Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Other Side Of The Tracks: Why You Need To Check Out Sykesville (And We Should Annex)

Crepe-making.  That's the balsamic glaze going on.
This post begins my plan to annex Sykesville.

The little town just across the railroad tracks in Carroll County is a terrific excursion, especially as a side trip on the way home from picking some fruit Larriland Farm.  It's half an hour from most of Howard County, and it's a cool place to explore and get some good food.

Jeff from Southern Skies Coffee turned me on to Sykesville -- and specifically emailed last month to tout the French Twist Cafe:
I wanted you to know about a really special place that just opened. It's a coffee shop just over the Carroll County line in downtown Sykesville.  Hélène, the owner, grew up in France and makes authentic crepes (both sweet and savory) and ridiculously good coffee drinks. She trained at the American Barista & Coffee School in Portland and obviously took the training to heart, as evidenced by her perfect cappuccinos. 
The crepes are made with buckwheat flour, which in spite of its name, contains no wheat and is gluten free. I've had the ham and cheese crepe and the nutella and banana crepe and both were stellar. 
The shop itself is located in a charming house with a big front porch that's perfect for lingering. If you make it up this way, please let me know and we can have coffee.
Everything that Jeff said was true, which is why we need to roll into town and annex the place.  Once Ulman is lieutenant government, Carroll County won't be able to stop us.

Crepe folded to eat
Mrs. HowChow and I stopped last weekend after picking cherries at Larriland.  I'll admit that I've followed emails into some shady joints, and Mrs. HowChow has followed me loyally into every one.  So she was pretty psyched when the French Twist Cafe turned out to be charming counter offering a superb lunch.

Crepe made to order.  The chef working two special griddles with a bottle of crepe batter and a long metal tool.  The crepes are impossibly pliable, yet crisp.  For savory one, they cover half the circle with a mix of cheese and vegetables.  Warm it through with the perfect amount of oil and balsamic glaze to dress the greens.

I lost a bet on that dressing.  The crepes come folded into fourths -- a really portable sandwich.  That made it way more fun to eat than a fussy knife and fork.  We got a Greek one -- a generous serving of greens, olives, and feta.  A light flavor from the buckwheat crepe.  The rich payoff of really good ingredients and crunch from some onion and green peppers.

Mrs. HowChow figured out that they'd added dressing.  That really brought the sandwich together, and the whole meal was light and exciting.  Crepes are exotic fun worth the drive, but the menu is completely accessible -- ranging from breakfast versions with eggs to savory items like basic ham, our Greek or a fancy crab meat.  And, of course, there are sweet crepes hyped up by butter, chocolate, Nutella, fruit and more.

Jeff's coffee shot
Remember that Jeff talked up the coffees.  Jeff roasts his own coffee, so you should listen when he says they serve a perfect cappuccino.

Overall, French Twist is a cool place to check out.  I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients.  It makes all the difference, and it means you could get all kinds of fun.  Coffee and breakfast.  A relaxed lunch.  A break on a bike ride.  A chocolate crepe to entertain some kids on an afternoon.

Notice that they start with breakfast service and cook into the late afternoon or early evening most days.  Check their hours.  Remember they're making the crepes to order.  Expect to wait a bit.  We lounged at a porch table in perfect weather, so we were content.

Up tomorrow:  The chocolate, wine and food store around the corner on Main Street that lets you turn a Sykesville trip into a full food excursion.

Can anyone tell me about the model train museum in Sykesville?  There is an old railroad car parked across from the French Twist.  As far as I can tell from the Web, it's a model train display run by a volunteer club and open on the first Sunday afternoon of every month.

French Twist Cafe
732 Oklahoma Avenue
Sykesville, MD 21784
(443) 920-3151

NEAR:  Sykesville is literally across a railroad track from northern Howard County.  From Howard County, you take Rte 32 north across I-70, then turn left onto West Friendship Road.  That curves across the border and turns into Main Street as it enters Sykesville.  Turn left at Oklahoma Avenue, but the French Twist will be on your right across from the railroad car.

French Twist Cafe on Urbanspoon


Steve Fine said...

The French Twist is Excellent! I really love their French pastries, and the "Spanish" crepe. Don't forget to check out the "upstairs" space, either. While in Sykesville, you might want to try Becks, which is a great pub and his a nice outside space as well.

Marcia said...

Love Becks !!! Great food, great beer selection, super wait staff.

I'm with you on the annexation!!!

Heather said...

Beck's is amazing... good food, great service, friendly atmosphere for families. Selection of beer on tap and in bottles is great, some good cocktails too. The seasonal menu has some great items, and they just started smoking - they do a mean BBQ platter.

Baldwin's Station, on the other hand... I wanted to like them, but several times have been decidedly not family-friendly to us, so I won't return.

Salazon Chocolate is amazing, a great bookstore in town too... Sykesville really is a little gem!

Unknown said...

Want to learn more about Sykesville Main Street, the model trains, Little Sykes Railway, our merchants, restaurants and all we have to offer? Visit

Jack said...

Agree with comments about the French Twist and Becks---both are friendly, have great food and are wonderful community citizens; unfortunately also have to agree with the comment about Baldwin Station...certainly not a friendly (family or otherwise) establishment. As for annexation...many of us living in Sykesville are here specifically to get out of good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

French twist is great....HoCo annex = HoCo taxes no thanks! Lol

Kim said...

We love all the food places here in Sykesville - those mentioned above as well as Big Belly Deli! The tea shop is amazing too. We've had ok experiences at Baldwin's but it is definitely more adult friendly. Our current favorite spot is Salazon Chocolate. Their wooden 6 pack / mix your own is my husbands favorite friday afternoon activity :) Downtown Sykesville is definitely an awesome and delicious place to check out!

kevlar51 said...

For what it's worth, I live in Sykesville, and in Howard County (Sykesville sits on both sides of the line, but the "town" is on the Carroll County side).

I still haven't tried French Twist--it's topping my list though. As already stated, Beck's is wonderful. They love to experiment with their seasonal menu. Go on the weekends for the Berkshire pig. And try the "Philly Brisket Cheesesteak," but ignore the name and chuck the bread--the smoked brisket is wonderful.

Big Belly Deli too--wonderful sandwiches at an amazing value. Great French Toast too.

Southern Skies Coffee Roasters said...

So glad that you enjoyed our little town! As far as the railroad museum, it's open on the posted days and also during special events downtown. They have 3 layouts: O-scale and HO-scale in the main car, and N-scale in the caboose. We always take the kids and they get a kick out of it.

Up Sandosky Rd to the left, there's also a miniature railroad that children can ride. The tickets are free, but they accept donations as well. It runs from the 1st Saturday in May until the 1st Saturday in October, 9am-3pm.