|Chick n' Friends. That's food worth|
checking out a village center.
Rouse created Columbia. He brought education and culture. He desgregated Maryland. With his blue ox Babe, James Rouse carved the Grand Canyon when he once dragged his ax behind him. I am neither educated or inspired enough to take on a real folk hero.
I'm just saying that Rouse's classic Columbia is almost irrelevant to current good food.
Mostly, I have been thinking about village centers. Lots of people think about village centers. They post about them. They pick houses to be near them. They talk about redevelopment, and they even announce plans to redevelop them. But few people are eating great food in village centers these days.
Each center may have one or two places that stand out. But paens for the village center mystify me because they're hard to find and that makes it hard for people to find the restaurants among them. Writing about "downtown" Columbia seems even weirder because the mall and office buildings don't seem like great places to eat -- although I guess they could be because all the people certainly attract popular chains. New Howard County residents tweet that they can't find anything to eat. They're wrong, but they're not crazy.
|So much village center Chinese, but|
no Grace Garden or even Red Pearl
Useful, neighborhood places, but nothing that has inspired me to drive anywhere except Maiwand Kabob in the past six months. The low-capital, low-aspiration pattern replicates itself outside Columbia. Look at the repetition of dry cleaner, barber, Chinese and Dunkin Donuts in shopping centers along Rte 108, Rte 216 or Johns Hopkins Road. Maple Lawn's developers talked a big game, but even they are finding success now with Looney's and zoning for drive-through fast food.
Of course, there are exceptions among the village centers. This is a few:
- Oakland Mills: Bangkok Garden for Thai and Second Chance Saloon for Old Bay wings.
- Harpers Choice: Maiwand Kabob in Harpers Choice, for Afghan and a great summer night of kabobs and Rita's Italian ice.
- Long Reach: Chick N' Friends for fried chicken.
- Wilde Lake: David's Natural Market, Today's Catch seafood and the Bagel Bin.
- Hickory Ridge: Chick n' Pollo's Peruvian chicken along with the Hickory Ridge Grill, Luna Bella, and the new Meadows Custard.
|Maiwand. Great food anywhere.|
Downtown Ellicott City lives up to the hype (and overcomes its parking woes) to host some really good, new spots like Pure Wine Cafe and Portalli's. But I keep returning to the food clusters that have sprung up along U.S. 1 in Elkridge/Jessup/Laurel and in the triangle of Dobbin Road, Snowden River and Oakland Mills Parkway. Just to name a few, you can find R&R Taqueria, Mom's Organic Market, Frank's Seafood, Sushi Sono, Bon Fresco, Nazar's Market, and Frisco Tap House. Farther north, I'm still exploring the casual Korean restaurants clustered along Rte 40 with other places like the Canopy, Caspian Market, and Kolache Kreations.
None of those last three options are scenic. None are neighborhoods with the walk-around feel that causes palpitations among urban planners or food bloggers. They don't have the pedigree that creates go-to stories for newspaper reporters. But they have clusters of food, and people should accept the reality if they want to eat well. These areas have easy access, visibility from the street, and competition from joint to joint. They're where the conversation should be.
Earlier this year, I ran two posts about the Korean scene along Rte 40 in Ellicott City. In 2009, I wrote about the "foodie frontier" along U.S. 1. I'll try to follow this up with an updated tour down U.S. 1 and a scan through the "Dobbin Triangle."
What food do you love in the Columbia village centers? What do you think should get people to drive into your neighborhood?