Friday, April 24, 2009

Great Takeout in Howard County

I'm secure enough in my kitchen abilities to know that it is best some nights to just carry dinner home. Pull some plates. Spread out the food. Start eating right away.

Howard County is made for takeout. Every shopping center has a Chinese restaurant and a pizza joint. But bad food doesn't make for a great night of takeout, so there are the places where I'll drive a little extra to pick up.

This list is about pick-up, no-cook dinners. Tacos at Lily's are great to eat right away, and the crab cakes at Boarman's broil up to a dinner worth serving guests. However, this is a list about lunch in a bag (or a box) that you can take home, eat right away, and maybe have something left over for lunch the next day.
  • Chinese at Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro off Rte 108 in Ellicott City. This was Mrs. HowChow's staple when we lived up near there. Hot and sour soup with crunchy noodles. Chow fun. Black bean chicken. That's my wife's comfort menu, although you can't go wrong at Jesse Wong's -- and it tops the list because they'll deliver so you don't even have to go there.
  • Fried chicken at Chick N' Friends in Columbia. Chick N' Friends is takeout -- no seating at all. If you can, get chicken right out of the fryer. Pair it up with corn bread, maybe collard greens. This is home cooking in the best possible way.
  • Pizza from Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge or Coal Fire in Ellicott City. Pizza is personal. I go thin crust with premium toppings, so I go to Pazani off Rte 103 north of Rte 100 or Coal Fire on Rte 108 near Snowden River.
  • Korean soup and panchan at Lotte Supermarket in Ellicott City. It'll be a while before I forget the Channel 2 report about vermin. But I have to still say that Lotte serves up a unique takeout if you buy a quart of spicy beef soup near produce and your selection of pickled vegetables and other dishes at the panchan bar near dairy.
  • Peruvian grilled chicken at Pollo Fuego in Jessup or Mega Chicken in Laurel. Mega Chicken is all the way into Anne Arundel, but it's only 15-20 minutes from much of Howard County. At either place, the delicious chicken and the yucca fries are worth the drive, and the fries crisp right back to life in a 400-degree oven.
  • Any grilled meats and the pumpkin appetizer at Maiwand Kabob in Columbia (or in Burtonsville or near the Arundel's Mill Mall). This growing Afghan chain sells wonderful food and especially wonderful bread. That pumpkin is worth any drive.
  • Thai curries and mango sticky rice from Bangkok Delight off Rte 108 in Ellicott City. The curries all travel well. This is one of my favorite places. The sticky rice dessert is best right out of the kitchen, but it travels okay as long as you don't put it in your refrigerator.
  • Pho from An Loi in Columbia. This may be my favorite. You get the Vietnamese soup in pieces -- a quart of broth, a container of noodles and meat, a bag of sprouts, herbs and hot peppers. So it's as fresh in your kitchen as it is at An Loi. Warm comfort in winter. A light dinner in summer. We always have leftovers and have learned to refrigerate the noodles in with the broth so that they don't dry out.
What take out do you love? Pizza that I missed? Other places for Chinese? For sandwiches? I would love suggestions. (Update: There are already some suggestions in the comments. Thanks.)

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring of ideas about food in Howard County. Or click to switch to the posts about different cuisines or posts about shopping.

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JNU3 said...

My favorite take out places in and around HoCo:

*Pazani for pizza
*Hunan Express for basic, cheap Chinese
*Jimmy John's for subs (they deliver too)
*Pasta Blitz for decent Italian
*Timbuktu for crab cakes
*Little Spice for Thai

Sheri said...

Oh, acckkkK!! My girls and I ate dinner at Lotte's just last week (in the seated section in the back left corner. We had a lovely time, but after reading that Dirty Dining review - well - we won't be going back. Time to check out the new Korean grocery store on Hwy 197 in Laurel!

Clayton Koonce said...

I've bookmarked this post for reference in the near-future. Recently I tried Mirchi Wok next to Mango Grove in east Columbia and really liked it. I saw it referenced in HowChow a while ago. I dined there, but they also have take-out. A favorite place closer to me is Tokyo Cafe, great for both dining in and take-out. Japanese and Thai. They are in the Wilde Lake Village Center on the pedestrian plaza where the more conspicuous Melting Pot fondue place is located.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think Asean Bistro is quite mediocre. The food (be it taste or portion size) certainly doesn't parallel what you pay for it. However, I have not been fond of any of Jesse Wong's chains so far due to the similarity to Hunan Manor (perhaps because he started out with them I heard), which I too have felt they have been on a decline in recent years. The things that they do, do differently are only mediocre as well (dim sum in particular, the offerings are quite amateur for its staff, which I understand why, to be raving about it)...

But I have to agree with Mega Chicken and another commentor's post about the crabcakes at Timbuktu (both value and superb quality).