Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Restaurants: Best of Howard County 2011

Grace Garden
The best restaurants are the ones that make you happy -- the places that you want to return for your old favorites or for new discoveries.

So this is my best restaurants.  I can guarantee that you can get great food in (or just outside) Howard County.  These are the places that I'd tell you to start if you want something delicious.  

Frankly, I don't eat out enough to change my "best" list that often.  I'm always finding new "favorite things."  So this is a post to spark a little conversation and to help people start out when they find HowChow for the first time.

I don't know if your best restaurants are on my list.  That's why you can write comments!  Tell me the three places that you would recommend to someone who just moved to Howard County.

This is an update from my July 2008 postmy October 2009 post and my October 2010 post about the best restaurants.  Later this week, I'll follow up with a list of great food experiences and great shopping finds to supplement these.

A Few Of My (Current) Favorite Things:
I love great food, and great items appear at some places that aren't great restaurants. For example, R&R Taqueria is a takeout joint, but you can't beat lunch at the counter overlooking the gas pumps.  I arbitrarily forced myself not to repeat anything from my 2009 list or my 2010 list.
Soretti's Ethiopian
My Top Restaurants in Howard County:
Not claiming to be "The Ten Best." This is an alphabetical array of recommendations to anyone moving to Howard County.  My list tilts to flavorful and affordable, and it changes over time.  Plus, it omits places like Tersiguel's and Aida Bistro that I haven't tried recently enough to post about.
Sushi Sono
Others that make the list: Facci in Laurel for pizza and that house-made pasta, Aida Bistro in Columbia for superb Italian food and wine, and Victoria Gastropub in Columbia especially for burgers.  And if you just want a professional list, remember that we reverse-engineered Richard Gorelick's Howard County favorites as well.

Five Places On My List To Try:
My favorite part of HowChow is that it is my excuse to try new places. These are joints on my list to try for the first time or to try again so that I could post:
  • Tersiguels in Ellicott City for French
  • Aida Bistro in Columbia for Italian
  • Han Joong Kwan in Ellicott City, especially for hand-torn noodle soups
  • El Hidalgo in Elkridge for Mexican and Colombian
  • Mount Airy Inn in Mt. Airy
This week, I'm posting a series of "best of" posts starting with best restaurants and best food experiences.  Then some posts about finds at stores.  You can click for all the "best of posts" going back.

If you're looking for more, check out two prior series of posts -- a "tour of Howard County" describing restaurants and markets in specific areas or my 2009 guide to what I've learned about Howard County from "best Chinese" and "best takeout" to "best BBQ" and "best burgers."  I'll update that soon.


misszippy said...

Thanks for turning me onto some new restaurants. My husband and I are big Iron Bridge patrons but admittedly don't venture much beyond that here in the county. Great list.

Kristin said...

I would definetly agree with you on Iron Bridge and Bon Fresco, two of my all time favorites.

I would also add Tandoori Grill (in the same parking lot as Facci and Klobys) they are a great place for takeout indian when you are too tired to cook! The owners are super nice and are obviously proud of their food!

Mike said...

Pretty strong list of quality restaurants. Though notably missing is Victoria Gastro Pub!!

Nick and Nora said...

I recommend you try Johnny's on Main Street (Ellicott City), especially for his specials on Friday night. White table cloth food in a casual setting and the price is right.

Nancy said...

Have you tried Zapata's in the Harpers Choice Village Center in Columbia? Great Mexican food.

Darren Easton said...

I second the suggestion of Victoria's. Awesome atmosphere, unique food and great beers on tap.

Anonymous said...

I would say leave Victoria's off the list. I have been there several times and have yet to get excited about it like so many others. Bisto Blanc is my number one choice in the county. I love getting a drink at Leelynn's. They have a new chef and their small plates and seasonal drink menus are a great way to spend an evening with friends or family. The grilled vegetable flatbread is really good. The King's Contrivance is always great for a night out. And although I am not a vegetarian, I have never been disappointed at The Great Sage.

Vicky said...

Definitely try El Hildago again - we're there fairly often and it never disappoints. If you like seafood, try the California Burrito - it contains shrimp, in addition to the steak, and it is so huge you can barely finish it! I also love the chimichangas there.

Anonymous said...

Victoria's is on the list for burgers, and I'd agree that their burgers are the best! But, nothing else on the menu excites me enough to venture away from the burgers.

I also love R&R and was excited by the press they received from the WashPost.

I'd probably disagree with the pork buns at Red Pearl. Tried them and they were way too bready...there are better pork buns around.

HowChow...as always great post! And thanks for some new suggestions. One question I have for you is that you regularly say that you don't eat out often. But, you run a food blog with a heavy restaurant focus. What does not that often mean to you?

graciesmom said...

This pains me to write, because I know the owners of both and they are wonderful people, but I no longer get excited about Aida Bistro or Tersiguel's. There is something missing at both, but I don't know exactly what. They used to be favorites of ours. You should try both, though, and form your own opinion.

HowChow said...

Thanks for all the comments. I need to add Johnny's to my list, and I need to write about Tandoori Grill, which I agree is really good.

@Anon -- We probably eat out 3-4 times a month. Maybe another night of takeout some months. Not that much for a food blogger. ;-)

Anonymous said...

It looks very yummy the picture of the Grace Garden. What's name of the meal? I love to try it! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the new suggestions, I always enjoying hearing about new and different eats in the area! If we are on the subject of Howard County, I would definitely like to add two of my own faves...Second Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills has some of the greatest pub food I've ever ate and are always running fancy, yet cheap food specials! The owners are especially very personable and kind and for some one who eats out as often as myself (every night)you come to appreciate that...Secondly, Chick n' Friends in Long Reach. I could'nt believe for fried food to-go how wonderful and non-greasy it is. They as well have really personable owners and chocolate cake to die for!

Anonymous said...

Must tries in How Cow: Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. in Historic EC and Corner Stable in King's Contrivance.

Anonymous said...

Bon Fresco is my all-time favorite too. Vote so that next year it shows up. The sandwiches are from crusty bread baked throughout the day. I always think about the London broil and the mozzerella and basil. Mmmmmm....

Anonymous said...

Elkridge Furnace Inn. This is a place to get excited about. The food is amazing. They have pre fix menu's also and can get many courses for one price.You can have wine paired by the glass or bottle too. They have half price bottle wine night, small plates and lunch also. There Lunch seafood crepes are wonderful. They have specials and run a Cowboy Steak that was hugh and juicy. Chef Dan really puts alot of thought into his menu and makes his staff be there for tastings, so they know all about the food they are serving.One of the best restaurants I have ever worked for. Well worth the trip not just for a special occasion:)

Anonymous said...

I know everyone talks about Sushi Sono as the best, but I have to cast my vote for Katana in Elkridge. Best yellowtail ever, and I've been to all of the top places in NYC, LA and DC. Plus, they're really nice people, which makes it even better.

kymagirl said...

EW Becks in Sykesville - great main street atmosphere. Good pub grub, especially the Beck Burger with its wonderful toppings choices.

Food Nomad said...

Having grown up in the area, I remember that El Azteca in Clarksville was always a good spot for tasty and affordable Mexican food.

Kim F said...

I love your blog and you are usually spot on with your recommendations. Because of that, I thought you'd like to know about our lunch experience at Bancok 9. The food was horrific, the stains on the tablecloth and the overall lack of service will prevent me from ever going back. I'm really not a picky eater and my dish--Siam Beef was inedible. After arriving to the table cold, it was taken back and brought out lukewarm. It looked like dog food and tasted like a combination of spices gone wrong. My husband's dish was equally as bad--Chili Pork; really fake looking/tasting red sauce. It's a shame really. I remember the restaurant from years ago and the food was always fresh and tasty. New owners= bad experience.