Monday, August 10, 2009

Food Tour of Howard County

When I moved to Ellicott City, I couldn't find a thing. It isn't just me; congressmen get lost in Howard County. But it also wasn't a joke because I wanted to connect to something more than the Target and the Starbucks on Dobbin.

I came from Northern Virginia where the urban planning wasn't based on a fear that people might buy something. You can drive the main roads and see dozens of small stores, bakeries and restaurants.

As far as I can tell, Howard County doesn't want new people to discover interesting food. Village centers are hidden. The main roads have chains. Roads wind aimlessly or dead end abruptly. There are too many little restaurants to try them all, but not enough to support
a daily newspaper or a real reviewer. Only a nutjob whose wife works weekends would wander the county looking for new places to eat.

Interesting fish was my first obsession. Desperate to cook chowder on a winter Sunday, I found Today's Catch on the Internet and left home with nothing more than an address and a year-old comment from a Web site. I pulled into the village center shocked to realize that Mrs. HowChow had taken me for bagels at the same village center -- and had never known you could buy fish across the courtyard.

The series of posts starting tomorrow is meant literally as a tour of Howard County. Old-timers can follow the route in their imagination and might learn about a new joint or two. But I am drafting the tour that I wish I had taken when I moved to Ellicott City. Seven routes with commentary about options along the way and with hints about how roads interconnect, how that little Mexican place is closer than you think, or how you could stop for fresh bread on your way home from the post office.

Think of these as seven weekend drives. Start off. Drive along. Pick up menus. Stop for a snack. Make a list of the places that interest you. I hope it's helpful -- or at least an excuse to stop for a cupcake.


Matt said...

Thanks You! I'm finding myself in the same situation that you mentioned above. I've been scrambling notes on places for awhile now, but this sounds perfect!

BeerGuy said...

Fortunately the HoCo beer scene isn't as bedeviling, at least in my travels.

Once I knew how to get to Frisco Grille (no easy task the first time around) everything else revealed itself. Downtown Ellicott City takes care of most of the rest and then just a few other tiny disparate elements to piece together complete the big pie.

Jess said...

Great idea! After 4 years in Howard County, I'm just starting to feel like I have an idea of what's around, and I think I've even introduced my husband, who's lived in Howard County his whole life, to a few new places!

sherringham said...

This is AWESOME. From the day I moved to HoCo three years ago, all I wanted to do was drive around and find out where things are and where roads go.

Add that to the fact that I love food, and this series is bound to have me smiling as I read every word!

Thanks! (And it's good to know I'm not the only one with obsessed with the roads here.)

LC said...

YAY can't wait to read it. I have been in HoCo for 6 years now and still discover new places almost every week!

betsy said...

Apropos of nothing except it's food in howard co - I FINALLY caught the Gorman Farm gate open - pics at

K8teebug said...

Thanks for this comprehensive list! I would, however, caution against going to Fatburger. Worst. hamburger. ever.

HowChow said...

BeerGuy: "Once I knew how to get to Frisco Grille" may be reason enough for this series!! I didn't even look into Frisco until you told me that they had terrific beer there!

Shannon said...

What a great blog! I am moving to Howard Co. after three years in Europe. We are frightened at the prospect of chain restaurants and no food options, so this is a goldmine of info. I will absolutely be using these tips. Thanks so much.