Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No Signs, No Problem: Eating Across A County That Doesn't Want You To Know Where You Are

Lovebirds pies at Roots in Clarksville -- on Rte 108
Howard County only acts like it doesn't want you to know where to find great food.

Signs are illegal here.  Okay, not all signs.  Just most signs in Columbia, which makes it hard because the grand plan buried all the village centers in neighborhoods so that you can't stumble on them.  If you get lost, you're not alone.  Seriously, I think people often don't know about great food because they don't know to drive past.  But navigation is easier than it seems.  If you learn six key roads, then you can find the food.

Let's get you out there.  In 2009, I wrote an entire series with driving directions that covered most of the county.  In contrast, this post is a choose-your-own adventure tour -- 11 places to snack or pick up something for dinner.  Learn the six roads, and you can get anywhere.

This is part of HowChow's 2012 guide to Howard County -- "Welcome Home."  Ten posts to prove there are dozens of places worth your time, that you can find great food all across the county.  It's written for someone new to Howard County (maybe a link you send a friend thinking about moving here), but hopefully it's useful to anyone.

Pick a few joints from the list below.  Plug these places into Google maps for exact directions.  Look at a map to plan your route.  Then drive a bit.  Snack or pick up food along the way.  You'll get a feel for some of the county (although not the west or downtown Ellicott City).  You learn a few things.

Like key roads.  The six roads to start:  U.S. 1 and Rte 29 running north and south, Rte 40, Rte 175 and Rte 32 running east-west.  Then Rte 108 curving everywhere.  Knows those, and you'll start to know the county.  And you'll eat well along the way.
Bonaparte - Rte 32 and U.S. 1
  • R&R Taqueria in Jessup (U.S. 1 and Rte 175).  Spectacular tacos in the Shell station.  Seriously.  Buy tacos or the lunch special with soup.  Maybe an agua fresca or a horchata.
  • Bonaparte Bread in Savage (just south of Rte 32 and west of U.S. 1).  A French bakery with a limited sandwich menu in the Savage Mill shopping area.  Buy bread and maybe a dessert for tonight.
  • Roots Market in Clarksville (Rte 108 just north of Rte 32).  An organic market with great tasting on the weekend.  The guacamole is terrific.  West of here, Rte 32 runs through the western county up to U.S. 70.
  • Kolache Kreations in Ellicott City (Rte 40 west of Rte 29).  Drive west from Rte 29, and you'll pass a bunch of good places including the Soft Stuff ice cream stand and the Bon Appetit Bakery.  Go all the way to Kolache Kreations where a couple transplanted from Texas serves savory and sweet Czech pastries.
  • Gateway Pizza in Elkridge (Rte 108 just north of Rte 175).  Pick up momos.  They're Tibetan dumplings.  Gateway's menu is half pizza and half Indian food.  Very close to the Trader Joe's.
  • Chick 'N Friends in Columbia (a little north of Rte 175, on Tamar Road).  Takeout fried chicken. It's worth the fat-gram splurge.  Crunch down.  Check out the Family Market while you're there.
  • New York Deli in Columbia (south of Rte 175 on Snowden River Parkway).  Start with the corned beef.  This is a nice deli that delivers to offices at lunch.  Grab a treat at Linda's Bakery in the same shopping center.  Then head south and connect to Rte 32.
  • Touche Touchet Bakery in Columbia (Rte 29 just north of Rte 32).  A sweets bakery with cupcakes, cookies and masterfully decorated cakes.  You wind off Shaker Drive, which connects Rte 29 and Rte 32.
  • Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Fulton (just west of Rte 29 on Rte 216, south of Rte 32).  The coffee shop sells delicious coffee, much of it from Ethiopia, by the cup or the pound.  They also sell interesting sandwiches at breakfast and lunch.
  • Tutti Frutti in Ellicott City (Rte 40 just west of Rte 29).  Tart frozen yogurt, the perfect treat.  It's sold by the ounce.  Check out Caspian Market a few doors down.
  • Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville (just west of Rte 29 on Rte 198).  Pretty casual spot just south of the county line.  Split a Cuban sandwich.  Maybe stop for Seibel's housemade ice cream on the way home.
The bonus trip is U.S. 70.  Go west once the weather gets warm for pick-your-own fruit, barbecue and fried chicken.  That's the magic of Woodbine.  If you're looking for western Howard County, people put some great comments on this prior post asking for food in Woodbine, Eldersburg, Dayton, etc.

What I Don't Know: How do you explain Howard County to new people?  How do you find things?  How should they get around?  I think these main roads plus Snowden River Parkway -- with its detour onto McGaw and Dobbins roads -- are the right way to start.  What special spots are hidden off the major roads?


Ben said...

i've been living in howard county for 2 years and i find the way stores are hidden from the road one of the most frustrating things about living here!

Adam said...

Smoking Hot in Glenwood, in the strip plaza by the library. I know there's always a ton of love for Kloby's, but Smoking Hot is amazing. Incredible array of sauces and meats and sides.

Alicyn DelZoppo said...

There are several ways to get to places in Howard County, which is what I always tell people. It may look and seem like youre lost, but you'll find your way out. That is how you may stumble upon places. Honestly, for people to find good food places, they should read this blog. Also, the Merchandiser magazine and the other magazine the mail (blanking on the name) advertise local eateries.

Anonymous said...

How about Bon Fresco? Best sandwiches, soups and salads.

Vicky said...

We just went to R&R for the first time - oh my goodness. We had some delicious tacos, and the tortas were spectacular. Lots of food, really cheap, and the owner (who was the person who helped us) was very helpful. Great place! I'm glad I broke my "don't eat your meals at gas stations" rule.

Deb said...

If only...I could figure out which way is east, which is west, north, south. Do I turn right, left, go straight or what?

Thank goodness for Google Maps!

Deb, directionally challenged.