Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Restaurants: Best of Howard County 2012

Maiwand Kabob's gyro
I have been eating in and around Howard County for seven years, and I can assure anyone that they can eat well even in the suburbs.

What's going to be your favorite?  Well, that I can't predict.  Tastes differ.  Restaurants change.  We have beaten down the stupid lines about how everyone in Columbia eats at chain restaurants, but we haven't reached some boring consensus about the best places to eat.

This is my "Best Of" list.  These are places where I'd tell you to start if you want something delicious.  Earlier this year, I literally wrote "where to go" advice for someone just moving to Howard County.  This post is more of an annual writing exercise where I think about new stuff I have found and try to spark a little conversation from other folks eating their way along.

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 started eating in Howard County.

This is an update from my July 2008 postmy October 2009 post, my October 2010 post and my October 2011 post about the best restaurants.  Later this week, I'll follow up with the great news of 2012, a list of great food experiences, and a list of great shopping finds.

A Few Of My (Current) Favorite Things:
I love great food, and great items appear at some places that aren't perfect restaurants. For example, Tere's Latin Market is in the back of a grocery store on Rte 40, but you'll get great tacos and special salsas.  I arbitrarily forced myself not to repeat anything from my 2009 listmy 2010 list, or my 2011 list.
Egusi at Kuramo
Seriously, check out the three old lists.  Those are 30 more cool dishes to try.  I could go any night for wings at Kloby's Smokehouse or housemade noodles and black bean sauce at Tian Chinese Cuisine.

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 -- although I don't eat out enough to make many changes.  Plus, it omits places like Aida Bistro that I haven't tried recently enough to post about.
R&R tacos
Okay.  That isn't even ten.  But there are a bunch of places where we haven't eaten recently so I don't know how to place good spots like 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 2011 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:
  • 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
  • Trattoria E Pizzeria de Enrico in Columbia for gnocchi with aurora sauce
  • 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, there are several long series.  First, check out the two weeks of 2012 posts with recommendations for people new to Howard County.  Then, look at 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."

22 comments:

Michelle said...

Hmmm...I'm going to have to think about my top 3. So hard to choose but Mai wand kabob would also be a top pick for me and is definitely my top pick for best take out food. On another subject, does anyone know where to get black and white cookies? I think wgmans sometimes has them? How about any of the local bakeries? THANKS!

Anonymous said...

I get the gyro a lot from Maiwand, but it never is that browned. Its still good, just doesn't look that pretty. What location was that?

Also the customer service at the Columbia Crossing location is lacking. I tried placing a phone order the other day, but the lady swore up and down that they did not have gryos or kid's meals. Eventually I just drove over there, placed my order and waited for it.

kevlar51 said...

Dave (Dave's BBQ) got back from a Texas trip yesterday and brought some Texas brisket with him. Heaven for $6.

Since I live in Hanover, it seems like most of my dining lately has been just over the HoCo line (that and Rt 1 Food Trucks). But if you're throwing in Odenton locations, maybe I'll start making recommendations.

Erin Kristensen said...

I don't know for sure where to buy a black and white cookie. However, I do know that Bobby's Burger Palace in the Maryland Live Casino makes a awesome black and white cookie milkshake that you should try! :)

Elizabeth said...

AIDA Bistro is great! I highly recommend the shrimp, crab and lobster pasta in tarragon cream sauce - it's simple, but divine! They've also got great fried calamari, and I love the Dancing Coyote Gewurtztraminer - on tap, of course! Oh, and the chocolate bread pudding…mmm…

David said...

Bistro Blanc is worthy of being a top 3 restaurant. Sushi King is the best stop for Sushi. Smokin Hot has the best Ribs. Baldwin Station is Sykesville ( literally just over the line) is as good as it gets. I agree with Facci as the top Italian and pizza place in the county (sorry Coal Fire and Kings Contrivance Pizzeria ). Bon Fresco is heaven.

Jenny said...

In December we'll have lived in HoCo for 3 years, and I just wanted to say "thanks." I've gotten a lot of great eating and shopping ideas from your blog, and I used it to learn something about the geography of Howard County. You are an asset to the community!

Anonymous said...

Ellicott Mills Brewing Co in old Ellicott City has always been good.

Anonymous said...

Sushi Sono is leaps and bounds better than Sushi King. In my very humble opinion of course.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know where to find good falafels? I compare falafels to the ones at Lebanese Taverna. I wish Lebanese Taverna would come to the Columbia area.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know where to find good falafels? I compare falafels to the ones at Lebanese Taverna. I wish Lebanese Taverna would come to the Columbia area.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the falafel at Lebanese taverna - i think there's a kabob place that has falafel on Route 108, kind of near Pudgies, at a strip mall, that has falafel.

MinE said...

Yet Nal on Rt. 40 is my current #1 Korean spot. Friends and I feel the flavor of the Soon dooboo is richer than that of Lighthouse Tofu. I buy their frozen rice cake slices from time to time to make Chinese str-fried rice cakes.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't tried Koto Sake Japanese Restaurant in Hickory Ridge, you need to get there! I have been looking for a place that is closer than Sakura (which is my favorite) and Koto is right up there!

Alicyn DelZoppo said...

I have been absolutely loving Bon Chon and An Loi lately - going to both about once a week. I also love Nora's Kabob. Their pomegranate beef dish is amazing. I went to Bistro Blanc last night, as I hadn't been there in over a year. It was fantastic! The pork belly and fig and the sweet potato soup were so good.

Anonymous said...

Sushi Q in Elkridge is great for a quick dinner or lunch out. It's BYOB too.

Ravens Fan said...

There is no mention of King's Contrivance in Columbia; Tersiguels and Portalli's in Ellicott City, Venagas and Ranazul in Maple Lawn, or the Furnace Inn in Elkridge. Certainly these fine dining places should earn some mention in any "list" of the best restaurants in Howard County. Is there a reason why they were overlooked? I hope cost is not the only criterion...

HowChow said...

@Anon -- The gyro photo is from the new Columbia Crossing locaiton.

@Anon -- Lebanese Taverna would be spectacular.

@RavensFan -- I have eaten at some of those higher end restaurants. I like some, but they're not on my list. I encourage other lists. Price is an object because we don't eat at those price points often, but I don't love several of those places. For an expensive dinner, I'm willing to drive so those places compete with kitchens in two cities. I wrote a few years ago about the "Woodberry Kitchen" problem.

Amy Sauerwalt said...

Kloby's: hands down, the BEST ribs on the planet.

Anonymous said...

Bon Chon is my fav spot - hands down!

Jess said...

I'm admittedly quite late to this party, but I have to recommend the dancing dragon roll at Yama in addition to the butterfly roll that HowChow already mentioned. It's not "purist" sushi, but it's darn tasty.

I have to agree with HowChow about "the Woodberry Kitchen problem" - I really love Bistro Blanc, Ranazul, and Iron Bridge. But when I'm looking to dine out for something a little more special, I'm willing to drive, so they have to compete with places like Woodberry Kitchen, Wine Market Bistro, or Clementine.

Jackie said...

Just ordered some fod from the Smoking Hot Pit Beef spot in Glenwood and it was HORRIBLE! We ordered for a meeting and the pit beef sandwich was dry and distasteful. The "home-made" macaroni and cheese was essentially some noodles with very little cheese sauce and the sweet potatoe fries weren't any better. I was excited to try the place because it was on this list and we were looking for a restaurant on the western end of the county, but this place is a no-no. Out of 10 of us that ordered, the only dish that got a thumbs up was the BBQ Salmon sandwich. I won't be going to this place again!