Monday, August 24, 2009

Rte 40: The Beef Highway

Rte 40 is the "Beef Highway," running from Korea to the pit with a little bread and ice cream to sample along the way.

This is the third in a series of posts that are a tour of Howard County, designed with the idea that people new to the county can learn best by actually driving the roads. Click here for the explanation and other tours. Check out the links below to see my prior posts about restaurants and markets on the route, then take a weekend drive.

This is too much beef to stay in one county. Stores and restaurants
unfettered by the Columbia code of hiding village centers in obscurity. Start in the northern part of Ellicott City, then drive east into Baltimore County looking left and right at the sights along the way. It's worth it. Start on an empty stomach if you want to kick off with a Korean sampler. And save room for the end if you'll want to try pit beef. Along the way are great sweets and shopping. Let's go.
  1. Start in the parking lot of the Bethany 40 Shopping Center. This is Rte 40 and Pine Orchard Lane about 2.5 miles west of Rte 29. Bethany 40 is a little center dominated by Korean businesses. It's not the Eden Center, but it is a place to start if you want to try some Korean items.
  2. First, check out the two Korean restaurants: Mirocjo on the second floor overlooking the parking lot and Bethany Seafood Restaurant that backs on the parking lot and actually faces the far side of the building to the east. They're both good, both options for kalbi or bulgogi. Mirocjo was my first find, but Bethany is my current infatuation because the dolset bim bop was delicious and the seafood is calling my name.
  3. Then, check out the Yetnal Asian Food Service House on the first floor under Mirocjo. I haven't figured it out entirely. Looks like a Korean caterer or takeout joint. I have bought delicious beef soup, but some sushi and pickles that weren't great.
  4. Drive east on Rte 40.
  5. Look LEFT for the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center. There is a Bagel Bin in there.
  6. Look RIGHT for Soft Stuff -- a local institution for soft serve ice cream. Last winter, there was talk about development on that site, but they'll keep Soft Serve as a tenant.
  7. Turn RIGHT on Plum Tree Drive and look for the Crab Shanty. This is the first of several Rte 40 joints that I haven't visited yet, but get good comments. Across the street is Pig Pickers, which people have said has BBQ worth the visit. Again, I haven't been.
  8. Return to Rte 40 eastbound, then look RIGHT for Canopy -- a local favorite for pit beef that I overlooked and which Tom Comeau talks up below.
  9. Drive through the intersection with Chatham Road. Look RIGHT for a Starbucks. Turn in and check out The Breadery down the row -- great rolls and lots of breads.
  10. Turn LEFT at the sign for Chatham Station shopping center, then an immediate LEFT into the area with a cigar store, a tire store and the Asian Court restaurant. This is Howard County's dim sum option -- the boisterous fun of rolling carts on the weekend and a dim sum menu at lunch during the week. When you leave, you're forced to turn WEST on Rte 40, so you need to U-turn at the next light.
  11. Pass by Asian Court again. Now there are a three more places that I haven't tried yet.
  12. First, turn LEFT at the traffic light for St. Johns Lane. Mi Casa is on the right. That's a Mexican place that gets good talk but (again) I haven't tried yet.
  13. Second, U-turn and go SOUTH on St. Johns across Rte 40 and go down to Rte 144. Turn LEFT on Rte 144, and look for Oakey's Grill. That's a new pit beef place. I'm going to drive you past my favorite later, but you might taste-test Oakeys as well. It is on my list to try.
  14. Return to Rte 40 eastbound.
  15. As you drive along, look LEFT across the divided highway. Java Grande is in the last shopping center before you hit Rte 40. It's the fourth places on my list to visit. You would need to cross under Rte 29 and U-turn to come back to Java Grande.
  16. Cross under Rte 29 on Rte 40. Then, turn right into the Lotte shopping center on the other side.
  17. Now you're in my part of town. Get out of the car.
  18. Check out the Lotte supermarket. I have talked up its takeout dinner options (marinated beef, Korean panchan), and it has the Asian produce, seafood and other attractions of the Korean supermarkets. Buy what you want -- although know there have been health code violations. The truth is that we're heading to the H Mart, and I think the H Mart is just a better place.
  19. Walk down the same side as Lotte. At the end of the row is Shin Chon Garden, the classiest Korean restaurant around. Great food. Great opportunity to grill your own meats if that is your fun. This is one of my favorite restaurants.
  20. Now, walk across the parking lot and check out La Boulangarie Bakery and Thai Aroma. You need to pick up a snack at La Boulangarie -- a banana cake, steamed sweets, or one of the red bean desserts. You should get a menu at Thai Aroma, which has some real partisans in the dispute for the "best Thai" crown.
  21. Return to Rte 40 eastbound. You do that by driving out to the access road behind the bakery and Thai Aroma. Turn left, then left when that ends at Ridge Road. Then right on Rte 40. (This access road lets drivers from northbound Rte 29 drive almost straight into the Lotte parking lot by taking the Rte 40 East exit ramp and curving left where the ramp splits.)
  22. Turn LEFT at the light for the Normandy Shopping Center. Unfortunately, the supermarket there closed recently. But you should check out the Nora Cafe & Bakery. Also, I have people talk up the brunch at Kelsey's Restaurant -- especially the jazz musicians who play on Sundays.
  23. Return to Rte 40 eastbound. You'll drive more than three miles through a park and then into Catonsville. You'll pass car dealers, then re-enter a commercial zone.
  24. Look LEFT across Rte 40 for Patel Brothers. It's an Indian grocery, which gets good reviews but which seems duplicative if you go to one of Howard County's Indian markets.
  25. Again, watch for a Starbucks on the RIGHT and turn there into the parking lot of the H Mart. Get out of your car again
  26. The H Mart is my favorite place for food -- spectacular for vegetables, fruits, fish, Mexican food and more. There is a little takeout restaurant near the produce. (Again, great beef soup dish!) There is a bakery in the front. I love this place and posted about 10 easy things to grab from the shelves.
  27. Next to the H Mart is "Hoonari" foodcourt. I hear there is a Mango Berry for sour yogurt. There is also an all-you-can-eat sushi and a Korean counter-style restaurant. I liked the restaurant when it was called "Besoto," but lots has been changing there. In June 2009, Patricia raved about the sushi buffet. On my last visit, there was a store on the lower level selling a variety of items, including rice cookers and other kitchen items. I would love to hear more if you have checked this out recently.
  28. Down the shopping center near Starbucks is Golden Krust, a Jamaican takeout. If you still have any room, try a pattie.
  29. Get back in your car and exit onto Rolling Road. That is the road that runs parallel to the H Mart and intersects with Rte 40 at the traffic light. Turn LEFT on Rolling Road and cross over Rte 40. There is the Double T diner and a pit beef place at that intersection. corner. They're probably fine, but you're going to the Pioneer.
  30. Go about 1.5 miles north on Rolling Road. Look for Pioneer Pit Beef on the LEFT. It's a shack next to Rte 70 with "PIT BEEF" on the roof. You turn LEFT on Johnnycake Road at the light before Pioneer, then RIGHT into the parking lot. This is my favorite pit beef -- meat, horseradish, then out to eat in my car.
Please comment below if I missed anything. (Update: Definitely read the comments because there are great ideas there that I'll try to update later.) There are a dozen places on Rte 40 on my list to try, including several Korean places beyond the joints like Crab Shanty and Pig Pickers. I actually created a bunch of numbered paragraphs so I have space to amend later. I will try to revise to add places or correct errors. You can use a number (like "15 1/2") to put your suggestion in the right part of the tour.

I also have hopes for a future series of posts about Catonsville because it is full of cool places that I haven't tried yet. You can check it out by going south on Rolling Road past the H Mart, then turning LEFT on Rte 144 when Rolling Road ends. You'll go through Catonsville. Look for the Catonsville Gourmet and for Sugarbakers, which is loved by Bmoresweet. If you want mid-century furniture check out the Home Anthology vintage shop.


Tom Comeau said...

You missed The Canopy which is next to McDonalds. It would go between Pig Pickers and Starbucks on your list.

The Canopy came back from a fire a few years ago. They do pit beef, pork and chicken, and have great fries. My wife has tried Oakeys, and she prefers The Canopy.

DAS said...

A new Indian place just opened on Route 40 in Catonsville, on the north side of Route 40 in the strip center behind/next to Popeye's. It's called Spicy Garden; mainly carry-out but a few tables (no table service that I could see). Had the warming trays for a buffet when I went there one evening, but they were empty. Maybe the buffet is a lunch thing. I had the masala dosa and a mango lassi. The dosa was huge, grease free and well spiced. The lassi was excellent but a touch pricey. I'd go back again.

Pig Pickers is no great shakes. Crab Shanty is much beloved by older Howard Countians for reasons which escape me. I think the food is lackluster at best, and quite heavy.

nuttyturnip said...

No mention of the Niko Japanese restaurant in the Normandy shopping center? Their awesome sushi lunch buffet always draws a crowd, and it's a favorite of mine.

Unknown said...

2. Rainpia (if it is still there) a casual bubble tea lounge with sofas.
4ish. Chum Churum. Korean joint that took over Blue Point Grille's spot. I have never been in there and am looking for a review.
11.5. Oh the humanity! To pass by Bare Bones! Best Ribs around! All you can eats of different cuts each on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Unknown said...

17. Thai Aroma

John said...

I rarely get as far out on Rte. 40 as HoCo. This is a good way for me to keep abreast of the wonderful, wonderful beef options in the county. Ironically, this is pretty much the way that I had first imagined doing my Beltway Snacking posts, though it became a deliberate search for specific places to eat not far from the Beltway. So it morphed into something different, but I'm happy to see someone stuck with the idea!

Anonymous said...

Great Post! I've tried lots of the places you mention and they are great, particularly H mart. I'd add that Crab Shanty (#7) really isn't worth the visit in my opinion. I also went on the recommendation of some locals when I first moved here, and I thought it was greasy and over-priced. I also didn't think that Mi Casa (#12) was anything special. On par with La Palapa II, but without the Ceviche.

I'd also add Tere's Latin market, that you've mentioned before, to the list (#21.5) This was the only place in the Howard County area that I was able to find a tortilla press at!

Eric said...

We get over to Mi Casa once a month or so. I agree it isn't "spectacular" but my wife really likes the seafood tacos.

Anonymous said...

Great. The line at Pioneer is already long enough on Saturdays and now you do this! It is the best. Leaves all the rest, including Canopy, in the dust.

michelle said...

bare bones is definitely worth a stop, i don't care for ribs but their prime rib is fabulous (it's all you can eat on thursday nights). make sure to order the corn fritters as a side, they're delicious

i agree about mi casa - definitely not that great, nothing stupendous and the prices are eh

further west on 40, past centennial lane and the cvs, there is another mexican place called pachanga, personally i don't care for it but everyone else i know raves about it so i'm the odd one out said...

Count another vote for Pachanga and Bare Bones. Bare Bones' beef connection is obvious; Pachanga has a steak special one night a week, and on Mondays they have all you can eat combos ($11.75!) which include beef options.

Crab Shanty is overrated.

We liked Mi Casa's house nachos (no need to bother adding meat) and sangria. Enchiladas and paella were good, as are most of the daily specials.

How can you swing by Oakey's and not mention Rita's for dessert? Heresy! ;-)

(Come to think of it, there's a sushi bar on the opposite corner from Oakey's — we haven't tried it, and I don't recall seeing it reviewed anywhere.)

I second your advice to bypass the Double T.

Kelsey's breakfast is great — but this is the beef column, and they're an Irish pub — can you say corned beef? Theirs rocks. They even have a corned beef appetizer.