One of Howard County's best spots for grilled and smoked meats is inside the Citgo station on Rte 144 just off I-70. It's a classic joint, but don't let the basic spot fool you about the food. The Town Grill serves food with real flavor and skill. This isn't retro spot to go just because it's a quaint or unique.
Instead, this is a place where the BBQ starts strong and the side dishes deliver country flavor with modern freshness and ensure that you have a terrific meal.
On Saturday, we enjoyed the inspiring pairing of Town Grill with pick-your-own fruit at Larriland Farm. We parked a car packed with peaches and ate a late lunch of ribs and pulled pork. The pork was juicy with a good flavor. I ordered horseradish, which Mrs. HowChow liked, although next time she'll order extra barbecue sauce on the side.
The ribs come on the firm side, which meant they were perfect for me because we have a Jack Spratt thing going between firm, smoked meat and the fall-off-the-bone variety that Mrs. HowChow loves. The half rack was huge. The exterior was crisp, and the meat inside was moist and tasty. Lots of meat on each bone.
With the ribs came sides that absolutely made the meal. Coleslaw that was fresh and light. Cornbread that came out hot, light and tasting of a home kitchen. (Or maybe better than home. A young guy sitting behind us called out, "This cornbread is better than my grandmother's.") And the best was a huge dish of baked beans -- thick and flavored with meat and something that gave it a spicy kick. None of the sugar rush that makes me skip most beans. The side dishes paired beautifully with the meat, and they're way better than I'd expect at even a good BBQ place. We sat outside, and the grill guys plied us with extras -- a little starter of grilled corn, potatoes and squash, then a taste of fresh pickles.
This is a "hole in the wall" kind of place. It is literally in the Citgo, so you might have friends who don't want to eat in a gas station. But they're missing out.
Town Grill does a year-round business with barbecue along with a full grill menu from breakfast to burgers, fried chicken to onion rings. They also cater. On summer weekends, they pull out grills for the ribs and other treats like turkey legs that some little girls were gnawing when we arrived. They also smoke salmon and sell it by the ounce to take home. At $16/pound, the salmon isn't cheap, but it's spectacular.
How does Town Grill compare with Kloby's, the Johns Hopkins Road spot that sets the BBQ standard around here? Mrs. HowChow actually preferred Town Grill's pork. I'd need to taste test a little more to pick a winner on the meat, but Town Grill wins hands down on the side dishes. Better and probably twice as big. Normally, I just buy pork at Kloby's and get my own bread and sides. At Town Grill, I'd buy the full platter every time.
Town Grille (in the Lisbon Citgo)
15943 Frederick Road (Rte 144)
Lisbon, MD 21797
NEAR: Town Grille is in "downtown" Lisbon. We kid. There is no downtown, but it's literally minutes off I-70 so it's super easy to reach. Take the exit for Rte 94 south, the same one you'd take for Larriland Farm in Woodbine. Then go east on Rte 144 at the traffic circle. (You go three-quarters of the way around the traffic circle.) Look for the Citgo station about a block down on the right. You can park at the station or across Rte 144 in a small lot.