Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Restaurants: Best of Howard County 2009

Best restaurants in Columbia or Ellicott City? The great fun is finding your own favorites, but this post aims to give starting points. This is my favorites right now, my "Best of Howard County 2009."

This is an update from my July 2008 post about the best restaurants. It certainly differs from Howard Magazine's lists as reported by Live in Howard County. I'm sure that it differs from yours, and I would love comments listing your top restaurants or "favorite dishes" -- especially if you'll tell people why you pick them.

My lists change all the time. I'm staking this list to spark a little conversation and as a starting point for people checking out HowChow for the first time. Tomorrow, I'll follow up with a list of great food experiences to supplement these.

A Few Of My (Current) Favorite Things:
I love great food, and great items appear at some places that aren't great restaurants. For example, you won't get anything more than beef and a picnic table at Pioneer Pit Beef. But you can't beat a pretty lunchtime listening to the hum of I-70.
My Top Restaurants in Howard County:
Not claiming to be "The Ten Best." This is an alphabetical array of recommendations to anyone moving to Howard County. My list tilts to flavorful and affordable, and it changes over time.  [I even updated the list in January 2010.] Plus, it omits places like Tersiguel's, King's Contrivance and Aida Bistro that I haven't tried recently enough to post about.
Others that make the list: Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City for Korean, Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge and Coal Fire in Ellicott City for pizza and Sushi King in Columbia for sushi, especially in the private rooms. Great Sage does great vegetarian food, and there are surely others to work up the list.

Five Places On My List To Try:
My favorite part of HowChow is that it is my excuse to try new places. These are joints on my list to try for the first time or to try again so that I could post:
  • Tersiguels in Ellicott City for French
  • Aida Bistro in Columbia for Italian
  • Tian Chinese Cuisine or HanJoonKwan in Ellicott City for Korean Chinese food
  • Cafe de Paris in Columbia for crepes
  • King's Contrivance in Columbia for American/French
  • Burrito Brothers in Columbia for burritos (mostly because I never noticed it in King's Contrivance) [Update:  Closed in early 2010 before I could visit].
Click here for my follow-up about great food in Howard County. If you're looking for more, check out two prior series of posts -- a "tour of Howard County" describing restaurants and markets in specific areas or my guide to what I've learned about Howard County from "best Chinese" and "best takeout" to "best BBQ" and "best burgers." Or check out a listing of ethnic and organic groceries.


Sarah said...

Great list! I'll have to add these to my list. I'm also interested in checking out Azul 17 that had their grand opening recently, if only to help support upscale bars in Columbia...

Alberto said...

Yes, thanks for the list. You have to try the "mexican" food served at a Shell Gas station in Elkridge (corner of 175 and Route 1). I know, the place does not have the best location, but the food is by far some of the best I had in a long time.

Anonymous said...

HowChow - while you're in Woodlawn for pit beef, you should venture over to try another taco truck. There's a new one that's recently appeared in the gas station parking lot at the corner of Fairbrook Rd and Rolling Road (just north of I-70 on Rolling Rd, across from the Popeyes). They have phenomenal Loroco and Queso Pupusas and pretty tasty carne asada tacos too!

Alberto - the gas station sounds really interesting. What kind of "mexican" do they have?


Work in progress said...

Woah woah woah... mexican food at a gas station? This sounds right up my alley.

Anonymous said...

I had a bad experience at Touchet Touchet bakery and haven't been back since. First, the cupcakes were way overpriced. Second, they tasted stale. I found this place to be overrated.

I highly recommend the Oh What A Cake Bakery off of Dobbin Road if you're interested in cupcakes. They also have different sizes to choose from and taste a lot better than the ones at Touchet, in my opinion.

Amelios said...

I absolutely loved Aida when I went there for restaurant week. DEFINITELY one of the hidden gems in HoCo.

Sarah said...

@Alberto: really? I get gas there all the time; I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

Lyss said...

My hubby and I are heading over to Aida for their special Halloween/Jazz night. Probably a great night for you to check it out! That is, unless you have kids :)

Katie said...

Steven & I are going to use this as our restaurants"to do" list!

Dave said...

Aida Bistro is incredible... I've never had a bad meal there. Its family owned and everyone that works there is friendly and always willing to stop by and say hello. As was previously mentioned, quite the hidden gem. If you don't know its tucked away back there, you'll never find it, but once you do . . .

Anonymous said...

you have to be kidding about a negative experience at Touchet. They always have the freshest products, and they are great to have in the community. Last time i was in What a Cake, there was one cake in the case. I thought to myself, "what...a cake?"

Kristi said...

Here are a few of our favorite restaurants, in no particular order:
Hickory Ridge Grill for their Gyro platter. It's a generous portion and the side salad and veggies instead of the fries makes it somewhat healthier! I haven't had anything bad here.
Hunan Legend-their lunch specials can't be beat-soup, egg roll and a generous portion for $7.25. I get the Mongolian chicken because I love the plum sauce. We try to go every Saturday.
La Palapa Too-The service is always slow, but their Pasta Azteca is really good.
Kloby's-I love their Hush Puppies and baked beans. I always get the ribs
Luna Bella-a great Italian place. Their Luna Bella pasta, the Chicken Marsala and Penne Bolognese are excellent.
La Fiesta-I like the Queso Burrito because it's full of just chicken and cheese, covered in a cheese sauce. Simple, yet delicious. The spinach soup is also really good.

Eric said...

Some of my favorites, tinged by being a veg:

Great Sage
Mango Grove
India Delight
Mi Casa (and my wife loves the seafood tacos)

Kattrina said...

My favorite restaurants:

**Luna Bella** - I have to agree with Kristi. I LOVE this restaurant and think everything is great. Their Chicken Luna Bella is the best but I also love their artichoke dip, the best I've ever had, and their eggplant parmesan. The pizzas are yummy too, if you're looking for something simple. I went recently and had homemade Black Bean soup and loved it. Plus, the decor is great. I'm actually thinking of having them cater one of my events soon.

**Best Hunan** in King's Contrivance. In my opinion, this is the best Chinese around (Americanized, that is, not so sure about authentic). It is inexpensive (especially compared to Hunan Legend of Dorsey) and you get a ton of food. The staff is always friendly and have no problem substituting tofu for any chicken dish (and they also have a vegetarian menu). My favorite dish is Lemon Chicken and Sesame Chicken.

**Mango Grove** - Don't really need to say much because this appears to be a well-known fav.

**El Azteca** in Clarksville. I think they make great Mexican, plus I like the local feel of it. I don't have a favorite dish there, I tend to try something new each time.

Now I'll have to try out some of the other people's favorites.

Sarah said...

Niko Restaurant in Ellicott City for all you can eat sushi.

Frisco's for the bar and tex-mex (their steak fajita sandwich is SO good, plus they serve Resurrection!)

We also really like Dog Pub and Noodles Corner in the same shopping center.

We eat cheap, apparently! :)

Sarah said...

Oh, oh! And Chick'n'Friends for fried chicken. MMM.

dzoey said...

My favorites are not the restaurants I necessarily go to most often. "Most often" restaurants offer good food, but faster and (sometimes) cheaper meals. So...rather than list my favorites, here are the places that I go to most often. Some are on my favorite list as well).

Hunan Legend, Pasta Blitz, Wendy's, House of India, La Palapa Too, Sushi King

HowChow said...

@dzoey -- Which Pasta Blitz do you like? What do you order? I have heard that the different locations serve different food, but I haven't ever stopped. Pasta is one of those cheap meals that I whip up at home.

Snoopy said...

Howchow-- I didn't post about pasta blitz but its my favorite for pizza and cheap pasta. We used to drive from Fed Hill to get a pie on weeknights it was that good. I have never been to the one in clarksville area, I go to the snowdon one. Apparently the owner of the other is a friend of the family. The owner of the one on snowdon has a brother who owns an italian place of a different name. Is that a confusing blurb or what!!!

Some of my fav places are: Sushi King, Maiwand Kabob, Hunan Manor, Iron Bridge, Victorias Gastro pub, and for mexican I like on the border or don pablos. I am not a la palapa fan. And An Loi is now on my list, thanks to this blog!


etucker said...

I will add another vote for Luna Bella in the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Easily our favorite casual restaurant in town.

Noodles Corner is also a fun place that is a great value, but we don't get over there as often as we would like.

If my 6 year old were voting, the Subway in Hickory Ridge Village would be his vote. ;-)

Team Swoll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pizzablogger said...

I have a question with regards to Pasta Blitz.

If you go to their website ( scroll down the home page, towards the bottom you will see three pictures side by side of (from L to R) pasta, a pizze margherita and a salad/antipasti.

Can anyone tell me if this is an actual shot of the pizza at Pasta Blitz or if it is merely a filler photo taken from somewhere?

The leapord spotted margherita in that picture indicates a very high temperature oven, most likely wood or coal, to get that look....not to mention the sauce, fresh mootz and basil makes it looks like a Neapolitan beauty!

I can't open their .pdf menu file from this computer. If that is the actual pizza, I am leaving work immediately to eat pizza there...fuhgetaboutit! Thank you. --PB

Morty Abzug said...

Frisco Grille's chorizo burrito is excellent.

Akbar's saffron rice is amazing.

Carrabba's in Ellicott City is also excellent, and IMHO, has a better atmosphere than the Hickory Ridge Luna Bella. But it is a chain.

Maiwand has great food, although sometimes you wait a long line.

Anonymous said...

I'm so psyched that I found your site. I just moved to Columbia and have been exploring with middling luck so far.

I think you're about to save me a lot of time.

Saw that you haven't tried Aida Bistro yet. I have. It's unbelievably good high-end Italian. Move it up to the top of your list.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Bistro Blanc has excellent food and I recently went back to Iron Bridge (now that they take reservations) and had some lovely appetizers. I would also recommend Azul 17 in Columbia for really good margaritas and fresh table-made guacamole. It's a bit pricey but a fun/hip place with very good service.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Noodle Corner, esp. the Pad Thai. Their prices are extremely reasonable. I see frequent Asian customers, always a good sign in my book. Of late they seem to be stuggling during this recession -- I don't see the usual number of patrons. Please try them out & help to support this local gem!

Sue said...

I wish I would have found this site earlier! It's been a bit of a task finding good food close by since we moved here.
Love Aida, menus are changed to accomodate the fresh produce available,I heard they were expanding. If you get a chance check out Leelynn's off Old Annapolis Rd.and Stanford Grill in back of Columbia Corporate Park. More hidden gems and both have outdoor dining!

Angie said...

Hickory Ridge Grill in Columbia for their Greek Salad, Gyro and yes, Calamari! JP Kake Korner in Laurel for cakes and cupcakes, they have pies now too but I've not tried those yet. Sunshine General Store for the sunshine burger, it's a gas station in Brookville but wow are their burgers good. Cross Roads Pub for their fresh steamed crabs and seafood and of course Timbuktu for the BEST crabcakes anywhere!!!!