Wednesday, July 16, 2008

HardChow: Adventures With No Plate

Leave the beaten path for delicious adventures. Paper plates. No waiters. Horchata from a cart. These aren't date spots, and most aren't even restaurants. But they have delicious food and put the lie to naysayers who think HoCo is an endless row of chain joints.

Many people -- including Mrs. HowChow -- do not crave tacos on the roadside, but if you want to join the foraging, start with this always-changing list of adventures ---

Maiwand Kabob in Columbia
Start at the high end. Maiwand Kabob offers high quality paper plates and air conditioning. It's also some of the best food in HoCo. Kabobs. Samosas. Pumpkin appetizers.

The "Taco Truck" in Elkridge
Move on to a great taco that you can eat off the hood of your car. Pupuseria Lorenita's offers tacos, pupusas and other treats seven days a week from the parking lot of Paco's Paints on U.S. 1 just north of Rte 175.

Horchata and a Fruit Salad at the U.S. 1 Flea Market in Elkridge
Just north of the Pupuseria Lorenita is the U.S. 1 Flea Market. On weekends, the place fills with vendors and food stalls. Try the horchata from the metal trailer outside that also serves tacos and burgers. Try the fruit salad inside at Frutas de Mexico -- seasoned yourself with lime juice, salt and ground peppers.

The "Taco Truck" in Laurel
If you're farther south, you can grab your tacos at Pupuseria Y Taqueria Los Pinos in the Roll Rite Tires parking lot in Laurel. They're just as delicious. The tortillas are unusually thick with real corn flavor. They're open Monday to Saturday.

Iranian Fruit Roll-ups and a Yogurt Soda at Caezar's International Market in Elkridge
Caezar's is the place for Middle Eastern groceries.  While you are there, check out the "fruit roll-ups" from Iran. They're delicious and adult. "Sour curd" flavor is sour. Also try the yogurt soda if you want. The fermented taste was one step beyond for me (like "gag-inducing"), but Caezar's (formerly Sizar's in Columbia) sells two-liter bottles so some people must love it.

Samosas at Desi Bazaar in Columbia
At the counter, Desi Bazaar often sells samosas. They're room temperature, and you just pop them in a bag and then warm them at home. Nothing is better than fried pastry wrapped around a spicy filling.

Empanadas at the El Patio market in Elkridge
In the same vein of fried goodies, the El Patio market sells a variety of empanadas at the cashier's counter. Each variety is pinched in a different pattern so you can know what you're eating. For $10, you can fill a bag for dinner or for a cool party food if you can them into pieces.

Beef Soup At The H Mart lunch counter in Catonsville
Walk through the produce department to the lunch counter at the H Mart. Again, this is high-end like Maiwand Kabob because you get a plastic bowl and a real spoon. You also get a deliciously spicy soup with beef, noodles and vegetables.

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