Friday, April 16, 2010

Parking Lot Cafes 2010: Eat And Watch Your Car

I don't like to just throw around the term "My Contribution To World Civilization," so let's just say that the post about "parking lot cafes" is my favorite HowChow idea to date.

Last spring, I pointed out that Paris has sidewalk tables, DC has rooftop dining and country inns nestle you in gardens.  But Howard County has it's own indigenous experience for al fresco dining:  The parking lot cafe.

Victoria Gastropub offers a perfect example of the parking lot cafe.  A patio seat to enjoy dinner on warm, breezy night -- and a view of your car.  This isn't a view of the street.  This is a restauranteur that knows we like their food, but we love our cars.  So we want to be close.  Close enough that the key fob can unlock your car from your seat.  This is le cuisine voiture.

The May 2009 post introduced the term and listed a half dozen places where you could dine and watch the waves of automobiles crest upon the parking lot.  Maiwand Kabob's two tables overlook cars to the horizon.  Mad City Coffee almost lets you put your feet up on your bumper as you sip your brew.  Another year of observation has turned up new examples to show our dominance of this oh-so-American way to dine:

  • Strapazza in Columbia had seats last year that looked across the parking lot at Rte 108.  The view was free as was the live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The new Sidamo coffee shop in Fulton just put out tables and chairs.  A few are, unfortunately, aimed at Maple Lawn Boulevard, so the parking that you see is uncomfortable far away on the other side of the development.  But the tables near the front door cover the Looney's lot where you can park.
  • Facci mirrored La Palapa Too in their shopping center on Johns Hopkins Road.  We can disagree whether that neighborhood should be called Laurel, Scaggsville or Fulton.  But you have to admit that it's exciting to be able to choose which part of the parking lot you want to watch.  (Plus, the new patio offers a few extra seats in a crowded restaurant, and Facci did it up in style with landscaping.)

But the revelation of the "parking lot cafe" post was that other people joined in the fun.  They proposed their own places, and many got in on the joke.  Rdonoghue talked up Donna's on Rte 108 and notes that "on a clear day" you can see all the way to Eggspectations.  BillZ noted that River Hill Grille let you eat, watch your car, and see the Columbia Gym where you should be working out.

So what others can you suggest?  A place where you can sit outside and see the parking lot.  Extra points if you can touch a car.  Funny comments are always appreciated.

16 comments:

cdarl said...

I just went to Baja Fresh yesterday and noticed that the new Five Guys, Baja Fresh and Panera all have tables outside (off of Dobbin). I never really noticed before.

Emily said...

Bon Fresco should get a parking lot cafe! The only thing better than one of their awesome sandwiches would be to get to eat it outside on these beautiful spring days.

Anonymous said...

It's like Europe eh howchow?

Kristin said...

We ate at Kelsey's Irish Pub (one of our new favorite restaurants with the BEST corned beef and cabbage around!) and while enjoying the great weather, had a wonderful view of the parking lot as well :) Did make me think of this topic while we were there!

Anonymous said...

LOL at thinking Bon Fresco has "awesome" sandwiches. Is it that easy to fool people in Columbia?

kam said...

4/16 12:55 PM Anonymous:

Where do you like to go for sandwiches? Or do you have particular kinds at home that you like to make? I enjoy sandwiches, and I don't mind doing a bit of travelling. So please share what your awesome sandwiches are.

~kam

Anonymous said...

Yes Kam, I have 2 arms and make my own sandwiches. Crazy concept, I know. The nerve of me to not pay $10 for an overrated sandwich when I can make something 10 x as good for 3/4 the cost.

sperlman1 said...

Let's not forget LeeLynn's right on Route 108!!

AllyC said...

is it exactly 3/4 the cost? because that's one pricey at-home sandwich! I like Bon Fresco -- it's fun to have someone else make a yummy sandwich for me sometimes. And I would enjoy the ability to lock and unlock my car while I eat that sandwich! yum yum. :)

Anonymous said...

In Baltimore County we prefer Parking Lot Cafes so no one breaks into our car, LOL!

dzoey said...

Union Jack has tables with a nice view of 175 or the Columbia Mall parking lot.

Clyde's used to serve some food out on deck overlooking the lake - it was nice, but I haven't seen them do it in a while.

Anonymous said...

I guess this makes Union Jack at the Columbia Mall a failure. They have a little outside section, but it's hard to see the parking lot through the trees.

cdarl said...

Why does everyone sound so angry on here. It is fun to eat out sometimes - otherwise I would be eating my own sandwiches all the time.

Jen said...

clyde's washes the table/chairs off every morning when they plan to seat outside.

I would love it if Union Jack's filled the old outdoor area of That's Amore w/ tables...they said they were working on it?

sherringham said...

Union Jack's does have tables and chairs (and umbrellas) outside in what looks like a nice little patio area. Went there last week, but it was too cold at night to enjoy a drink outside.

Anonymous said...

In defense of Bon Fresco - isn't a sandwich there $6.50 or something? I don't remember spending $10 for a sandwich at Bon Fresco, that's for sure. Getting a sandwich there means I don't have to go to the grocery store as often to pick up coldcuts/condiments/chicken breasts etc., and spend the time preparing and putting it together. I get to chew on some really good sandwich bread, and of course those rolls and pastries I don't make at home either (all butter - contrast that with the partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup of, say, Cinnabons. Even Panera loads up on the hf corn syrup). I'll leave it to the experts to extol the quality of bread ingredients at Bon Fresco, I just know I enjoy their sandwiches. Would love to try yours, Mr. Anonymous from April 16 3:37PM. At 10x better, you'll probably have quite a few takers here on this blog. I'll even pay you $10 for whatever you make for me ;-)