The downtown College Park MD scene recently got a huge upgrade with MilkBoy ArtHouse, a new restaurant and performance venue. No more Italian Gardens, The Cellar or Terrapin Station in this spot on Route 1!
Every time I go back to Maryland, we drive around the U of Maryland campus and College Park, to see what’s new and different. Both have changed so much since I left in 2006, and sometimes I barely recognize it.
When I was in college, The Cellar was one of our main bar hangouts. You know those memes that talk about being happy there was no social media back in the day? That meme is 1000% accurate for our Cellar days. We had Cellar shoes…those shoes that you only wore to the bar, because they got too gross to wear anywhere else. They never changed the beer taps, so in the last few years you would have a wicked hangover from just one beer. Some of the football players did “trust falls” from the front bar into the arms of their teammates. And we are positive the Cellar’s owner was a big drug dealer. But none of that stopped us from spending way too many nights there.
When the building first opened in the 1920’s, it was a 16-lane bowling alley. Over the years the names and concepts evolved, from Italian Gardens restaurant in the 60’s to The Cellar in the 70’s, to Terrapin Station in the early 90’s to Lupo’s Italian Chophouse in the late 90’s and then finally the Thirsty Turtle in 2007. The Cellar actually served food when it first opened, but I’m not sure how long that lasted. They never had food when I was in college, but I’m also not sure that I would have trusted the food there during that time.
About a year ago I heard that the space was turning into an art house. At first I thought it might be a joke, but nope, MilkBoy ArtHouse is the real deal. It’s a performance venue, restaurant and craft beer bar all in one. MilkBoy ArtHouse is the only campus-community arts venue of its kind in the nation, and was born as a creative partnership between The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the University of Maryland, the City of College Park, and MilkBoy of Philadelphia. I really like the concept, and it’s such a great way to bring some of the campus arts community to downtown College Park. There are probably a lot of people who have never seen a performance at The Clarice who may now jump at the chance to see a performance in a more casual and relaxed setting on Route 1.
MilkBoy began in 1994 in Philadelphia as a music studio. In 2010 they opened a full service bar and restaurant in Center City, with a performance venue on the second floor. In 2016 they opened MilkBoy South Street, and MilkBoy ArtHouse opened in College Park in 2017, just before the end of the spring semester.
I read good things about MilkBoy ArtHouse, and I hadn’t been in the building since it was Terrapin Station, so I was dying to see everything new. My mom and I decided to check it out last month when I was in town.
I had such a rush of nostalgia, walking down the sidewalk and in the front door. I never went into The Cellar during the day, so just the fact that we were there for lunch was a whole new world. It looks so clean and bright and open now, nothing like the old days. The original front bar is the restaurant; the long back bars on both floors are performance spaces; and the upstairs front space will be the art gallery. As the manager showed me around, I marveled at all the changes, and explained to him what it used to be in my day.
When I visited, only the restaurant was fully operational. The performance spaces and art gallery were still under renovation
MilkBoy ArtHouse is open daily; the kitchen is open until midnight Sunday-Wednesday and 1am Thursday-Saturday. The menu is small, and includes starters, soup/salad, fries, sandwiches and donuts. On the beverage side, options include shots, cocktails, shandies, canned craft beer, and wine. They offer an impressive variety of beverages for a boutique-style restaurant. I’m not a huge beer drinker, but whenever I’m in Maryland I will drink Yeungling. It’s a local Pennsylvania beer that I really enjoy.
We began with an order of the fried Brussel sprouts (pineapple sriracha glaze, BBQ rub)
I have a love-hate relationship with brussel sprouts. I refused to eat them when I was a kid; now, I eat them occasionally. These brussel sprouts are really delicious, nice and crispy just the way I like them. They aren’t kidding with the heat of the sauce; my mouth was on fire after one bite. It is really good though, so I didn’t let that stop me from eating. We got a generous portion of brussel sprouts, enough that we couldn’t even finish them.
All of the sandwiches come with fries. You can also order a basket of fries to share, and can choose from a variety of topping options for an upcharge. Since we had the brussel sprouts we didn’t need a basket of fries, and my mom isn’t a fan of food with lots of extra “stuff” on it.
My mom got the Roasted Mushroom & Seitan sandwich (cremini mushroom, American cheese, thyme cream cheese, mushroom jus)
I didn’t try any, but she said it was really delicious. She rarely eats fries, but she raved about these.
You would think with a small menu that I could easily make a decision; but then you would be wrong. Our server recommended the fried chicken, but I hesitated when she said it’s chicken breast. I’m not a fan of white meat chicken because it dries out so easily, and for some reason I thought it was a chicken breast plate. Once I realized it’s a sandwich, I decided to try it out (pickle brined, cactus mustard, b & b pickles, bacon)
My server was right…the sandwich is fantastic. Lightly breaded, freshly fried, and scorching hot. The pickle brine adds such a wonderful tart bite to the chicken, without being too powerful. So often a fried chicken sandwich is a little, flat patty; this thick and juicy chicken is exactly the opposite. The thick-cut bacon was a little less crisp than I would like, but it’s bacon; and there’s no such thing as bad bacon. The soft brioche bun holds up really well to the chicken and other toppings. However, once I began to get full I took off the bun and ate the rest with a knife and fork.
The fries are perfect, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I couldn’t stop picking at them, even after I was full. Clearly I have no self-control, so finally I had our server take them away.
Our server asked if we wanted dessert, but we were too full. I thought about getting an order to go, but the to-go container is never picture-worthy. Of course that means I have to get them on my next visit.
I will definitely be back to MilkBoy ArtHouse. My mom has season tickets to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, and a couple of the shows will be at MilkBoy ArtHouse. I would like to go back for a performance, and also to try some more of the menu items.
For reviews of more restaurants in College Park, click on the photos below!