founders unique?

The biggest thing for us is that all of our ingredients are fresh, and we don’t have a freezer onsite at all. The food we offer here wouldn’t be something you would get at a chain that might be pre-packaged. It’s a completely different approach in that way.

We like to call ourselves an American Scratch Kitchen. Meaning, we create everything from scratch here. We get the raw materials, and we make our very own aioli, bread, sauces, and dressings. We handcut and make our own fries and chips inhouse. For example, on our Pork Belly BLT, we make our own sun-dried tomato aioli. And on our salads, we have a balsamic glaze. We make all that in-house.

That definitely makes us much more unique in the modern day. How many places do you know that make their own hamburger rolls? We make and bake those in house every day.

Also, a lot of our food is slow-roasted, which gets back to the basics of the founding fathers. That’s actually where the name Founder’s Tavern & Grille came from. We wanted the experience to be like a tavern that the founding fathers would walk into back in the day.

How do you get involved in the community?

We give back to the community in any way we can, but it’s not something we necessarily put out there and tell everyone about. The community means a lot to us, and we want our charitable work to speak for itself.

We’re often approached by schools and community organizations where we do giveaways and gift baskets. Actually, we were just approached by a high school teacher who wanted to reward the kids in culinary classes with gift cards, so we gladly gave them a few.

We also get involved with other organizations that support local scholarship funds.

What people may not know is that sometimes we work with other restaurants in our area to benefit the community, which I think is a really nice thing. All of the restaurants around here are a part of the same community, working together to help and donate in any way we can. This is what’s great about our neighborhood businesses and we are proud to be part of that.

Are there any other creative ways you’re promoting Founders?

We do Distillery Dining Events. These are ticketed events that have become quite popular over the years. We have hosted distilleries, vineyards and breweries. It’s a load of fun! What we’ll do, for example for a bourbon dinner, is pick a distillery and we’ll custom build a gourmet 4 or 5 course menu to pair with the distillery offerings. It’s very special food outside of our normal menu.

The last one we did was with Jack Daniels, it was called Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey. It was BBQ themed food paired with various brands/offerings from Jack Daniel’s Distillery and used a pickler out of DC called DC Dills for a fun addition on each course. The distilleries we partner with have a lot under their umbrella which allows us to highlight different offerings people might not normally get, and combine it with amazing food.

It’s a private ticket event that we do on Mondays when we’re closed. We only sell about 55 tickets because we want it to be very intimate and special for our guests. It’s really a great way for us to treat our regulars to something different they might not experience.

So if you aren’t sure and you really want to try something new, you can come with your friends and try new things in a comfortable setting. Plus, you have a representative from the distillery who comes to talk about the drink, the idea behind it, and the history of the winery or brewery etc. It’s an educational experience for sure. I always call Steve an ambassador for bourbon and whiskey because he’s introducing people to it all the time. If a new bourbon hits the market, you will definitely be able to find it at Founders. Our whiskey flights can also be a starting point for someone to try as well and if you are not sure our bar staff is very knowledgeable too.

What do you enjoy most about running the restaurant?

The people.

When we opened the restaurant, we didn’t realize the impact we would have on people’s lives. Not just the employees, but the friendships and trust that you build with your customers. There’s no better way to make friends than over food and drinks.

Our motto is “Good Friends, Great Food & the Pursuit of Happiness.” We really take that to heart.

Sometimes this doesn’t even feel like work for us because we’re hanging out with people we really like.

What’s next for Founders?

We’re always trying to get better and better, and looking to offer interesting new stuff on the menus for the customers. Fresh new offerings keep it fun. What’s pretty cool is we do a project called the Maryland Manhattan Project. Basically, we make craft cocktails in-house, then we barrel-age them. These are very unique cocktails like a Cold Coffee Old-Fashioned, Double Barreled Bohemian Old-Fashioned, or our Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase Manhattan.

Really for us, it’s all about having fun with the restaurant. We want to be as creative as possible, and bring as many new experiences as possible to the neighborhood.

About Restaurant Week

Star Spangled Restaurant Week is an event hosted by the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce. The 2019 event will be held from July 7th through 13th with over 15 restaurants participating. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest news and updates!

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