Unique Atmosphere, Food, and Drink in One Subterranean Location
The Cellar Door on Market Street in Frederick, Maryland has an atmosphere like no other. In fact, the cozy environment has been the number one drive from the beginning.
“That’s what’s most complimented,” says owner Richard Belles, whose cut his teeth working first at his family’s pizza and sub shop, and later Belles Sports Bar and Grille on East Patrick Street, which he helped his father open in 1992. “You’re not going to find [this atmosphere] anywhere else.”
After the Brown Pelican, the restaurant formerly occupying the space, closed its doors, the atmosphere was lacking. Different businesses unsuccessfully used the space afterward until Belles obtained it.
Belles says, “I decided to bring it back to what did work in this venue, and that was a restaurant bar. [The Brown Pelican] was a full restaurant, but I made it a restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue.”
What’s In a Name?
The Brown Pelican was a highly regarded staple among the Frederick community. When Belles obtained the space in July 2009, he set out to re-establish under its original name, The Cellar Door.
“I like The Cellar Door name,” he explains. “It’s more fitting to the location, and it’s a great name.” When spoken, “cellar door” has a bit of a lilting chime that makes it pleasant to hear. Some hear it and think of the original Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. or even Cellar Door productions, which Belles used in the past to book entertainment for his father’s business.
Literary greats like J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, and C.S. Lewis hail cellar door as one of the loveliest in the English language. It inspired Poe to use “nevermore” in his narrative poem, “The Raven” and George R. R. Martin to create the character Cellador in A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE from his popular Game of Thrones series.
Small Changes Add to the Cozy Atmosphere
The Cellar Door’s cozy atmosphere and relaxing ambiance are the results of an ongoing transition encompassing the past seven years. Every year Belles reinvests something to improve the appearance of his underground restaurant.
“I just did some renovations down in the bar area that complement the main room with the same type of feel,” Belles points out. The result is a whole package effect, allowing customers to seamlessly enjoy the same level of comfort regardless of where they sit within the venue.
This seamless enjoyment of the space is especially crucial during private events. Belles and his staff can drop the curtains to separate the main room from the bar for customers who rent that section of the restaurant, giving them exclusive access. Customers who need more space and have the budget to accommodate it, on the other hand, have in the past rented out the entire restaurant for their particular event.
Belles and his staff are prepared to feed and entertain guests for a wide range of events and celebrations including, but not limited to:
- Wedding rehearsals
- Retirement parties
- Birthday parties
- Bachelor or bachelorette parties
- Corporate gatherings
With a note of pride, Belles says, “The kitchen staff is really strong. We try to be unique and create a fresh, creative, local menu that reflects the atmosphere of the establishment. We have really great happy hour specials. The food and drink is our big focus now.”
Fresh Ingredients from Local Sources
The Cellar Door uses fresh, local ingredients in every menu item, such as beef sourced locally from Thurmont in their signature halfpound burgers, organic poultry in their Chicken Chesapeake, or wild caught seafood in other Chesapeake-inspired dishes such as Mahi Mahi Marley and Whiskey Salmon.
The high quality of the ingredients is merely one of the many details that have given The Cellar Door it’s outstanding reputation since it opened under Belles’ proprietorship. As a result, people from Baltimore, Washington D.C., and as far away as Pennsylvania come specifically to try the crab cakes at the amiable lounge beneath the ground.
“Our cream of crab soup, crab dip, and crab cake are family recipes that we’ve created over the years,” Belles confides. In fact, every dish – from appetizers, to brunch, lunch, and dinner options, to your dessert – is a signature recipe made from scratch, right down to the sauces.
A full beer and cocktail menu complements the food items. The Cellar Door also offers a select wine list, which means those particular wines are only available in this specific venue within the downtown district. You won’t find them in any other restaurant on Market Street. For a restaurant like The Cellar Door, obtaining a select wine list isn’t available among some of the larger wine distributors in the area. Having an exclusive selection of wine choices available for his customers was a high priority to Belles, however, and a goal he sought to achieve.
“[The wine] is served here exclusively,” Belles confirms. “It was hard to get, but I finally got the right distributor that had an extensive enough profile to do it.” As a result, The Cellar Door serves a variety of reds and whites as well as a sparkling wine.
A Bright Future in the Heart of Downtown Frederick “I’m always reinvesting in the location to keep improving the atmosphere. This year was the bar area but for next year I have new plans for the main room. It won’t take away. It will just make it better,” Belles says regarding his future plans to keep driving forward.
The Cellar Door kitchen staff has set a goal to attain one of the coveted James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef awards (https://www. jamesbeard.org/). The foundation is a non-profit organization based in New York City with a mission “to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.”
Growing up in the area, Belles saw his family’s businesses donate gift certificates to school fundraisers and sporting drives, especially if it supported a school that a family member attended. Now he carries that tradition on, using his restaurant as a way to connect and give back to other businesses within the Frederick, Maryland professional community.
“Year after year I do a fundraiser for the Equinox Dance Company (www. equinoxdance.org/) in Frederick. This year was our 3rd or 4th year doing a fundraiser dinner for them. We’ve catered a few of the Gale Recover House
(www.galerecovery.org/) events. Across the street, we always support Habitat for Humanity (www. frederickhabitat.org/).” The Cellar Door also has a great business relationship with the Weinberg Center for the Arts (www.weinbergcenter.org/) on West Patrick Street, catering to requests to stock the center’s green room for their entertainers. The restaurant also contributes gift cards to nonprofit organizations.
Downtown’s Best Food and Entertainment Awaits Underground
The next time you’re in Frederick, head over to Market Street and venture downstairs to The Cellar Door for unique atmosphere, food, and drink. The restaurant opens at 3pm Tuesday through Friday and 11am for both Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch. Visit their website (www.cellardoorfrederick.com/) for more information and follow @ CellarDoorRestaurant on Facebook for entertainment details.