The Swim Write Run blog has been running a great series of "Food vs. Food" posts pitting two local restaurants against each other -- two flapjacks, two gnocchi, two kabobs, etc. She tweeted about how there were so many good places in Howard County -- so much good food to research for her series.
What food would I recommend for future battles? I thought about it in the parking lot of El Nayar in Elkridge -- one of the nice, casual Mexican places that have popped up along U.S. 1. Simple place, but the kind that serves crisp vegetables, slow-cooked meat, and smoky, house-made salsas that make me wonder why anyone goes for fast food tacos. El Nayar tacos are $2 each, and they're delicious.
A good battle needs two strong dishes, and it can't cost a fortune. The beauty for Swim Write Run is that all of her swimming and running means she can eat and write for a long time. My list of candidates:
- Tacos. El Nayar against R&R Taqueria on the Elkridge/Jessup line. R&R is probably still my favorite, but these are really close. Other candidates: Azul 17's upscale offerings in Columbia, Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia or Pupuseria Lorenita's -- one of the taco trucks on U.S. 1.
- Tandoori chicken. House of India in Columbia is my reigning joint, but people love Royal Taj in Columbia as well.
- Take-home crab cakes. Frank's Seafood sells my favorite crabs, but even off-season they sell ready-made crab cakes. Someone should test those against Boarman's Meat Market in Highland.
- Pulled pork. Kloby's does excellent barbecue, but I would enjoy a sandwich-on-sandwich taste test against the Town Grill in Lisbon. Everything tastes better in a gas station, right?
- Milkshakes. The Duchess in Ellicott City is a gem that you have to visit. Mr. RDAdoc, however, talked up the milkshakes at Cheeburger, Cheeburger on McGaw Road in Columbia. Any other competition?
- Sushi rolls. You need to decide whether you pick a crazy roll at each place or go with something basic like just tuna or just pieces of fish. But then you have a choice of places like Sushi King, Sushi Sono or Hanamura in Columbia. People also love Niko Japanese in Ellicott City, and there are Korean places like Kimco on Rte 40 at Bethany Lane.
- Steamed pork buns. This is a dim sum head to head -- Asian Court in Ellicott City versus the newcomer Red Pearl in Columbia.
- Wings. I asked for chicken wing recommendations yesterday afternoon, and there were 21 comments recommending at least a half dozen places by the end of the night. Wings to Go vs. Pastino's vs. Jilly's vs. Royal's vs. River Hill Sports Bar vs . . . . . .
- Korean barbecue (or maybe dolset bi bim bop) at Shin Chon Garden versus Honey Pig. They're part of my post about Korean joints on Rte 40.
- Hot soup for the wintertime. This breaks Swim Write Run's theme of identical dishes. But I'm thinking about function, not ingredients. An Loi's pho is our standing warming treat, but the soon doo boo at Lighthouse Tofu in Ellicott City did a great job as well.
That's just a start. I was thinking about bubble or boba tea in new places like Ichiban Cafe in Columbia or Bon Appetit Bakery on Rte 40. In the summer, there could be a few weeks of testing ice cream and snowball stands.
And, of course, the classic battle will be burgers. BGR Burger Joint is coming to Columbia in the spring, and that will create an entire neighborhood of burgers to try. Victoria Gastropub is my reigning champ at Snowden River Parkway and Rte 108. If you snake south, you can hit Fatburger on Rte 108, then Red Robin behind the Target, then go down Dobbin Road for Five Guys and Cheeburger, Cheeburger.
Do you have a battle that you would recommend to the Swim Write Run blog? Definitely check out her Friday posts.