Friday, October 9, 2009

Howard Magazine Best of Dining 2009, Part 2

The Howard Magazine Best of Dining reader's poll results have 43 categories. I listed what I considered the top 11 in yesterday's post. Here is a set focused on some of the more "everyday" food categories.

Best Bar Food: Victoria Gastro Pub
Honorable Mentions: The Green Turtle, Clyde's of Columbia, Bare Bones, Looney's Pub South, Rams Head Tavern, Shannon's

Best Value: Double-T Diner
Honorable Mentions: Maiwand Kabob, Shannon's, Mimi's Cafe

Best Breakfast: Eggspectation
Honorable Mentions: Mimi's Cafe, Double-T Diner, Bob Evans

Best Brunch: Clyde's of Columbia
Honorable Mentions: Eggspectation, Victoria Gastro Pub, Waterside

Best Burger: Red Robin
Honorable Mention: Cheeburger Cheeburger, Victoria Gastro Pub, Fuddruckers

Best Crab Cake: Clyde's of Columbia
Honorable Mentions: Crab Shanty, LeeLynn's, Coho Grill, Shannon's

Best Deli: Charter Deli
Honorable Mentions: Columbia's Best Deli, Nora's Cafe, Bagel Bin, Panera

Best Dessert: The Cheesecake Factory
Honorable Mentions: La Madeleine, Bonaparte Breads, Iron Bridge Wine, Touche Touchet

Best Lunch Menu: Shannon's
Honorable Mentions (3-way tie): Cheesecake Factory, Nordstrom's Cafe, Panera

Best Pizza: Ledo
Honorable Mentions: Trattoria E Pizzaria Da Enrico, Bertucci's, PastaBlitz

Best Ribs: Bare Bones
Honorable Mentions: Famous Dave's, Kloby's, The Rumor Mill, T-Bonz

Best Sports Bar: Champps
Honorable Mentions: The Green Turtle, Looney's Pub South, River Hill Sports Grill

Best Takeout: Maiwand Kabob
Honorable Mentions: Akbar, Panera, Pei Wei

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Howard Magazine Best of Dining 2009

Howard Magazine has published the results of its 2009 readers' poll of dining in the county. It's still very hard to find this information anywhere online, so I'll share some of the winners. With 43 different categories it seems like there's room for everyone to win something. But there are some categories that seem to be more significant than others. Herewith, some of the key category winners and honorable mentions.

Best Restaurant (Overall): Clyde's of Columbia
Honorable Mentions: The Kings Contrivance, Victoria Gastro Pub, Aida Bistro

Best Fine Dining: The Kings Contrivance
Honorable Mentions: Tersiguel's, Elkridge Furnace Inn, Jordan's Steakhouse

Best New Restaurant: Bistro Blanc
Honorable Mention: Looney's Pub South

Best Chinese: Hunan Manor
Honorable Mentions: P.F. Chang's, China Chefs, Asean Bistro, Hunan Legend

Best Sushi: Sushi Sono
Honorable Mentions: Sushi King, Sakura, Fuji

Best Asian (other than Chinese): Asean Bistro
Honorable Mentions: Noodles Corner, Nichi Bei Kai, Pei Wei

Best Indian: House of India
Honorable Mentions: Akbar, Bombay Peacock Grill, The Mango Grove

Best Italian: Aida Bistro
Honorable Mentions: Carrabba's, Strapazza, Olive Garden

Best Mexican: El Azteca
Honorable Mentions: Zapata's, La Palapa, Don Pablo's, MiCasa

Best Steak: Jordan's Steakhouse
Honorable Mentions: Outback Steakhouse, Longhorn Steaks, Greystone Grill

Best Wine List: Iron Bridge Wine Co.
Honorable Mentions: Victoria Gastro Pub, The Wine Bin, Aida Bistro, Bistro Blanc

To see how the 2009 list changed from last year, see our summary of the 2008 Howard Magazine list.

Monday, August 31, 2009

HoCo Chefs in Restaurant Weeks Videos

I just came across two videos of local chefs that were produced for Howard County's Restaurant Weeks.  The theme for this summer's promotion was fresh local produce and suppliers.  That's why one video is Bistro Blanc's Chef Marc Dixon preparing a hamburger using local beef, and the other is the Elkridge Furnace Inn's Executive Chef and owner Dan Wecker's Chicken Ventura featuring herbs straight from his garden.  Have a look.  Next stop: Food Network!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jordan's Steakhouse RIP (?)

What a long, strange couple of weeks it must have been for Jordan Naftal.  First he and Carlos Venegas (of Ranazul) announce they are taking over the space of oZ Chophouse in Maple Lawn. Then a dispute with his landlord leaves Naftal locked out of his namesake restaurant, Jordan's Steakhouse in Ellicott City.  And soon followed criminal charges filed against Naftal due to nonpayment of wages to a former worker, along with reports of unpaid taxes.  The latest news is that Jordan is pulling out of the Maple Lawn venture with Venegas, and it seems that Jordan's Steakhouse is closed permanently.  

It's a series of sad developments, not only for Jordan, but also for what appears to many former employees who have not been paid for weeks or months.  Jordan has been a fixture in the Howard County restaurant scene, including active roles with the Restaurant Association and the board of Howard County Tourism.  It remains to be seen if and how he will rebound.  

You can find some virulent comments about Jordan and his restaurant on some other sites, but I can't believe he was trying to con or deceive anyone.  The reputation, identity, and presumably financial well being of Jordan and his family were wrapped up in Jordan's Steakhouse.  I hope he finds a way to "figure out how to take care of everyone and to figure out our plan."  It can't be easy.  And the Howard County community is a poorer place for his absence.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bon Fresco Brings Great Bread and Sandwiches to Columbia

It took me a little while to get around to trying Bon Fresco, but once I did, it's been hard to stay away. The place makes great fresh breads baked on the premises in several varieties -- baguette, ciabatta, foccacia, a delicious plain white loaf, and my recent favorite, a soft, pillowy flatbread. We were recently offered a cinnamon bun that put the gloppy mall versions to shame.

Sandwiches at Bon Fresco are inventive with fresh, top quality ingredients including fresh roast turkey, pork loin, nice grilled vegetables and much more. The sandwiches come out hearty but not over-stuffed. You can feel good that you're eating well, but not eating too much. Sandwiches are served with a little side of lentils or cous-cous, which I like for a change of pace. But some folks really wanted chips, so now Bon Fresco offers a choice of good-quality potato chips if you get a drink, too.

In addition to the sandwiches, Bon Fresco has some terrific salads (the curried chicken salad is especially good) and you can choose your own mix of toppings and greens. They also have several freshly made soups that look great but I frankly haven't tried yet. The counter staff is friendly and eager to make suggestions to help you make the best choice. Bon Fresco has enough seats to eat right there or you can take your treasures back to your home, office, picnic or wherever.

Bon Fresco is precisely the type of fresh, home grown eatery that folks often say they want as a quality alternative to fast food chains. If you're one of those folks, seek Bon Fresco out and put your money where your mouth is. If you're not one of those folks, give it a try anyway and you may find yourself coming back, too.

6945 Oakland Mills Road

Columbia, MD 21045


(no website I can find)

From Snowden River Parkway, go west on Oakland Mills Road and take the first right into the shopping/office park. Bon Frescos is tucked in to the right, and they've put up a few small signs to help you find them. It's worth looking for!


  • How Chow has two positive posts (post 1, post 2) about Bon Fresco.
  • Urbanspoon readers give Bon Fresco a 100% rating based on 19 votes and 3 user reviews (as of 8/11/09)
  • Bon Fresco on Urbanspoon
  • Yelp readers five Bon Fresco 5/5 stars based on 2 reviews as of 8/11/09.
  • Chowhound has 5 comments about Bon Fresco as of 8/11/09.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

B&O American Brasserie

We ventured into Baltimore last weekend to try the brand new B&O American Brasserie at the brand new Hotel Monaco Baltimore. This is a formidable restaurant with a high-powered chef, E. Michael Reidt, whose resume includes Food & Wine's Best New Chef of 2001 and top restaurants in Boston, Miami and Santa Barbara. It's a welcome addition to the Baltimore scene, and far more than a typical hotel restaurant, though it is saddled with the responsibility of offering breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The B&O American Brasserie is a destination in its own right and provides ample reasons for locals to give it a try.

The restaurant, located in what used to be the headquarters building of the B&O Railroad, has a handsome bar, lounge, kitchen and a few tables on the ground floor, with more seating in a loft area upstairs. We were initially seated at the rail of the upstairs loft, but found the noise and music from the bar area a little overpowering, so we moved further back into one of the more secluded banquettes. The restaurant wasn't full, so it was easy to move, but one wonders what the sound level might be like on a truly busy night. And it probably will get busy.

The focus here is on Chesapeake regional food and ingredients. The menu is not as extensive or adventurous as the Woodberry Kitchen, but there is a welcome emphasis on local farms and suppliers. As their website says, the restaurant is "committed to sustainable and socially responsible practices...[using] non-intrusive, high quality, eco-friendly products, ingredients and services as well as organic and local foods whenever possible." Their menu is not yet available online, but includes starters and salads, brick oven flatbreads ($8-11), sandwiches ($11-15), and main couses ($17-27, or up to $34 for a ribeye steak). You can also get a number of interesting-looking snacks at the bar from $6 up.

Our meal started with Summer Corn Chowder soup that was a smooth and satisfying beginning. Smoked Carolina Trout was good, not great, but complemented with a wonderful potato salad that left us wanting more. A Ricotta Flatbread with asparagus and a fried egg on top was a disappointment, with the bread coming out tough and too crunchy, and the flavors nondescript.

Our entrees were top-notch. The Chesapeake Rockfish was well prepared, but the smoked shrimp-pea risotto with arugula pesto upon which it arrived was a dream. BBQ Beef Shortrib was succulent with a delicious, smoky barbeque sauce and rich, creamy potatoes. The Culoutte Steak from Vande Rose Farms (in Iowa, not exactly local, but plenty good) was cooked just right, as were the accompanying Duck Fat Fries which put all others I've had to shame. The Rice-Crusted Diver Scallops were fine and recommended by the waitress, but were frankly were the only entree that didn't competely win us over. The Garlicky Spinach we had as a side was certainly fresh, but not very garlicky.

The desserts were inventive and we couldn't resist trying a few. My daughter had a lot of fun with a Pop Rocks Root Beer Float. Apple Tart with Honey Ice Cream proved to be a mini apple pie that would have been a meal in itself (most of it's still in our fridge) but the honey ice cream was very satisfying. Another dessert, which I can't recall, featured Pepper Ice Cream. We ordered just a scoop of the ice cream and it was a revelation -- I've never had that combination of ice cream sweetness with black pepper tang. I'll be on the lookout for it again.

The restaurant has not yet completely found its feet. Our server was pleasant, but it took a while for utensils and other items to appear. Music volume and lighting levels seemed to vary up and down through the evening. And one last quibble: there's only a single unisex bathroom for the entire bar and restaurant. That's going to be a problem that I hope they can soon remedy.

The B&O American Brasserie is located at 2 N. Charles, between Baltimore and Fayette Streets. Valet parking is $5 for restaurant guests. Take a few minutes and wander up the marble steps to the lobby of the Hotel Monaco -- there's a very nice lounge area and it's great to see this landmark building restored.

2 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

B & O - American Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 10, 2009

oZ Chophouse Sold to Jordan's

oZ Chophouse in Maple Lawn closed its doors August 8 and sold the restaurant to Jordan Naftal, owner of Jordan's Steakhouse in Ellicott City. The sale is confirmed by the oZ website. How Chow via Elizabeth Large reports that the new restaurant in the space will be a joint project between Jordan and Carlos Venegas, owner of Ranazul's, called "Carlos and Jordan's Steakhouse." We were fans of oZ's, as our most recent review in March indicated, but word of mouth even then was turning against the restaurant, not to mention the economy. We will miss oZ but look forward to a collaboration between the owners of Jordan's and Ranazul, targeted for November 2009 according to a tweet from Jordan. Burning questions: will the tree remain in the dining room and will the rocks still be in the bathroom sinks?

Also see our original thumbnail post on oZ Chophouse.

Get thee to the Fair!

The Howard County Fair is underway through August 15. Head on out to the fairground from 8am - 11pm each day for a dose of food, fun and farm animals. The Fair website could use a little help with its schedule information, but there's plenty going on each day. Guess you just have to wander down to find out. If anyone knows of a better schedule posted online, please let me know.

While you're in the neighborhood, consider a stop at Jenny's Market or Bistro Blanc (but not on Mondays for either one...though Bistro Blanc is hosting a special wine dinner tonight featuring Mt. Airy's Elk Run Winery).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday and Sunday Restaurant Specials in Howard County, Jun '09

Here's a list of restaurant specials in Howard County for Saturdays and Sundays in June. Also see our post on Brunches for Saturday and Sunday brunch options in Howard County. Check here for specials on other days of the week.

  • Alexandra's Restaurant at the Turf Valley Resort has your choice of steaks for $20.
  • The Coho Grill offers prime rib specials in 14, 16 or 18 oz. cuts, plus any bottle of wine for $15.
  • Kelsey's has discounted wings and beer before 5:00 pm, and 1/2 price desserts and coffee drinks after 5:00
  • Waverly Grill has 1/2 price bottles of wine and 1/2 price appetizers (excluding seafood).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Restaurant Specials in Howard County, Jun '09

Here's a list of restaurant specials in Howard County for Fridays in June. Check here for specials on other days of the week.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Restaurant Specials in Howard County, May-June '09

Here's a list of restaurant specials in Howard County for Thursdays in June. Check here for specials on other days of the week.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday Restaurant Specials in Howard County, May-June '09

Here's a list of restaurant specials in Howard County for Wednesdays in June. Check here for specials on other days of the week.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Restaurant Specials in Howard County, May-June '09

Here's a list of restaurant specials in Howard County for Tuesdays in June. Check here for specials on other days of the week.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bistro Blanc to be reviewed by Elizabeth Large

One of my favorite restaurants, Bistro Blanc, will be reviewed next Sunday in the Batimore Sun by Elizabeth Large, according to her blog. From the looks of the blog post, it looks like it will be a positive review ("the food is well worth the drive"). Hope so. I'll keep my fingers crossed until Sunday.

Monday Restaurant Specials in Howard County, June '09

Here's a list of restaurant specials in Howard County for Mondays in June. Check here for specials on other days of the week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Soiree for Howard County Tourism

Next Tuesday, June 2, Howard County Tourism will host its annual fundraiser, Soiree!, at the Belmont Conference Center from 5:00 - 9:00 pm. The event will feature food from 17 of the county's best restaurants and culinary resources. There will also be a live and silent auction for exciting travel packages, and a "Dancing with the Howard County Stars" competition featuring four brave couples from the local business community.

This benefit supports Howard County Tourism operations to promote the county, and 10% of the proceeds go to Howard County Community College's Culinary and Hospitality Management scholarship program. If you'd like to support this worthy cause, tickets are available in advance for $80 ($85 at the door) or buy a four-ticket bundle for $275.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Studio Inspire Summer Workshops and 2010 Cruise

I first wrote about Studio Inspire when it opened last September. Since then, despite the tough economy, the studio has built a membership base of folks seeking fun, fitness and health through dancing in all sorts of styles. The owner, Shara Darden, even won a business achievement award from the Howard County Economic Development Council.

This July and August, Studio Inspire is running a series of short workshops, some for beginners and others for intermediate or advanced dancers, taught by an impressive roster of guest instructors. Workshop styles include jazz, ballet, belly dancing, modern and tap. The workshops offer a great way to sample the studio, and there are early bird deadlines that let you save money on registration.

Studio Inspire is also booking spots on its "Boogie in the Bahamas" cruise, slated for May 17-21, 2010. This is a cool way to take a break with friends, have a lot of fun, and stand a fighting chance burning off as many calories as you'll consume on-board.

Studio Inspire

6656 Dobbin Road

Columbia, MD 21045


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kloby's Smokehouse

For quite a while, I've been wishing for a respectable local barbeque place, and in Kloby's Smokehouse I've found it. It had taken me a little while to get to Kloby's, partly because I was confused about its location due to the Laurel address (or is it West Laurel, North Laurel, or North Maple Lawn...and what ever became of Scaggsville, anyway? If Scaggsville's been marketed out of existence, someone should change the exit sign on I-95...but I digress). Thanks to positive comments from HowChow and loyal reader John Boyle, I finally made a little effort and was pleasantly surprised by Kloby's convenient location and easy access from Rt. 29, just south of Rt. 32 at the Johns Hopkins Road exit.

Once inside I was even more pleased with the casual, friendly vibe of the place, and it smells great. It's place-your-order counter service, but there are plenty of tables and a couple of TVs in a seating area festooned with NASCAR banners. I liked the separate Hershey's ice cream counter, too.

People get very fussy about ribs, and I'd say Kloby's baby backs are very good -- maybe not lights-out great, but real good and better than the beef ribs. You can choose mild or spicy sauce; both are smoky, and while the spicy is still pretty tame, there are bottles of hot sauce at the ready to make adjustments. The real winner for me was the pulled pork sandwich and the sides. The Carolina-style pulled pork was fresh, moist, and handmade with a tasty dab of cole slaw. The BBQ beans, red-skin potato salad, and boardwalk-style fries were all above average. I haven't had the brisket yet, but it looked good and gets a lot of positive comments. The specialty burgers, loaded up with pulled pork, brisket or other BBQ toppings look positively dangerous. And there's also chicken, turkey, spicy sausage, wings and St. Louis style ribs that will have to wait for future visits.

Kloby's has a good backstory, too. The pitmaster and owner, Steve Klobosits, is a former paramedic/firefighter who shifted to culinary school and put in his time at high volume theme restaurants before opening his own place. Kloby's Smokehouse is well worth seeking out, and you'll probably find it very easy to keep coming back.

  • Howard County Times article on Kloby's Smokehouse from 4/16/09.
  • HowChow has three posts about Kloby's Smokehouse with 5 comments as of 5/22/09.
  • Urbanspoon readers give Kloby's Smokehouse a 100/100 rating based on 9 votes, with one review (HowChow's) as of 5/22/09.
    Kloby's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon
  • Yelp readers give Kloby's Smokehouse 3.5/5 stars based on 4 reviews as of 5/22/09.
  • TripAdvisor readers give Kloby's Smokehouse 3.5/5 stars based on 2 reviews as of 5/22/09.
  • Kloby's Smokehouse discussion on Chowhound with 5 replies as of 5/22/09.
Kloby's Smokehouse
7500 Montpelier Road
West Laurel, MD 20723

Specials and Other Details

  • Kloby's is open for Memorial Day and offering $2 off a full rack of St. Louis ribs or a whole chicken.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wine in the Woods

The 17th annual Wine in the Woods festival will be held in Columbia's Symphony Woods this weekend, May 16-17 from 12:00 - 6:00 pm. The festival is a celebration of wine, food, music and crafts and general Springtime fun featuring tastings from more than two dozen Maryland wineries (who knew?). There's food from nearly 20 restaurants and vendors, including Greystone Grill, Bombay Peacock Grill and Serafino's. And more than 70 artisans and craft stalls, too.

Music is a keystone of Wine in the Woods. There are two stages, each stocked all day with a variety of styles, literally something for everyone. Featured performers include guitarist Carl Filipiak, Damon Foreman and Blue Funk, and singer/songwriter Victoria Vox and her ukelele.

Tickets are $25 at the gate, but can be had for $20 in advance from three walk-up locations: the HoCo Recs & Parks office, Glenwood Community Center or the Bain Center. Look for directions here. Kids 4-20 are $5, under 4 are free.

Revised Profiles for Bistro Blanc, Jordan's Steakhouse and Tersiguel's

The format of my restaurant profiles has evolved to include links to other reviews, contact data and other (hopefully) useful information about each establishment. I've decided to revise the older profiles but keep their original posting date and any comments. I've recently completed these:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sushi Sono

Sushi Sono holds down a primo location on Columbia's downtown lakefront and serves primo sushi and other Japanese specialties. It's one of the prettier restaurants in the county, with picture windows of the lake, a sizable sushi bar and two private rooms. But it's the sushi, both the rolls and nigiri, that brings in the crowds.

Sushi Sono recently revised its website and has done a good job maintaining a high profile all over the internet. It is one of the most widely reviewed restaurant in the county, and most of the reviews are very positive.

  • Sushi Sono is included in our list of Nearly Best Restaurants in Howard County.
  • Howard Magazine (formerly Columbia Magazine) has ranked Sushi Sono as the Best Sushi Restaurant in the county for the last 9 consecutive years.
  • Baltimore Magazine includes Sushi Sono as one of six restaurants in Howard County in its list of Neighborhood Specials places to eat.
  • Dining@Large incudes Sushi Sono in its June 2008 list of Top 10 Howard County Restaurants.
  • Gayot rates Sushi Sono 12/20.
  • TripAdvisor readers give Sushi Sono 4/5 stars based on 31 ratings and 14 reviews, ranking it #1 in Columbia as of 5/10/09.
  • Urbanspoon readers give Sushi Sono 93/100 based on 73 votes, ranking it #14 in Baltimore and #2 in Columbia as of 5/10/09. Sushi Sono on Urbanspoon
  • Yahoo! Local readers give Sushi Sono 4.5/5 stars based on 21 ratings as of 5/10/09.
  • Yelp readers give Sushi Sono 4/5 stars based on 39 reviews, ranking it #3 in Columbia as of 5/10/09.
  • Zagat has 58 member reviews of Sushi Sono as of 5/10/09.
  • BooRah readers give Sushi Sono 89/100 based on 66 reviews, ranking it #2 in Columbia as of 5/10/09.
  • CitySearch readers give Sushi Sono 3.5/5 stars based on 14 reviews as of 5/10/09.
  • Sushi Sono garners frequent comments on Chowhound in discussions regarding best sushi in the area.
  • HowChow reviewed Sushi Sono in July 2008.
10215 Wincopin Circle

Columbia, MD 21044

Phone: 410-997-6131

Specials and Other Details

  • Sushi Sono has been running month-long discounted specials since March. Check their blog for more details.
  • Sushi Sono has a Facebook page.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Jenny's Market

A harbinger of spring and summer farm-fresh produce, Jenny's Market is a roadside stand that just re-opened last week. Jenny's Market used to be just off Route 32 near Burntwoods Road, enticing drivers with handmade signs. With the completion of the new traffic circles at the Route 32 - Burntwoods interchange, Jenny's has had to move a few hundred yards onto Andrea Drive, but the signs are still there to guide you.

For the moment, Jenny's produce is coming by truck from farmers in the Carolinas and further south. But I can attest that the corn is sweet and the tomatoes are ripe. As we get further toward summer, the produce comes from farms that are more local. The family that runs Jenny's have always been friendly when I come through and rummage around, and help me pick out the best veggies and fruits.

So stop by Jenny's any day except Mondays. Just follow the signs.

Note: HowChow did a nice post about Jenny's last summer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crossroads Pub

In the mood for crabs? Fresh fried seafood? A killer crab soup? The Crossroads Pub, tucked way out of the way in Western Howard County, could be the spot for you. It's another one of those places I've driven by for years and finally stopped in, only to find something quite different than what I'd thought.

Seafood, specifically crab, is the name of the game at the Crossroads Pub. You can order fresh steamed crabs and start pounding and picking like you were at the Eastern Shore. Or you can order off a menu filled with fried seafood entrees and sandwiches, along with a few traditional landlubber options. The soups, either Maryland Crab or Cream of Crab, are hearty, rich and tasty. The crab cake platter or sandwich stands up with the best in the area. The fried clam strips were fresh and meaty. The shrimp salad is also listed as a specialty, but I haven't tried it yet. Whatever you get, you're not likely to leave hungry.

The Crossroads Pub is small, but with a back room of picnic tables is a little bigger than it appears from the street. It's not fancy, and the crowd and service can feel like a trip back to an older time in Maryland that may not appeal so much to the trendy set. But the Crossroads Pub seems to be proud to serve a down home meal to those that seek it out.

  • rates the Crossroads Pub 8.7/10 for food, based on 9 reviews as of 5/1/09.
4809 Ten Oaks Road
Dayton, MD 21036
Phone: 410-531-7485
Website: (none)

The Crossroads Pub is just west of Route 32 on Ten Oaks Road where it intersects Howard Road and Green Bridge Road. Exit Route 32 at Linden Church Road West, then turn right on Ten Oaks Road.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo in Howard County

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everybody! Where can you go to celebrate in Columbia, Ellicott City or elsewhere in Howard County? Here are a few ideas. If you have some others, please post a comment.
  • El Azteca in Clarksville is at the top of our list for Best Mexican restaurant in the County. They are having "drink and food specials all day."
  • La Palapa in old town Ellicott City is a cousin of El Azteca's, but larger. Not sure of what specials they're having, but Tuesdays are all-you-can-eat taco nights.
  • Mi Casa on Route 40 in Ellicott City is a small but friendly Mexican restaurant and a personal favorite.
  • The Pachanga Grill, further west on Route 40 in Ellicott City, is also an El Azteca cousin and is also offering drink specials for the night.
  • The Frisco Grille in Columbia has a great beer and tequila selection to go with its good Mexican food menu.
  • Sonoma's Bar & Grille in Columbia has live music from Sons of the Radio from 9:00 pm and lunch and dinner specials as well.
  • The Second Chance Saloon in Columbia has taco, beer and margarita specials tonight.
  • El Nayar in Elkridge has a nice selection of Mexican meals, and Tuesdays are 1/2 price burrito nights.
  • If you're in more of a do-it-yourself mood, stop into Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia and stock up on all you need.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Coal Fire Pizza

Full marks to HowChow for being all over the recent opening of the Coal Fire Pizza restaurant in the Shipley Grant development of Ellicott City. This place is a welcome addition to the local restaurant scene and I agree it jumps near the top of the list for best pizza in Howard County.

The thin, handmade pizzas feature fresh sliced mozzarella and a choice of three tasty sauces. The 580-degree coal fire oven produces a crisp, bubbly, slightly charred pie that's distinct from any others in the county. The selection of toppings is limited, but Coal Fire suggests no more than two toppings per pie "to ensure a perfect bake." I haven't gotten beyond the pizzas yet, but the pastas, sandwiches and wings look intriguing and worth a try.

The restaurant itself is suburban modern, with the oven prominently visible. It's fun to watch your pizza being made and see the coals glowing. Coal Fire Pizza is not especially exotic, but offers good quality everyday eating and is off to a strong start in its first few weeks.

  • HowChow has an excellent review that has generated 10 additional comments as of 5/2/09.
  • Chowhound has a lengthy discussion of Coal Fire Pizza with 15 replies as of 5/2/09.
  • Urbanspoon readers give Coal Fire Pizza 100/100 based on two votes and has one user review as of 5/2/09. Coal Fire on Urbanspoon
  • Yelp readers gives Coal Fire Pizza 5/5 stars based on 1 review as of 5/2/09.

5725 Richard's Valley Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone: 410-480-2625
Website: not yet

The Shipley's Grant location is on Route 108 between Snowden River Parkway and Route 100.

Columbia Foundation Spring Party

The Columbia Foundation holds its 27th Annual Spring Party this Thursday, May 7, from 5:45 - 8:30 pm at the Spear Center in Columbia. Tickets are $75 for a full buffet and open bar, and you have the option of donating an additional $25 to support each of the Foundation's 25 non-profit endowments.

The Columbia Foundation is one of Howard County's most important and productive non-profit groups. Take a moment to look through their list of recent grants and you're sure to find support for some of your favorite and most worthwhile local institutions. So, supporting the Columbia Foundation is a quick and easy way to help a whole range of local organizations at once. The current economy is hard on everyone, but especially the non-profit community that relies on contributions. Here's one way you can help...and get dinner and drinks to boot.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tooting One's Own Horn

The Baltimore Sun featured yours truly among the County's many fine bloggers in a lengthy article in yesterday's paper. It's great to see the article finally appear -- the interviews occurred back in December and January -- though the online version doesn't have the print version's nice photo of Jessie Newburn and Chris Bachmann ogling an iPhone.

I encourage you to read all the local blogs, made especially easy by the HocoBlogs website and Twitter page. As I wrote in a recent post, bloggers play an increasingly important role in sharing information about local events and community, especially as local newspapers are in an accelerating tailspin. So support your local blogs and tell your friends! UPDATE: See also the feature article in today's Washington Post on restaurant bloggers pros and cons. A happy coincidence.

I particularly want to extend special appreciation for two people in the local blogging community. Jessie Newburn is a remarkable multitasker who writes her own blog (Jessie X), runs the HocoBlogs site, Twitters up a storm on her own, and finds time to host frequent gatherings of Hoco bloggers (that I've been derelict in attending). She's an inspiration and valuable catalyst for helping new bloggers and making Howard County a more interesting place. And speaking of inspirations, HowChow continues to generate a terrific blog on interesting restaurants and food finds in and near the county. He is very deservedly the number one Baltimore area blogger on Urbanspoon, and just got a nice mention from Elizabeth Large at the Sun for his post on the opening of Coal Fire Pizza in Ellicott City.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is underway at the Howard County Fairgrounds this weekend. This is one of the largest wool and craft events on the east coast, drawing thousands of people (and some lengthy traffic jams) to the Fairgrounds. The festival is always held the first weekend in May, but somehow it always seems to sneak up on me. Driving by the Fairgrounds today I can attest that the place is packed, but the early morning rush is over and it's easier to get in. The festival runs until 9:00 pm tonight, then tomorrow from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Admission is free.

There are over 250 vendors selling all manner of things related to raising sheep and the crafting of wool products. There are also lots of classes and demonstrations of weaving, knitting, quilting, spinning, braiding and most anything else you can think of to do with wool. And there's musical entertainment, too. So if you're looking for something to do this weekend, head on out to the Howard County Fairgrounds. One more hint: if the Route 32 exit from I-70 looks jammed, head west to the next exit (Route 97), then come back east on Route 144. You can also exit the Fairgrounds that way and probably save some time.

Mother's Day Restaurant Specials in Howard County

Here are restaurants in Howard County, including Columbia and Ellicott City, offering special menus or brunches for Mother's Day on Sunday, May 10.  In addition to these, I'm sure any restaurant serving brunch in Howard County (see our list) would be happy to see you.  For a convenient list of brunch options in the wider Maryland area, see the OpenTable brunch listing.
  • Aida Bistro and Wine Bar offers a special Mother's Day prix fixe menu from 1:00 - 7:00 pm. $34 per person, or $44 with flights of wine or beer. Reservations recommended.
  • The Crab Shanty has a Champagne Buffet Brunch (menu pdf) from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. Adults $22.95, kids 12 and under $10.95. The Crab Shanty will also offer a Mother's Day Dinner Buffet (menu pdf) from 2:00 - 9:00 pm. Adults $29.95, kids 12 and under $12.95. Reservations recommended.
  • The Elkridge Furnace Inn has both a special Mother's Day Brunch Buffet and Mother's Day Dinner Menu. The brunch buffet (menu pdf) will be served from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm in the garden tent, $32.95 for adults, $16.50 for children age 5-12, children under 5 free. The dinner (menu pdf) can be ordered as two to five courses from $39 to $58. Reservations recommended.
  • The Iron Bridge Wine Company presents a special three-course Mother's Day Menu. $40 per person, from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm. Reservations recommended.
  • The King's Contrivance offers a Mother Day Menu with both prix fixe ($55 per person) and a la carte items. Reservations recommended.
  • oZ Chophouse serves a Mother's Day Brunch Buffet (menu) from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. $30 per person. Reservations recommended.
  • Tersiguel's serves a special Mother's Day Menu from 11:30 am - 7:30 pm. Reservations required.
  • The Waterside Restaurant in the Columbia Sheraton Hotel offers a Mother's Day Brunch (menu pdf) from 11:00 am - 7:00 pm. Adults $31.95, children aged 4-10 $15.95. Reservations recommended.