Monday, September 28, 2009

Central Columbia: It's All Hidden From The Road

You know how to find the Columbia Mall, but the true food in central Columbia is all hidden from the road.

This is the sixth 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. Or flip over to the "What I Learned" series.

Central Columbia is Rouse Territory, so it's a tour -- for the most part -- of village centers. Perfectly designed for the commerce of the 1950s, the village centers are tucked deep in residential neighborhoods. You never drive past them, and you rarely have a reason to drive to one far away because they each basically offer a grocery, a liquor store, a Chinese restaurant, a dry cleaner, a bar/pub, a hair salon . . . Many centers actually have something unique and worth the drive, but they're such small businesses that it's hard to hear about them -- and impossible to just wander across them -- among the generic mix. So this tour has more driving per stop than most of the others.
  1. We're going to start with fried chicken a Chick N' Friends just off Tamar Road in the Long Reach Village Center. This is north of Rte 175 and west of Snowden. This is two examples of how to get there: 1) From Rte 29, take Rte 175 east and then turn LEFT at the light for Tamar Road. From Rte 100, take Snowden River SOUTH across Rte 108 and then turn RIGHT on Tamar Road.
  2. Turn into the Long Reach Village Center. It will be on the right if you're coming from Rte 175 and the left if you're coming from Snowden. There is a grocery store and the village center basics. Chick N' Friends serves up great fried chicken from a takeout spot that faces the interior courtyard.
  3. Exit the village center and turn LEFT on Tamar Road. Turn RIGHT at the light for Rte 175, then turn LEFT at the light for Thunder Hill Road. This curves around and deadends into Robert Oliver Place. Turn RIGHT and you drive into the Oakland Mills Village Center.
  4. Get out. On Sunday mornings from spring to fall, this is the location of the Sunday Columbia Farmers Market. But year-round, you can get Thai at Bangkok Garden or pub food at the Second Chance Saloon. The Second Chance is a reincarnation of a pub called the Last Chance, and it has a loyal following for wings, burgers and the like.
  5. Return to Robert Oliver Place and continue the way that you were heading. Turn LEFT on Stevens Forest Road. Turn RIGHT on Brokenland Parkway, cross over Rte 29, and continue until you're passing the Columbia Mall. That is about 1.7 miles. (I assume everyone knows the mall so you don't need a tour. But the Yogiberry and Five Guys are both new.)
  6. Just after the mall entrance, turn LEFT on Twin Rivers Road. Go about a half mile and turn LEFT into the Wilde Lake Village Center. Turn LEFT immediately and park outside the Bagel Bin and The Melting Pot.
  7. Get out. Walk through the Bagel Bin, which is the best source for local bagels, and out the front door. Walk across the central area, bear left and keep walking along the path. On the right in the covered area, you'll see Today's Catch. This is a great, small seafood store.
  8. Return to Twin Rivers Road and go to the next light. Turn LEFT back into the Wilde Lake Village Center on Lynx Lane. On the right, you'll see David's Natural Market, one of the organic groceries in Howard County.
  9. Go back the way that you came on Twin Rivers Road towards the mall. Turn LEFT at the light onto Governor Warfield Parkway, then RIGHT when it intersects with Rte 175, then LEFT on Wincopin Circle.
  10. Look for parking in the lots or garage that face onto Lake Kittamaqundi. Walk down to the restaurants that face the water. You'll see Clyde's, which is a local favorite, and Sushi Sono, which is one of my favorites. (You'll also see the Tomato Palace that gets a shout-out in the comments for salads and sandwiches.)
  11. Walk farther along the lake to the right, and you'll see the Lakeside Coffee Shop, which owes its existence in part to a local HoCo blogger.
  12. Return to Rte 175 and continue the way that you were going. You'll finish a circle around the mall crossing over Brokenland Parkway. After about 1.5 miles, turn RIGHT on Harpers Farm Road. Then watch for a shopping center on the right and turn RIGHT at the next light into the Harpers Farm Village Center. On the left is Maiwand Kabob for spectacular casual Afghan food. Across the parking lot is Rita's for Italian ice in the summertime.
  13. Go back to Harpers Farm Road and turn RIGHT so that you're heading the way that you came. (If you had turned LEFT and continued west on Harpers Farm Road, you would run into Rte 108 -- the first tour in this series.)
  14. Turn RIGHT at the first light onto Cedar Lane. You'll cross Rte 175 and see the Howard County General Hospital. Then watch on the left for Mad City Coffee in a small office building. Turn LEFT into the parking lot and check out the coffee shop.
  15. When you're done, you have to turn RIGHT onto Cedar Lane. You can just keep going to Rte 175. Or you can U-turn and go south to Rte 32.


Anonymous said...

The Tomato Palace is next to Clyde's on the lakefront and offers and offers excellent salads, sandwiches, and entres all with an Italian flair.

Heeper said...

Thanks for the Second Chance shout out on this tour! They now have fried pickles - yum!

But one quibble - no mention of Zapata's in the Harper's Choice Village Center?

HowChow said...

Heeper -- You know, I have never been to Zapata's. I like La Palapa, and I have never had any friends talk up Zapata's. Any thoughts?

BeerGuy said...

Zapata's is OK, I wasn't crazy about it.

Heeper said...

I've been to La Palapa twice and thought it was good - but nothing spectacular. I like Zapatas better, particularly some of the meats they put in tacos (mmm carnitas), their guacamole (though I am a food for any guac really), and some of their "specialty dishes" - like the salmon with mango salsa on it. Some stuff is only average - never liked their black bean burritos, or some of the appetizers (one cheese option was like a brick of cheeses). And who doesn't like a nice frosty margarita?