Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coffee Shops in Howard County

I need coffee so badly that I'm a terrible person to ask for recommendations.

I love my morning coffee -- the jolt of caffeine and the ritual of unscrewing my thermos as my work day begins. But that means that I'm not the best customer for Howard County's coffee shops. I'm not a latte guy. I'm 30 miles away most weekdays. And I'm cheap enough to brew my own thermos rather than spend $2 on a cup each morning.

That said, I really like the coffee that I have bought on a tour of coffee shops from Rte 40 to Rte 216, including Java Grande and Bean Hollow in Ellicott City, Mad City, Lakeside and Riverside in Columbia, and Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Fulton. When we ran out of the Pele Plantation beans that we carried home from Hawaii, I went out looking for a Starbucks alternative. Strong flavor, but not bitter, I told each shop. I bought whatever each shop recommend, and I liked them all.

Remember that I'm an addict at heart. If you inject caffeine into a shoe, I'll soak it in water to release my fix. But these were flavorful coffees. I like the vibe especially at Riverside, Bean Hollow and Sidamo. In a large way, these coffee shops are little meeting places and lunch stops. They all serve at least baked goods and sandwiches, although I admit that I haven't been inspired to try much except the bulgogi panini at Riverside. The sandwiches look fine, but not worth driving past Bon Fresco or a taco truck. I'd love to know where you get your favorite espresso or which coffee shops serve a spectacular lunch or treat.

Here are some thumbnails about the coffee shops where I sampled coffee:
  • Bean Hollow in Ellicott City. Downtown Ellicott City near the bottom of the hill. Seasonal drinks like the "Indian summer soda."
  • Casey's Coffee in Columbia. In the Dorsey Search village center, but I haven't visited yet.
  • Java Grande Coffee Cafe in Ellicott City. Sunny location on Rte 40 just west of Rte 29.  (Update: Java Grande closed, but the pottery shop moving into the space also runs a coffee shop.  See below.)
  • Lakeside Coffee in Columbia. In Town Center near the Mall and the lake. A great place to talk local politics, according to Tales of Two Cities.
  • Mad City Coffee in Columbia. On Cedar Lane between Rte 175 and Rte 32. Definitely a music venue.
  • Riverside Coffee in Columbia. In the shopping center off Dobbin Road just south of Rte 175. Very cozy place. Small Korean menu to supplement sandwiches.
  • Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Fulton. New in Maple Lawn just off Rte 216. Has an Ethiopian coffee ceremony at 2 pm Sundays.
In some ways, I'm being limited with that list of coffee shops. Mostly, those are places that use the name themselves. But there is a "coffee shop" atmosphere -- an emphasis on coffee, a limited menu of sandwiches and baked goods, an atmosphere that makes it okay for people to hang out a while whether they're working on a laptop or getting together after school. Sometimes, there is live music.

With a slightly broader focus, you can also get coffee and sometimes different food at bakeries in Howard County, including Touche Touchet in Columbia, Bonaparte Bread in Savage and a trio of places in downtown Ellicott City: the Little French Market, the Old Mill Bakery Cafe, and Sarah & Desmond's Bakery & Cafe. The Little French Market is a relatively new place without indoor seating, but it appears to be connected to Tersiguel's and serves some great-looking lunch items. Sarah & Desmond's offers a larger kitchen than most coffee shop, and the food ranges wider from sandwiches and soups to muffins and cupcakes. I believe they serve the Zeke's coffee described by Katie below.

As a side note, I fondly remember the Orinoco Coffee that closed last

year on McGaw Road. While the retail closed, Orinoco still roasts coffee in Columbia, and you can buy bags of its beans at the MoM's Organic Market on Rte 175 in Jessup.

Who serves the best espresso? Who sells great beans -- and what varieties? What do you eat at these coffee shops?
What coffee shops am I missing?

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

PREVIOUS: Mexican Restaurants in Howard County

Bean Hollow Cafe
8059 Main St
Ellicott City, MD 21043-4861
(410) 465-0233

NEAR: This is on Main Street in downtown Ellicott City. It's in the lower section between the river and the light at Old Columbia Pike.

Casey's Coffee
4725 Dorsey Hall Dr # N
Ellicott City, MD‎ 21042
(410) 997-5682‎

NEAR: This is in the Dorsey's Search village center. This is off Columbia Road just north of Rte 108.

Pottery Stop Coffee (in the former space for Java Grande Coffee Cafe)
9050 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042-2623

NEAR: This is on Rte 40 just west of Rte 29. Coming from Rte 29, you turn right into the first shopping center and curve around to Pottery Stop Coffee, which overlooks Rte 40.

Lakeside Coffee
10227 Wincopin Cir # G16
Columbia, MD 21044-3401
(410) 772-3694

NEAR: This is in the base of one of the buildings overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi across from Columbia Mall. Park in the lot that serves Clyde's, Tomato Palace and Sushi Sono.

Mad City Coffee
10801 Hickory Ridge Road
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR: This is actually right off Cedar Lane just south of the intersection with Hickory Ridge Road. Mad City is on the bottom floor of a commercial building. This is a block south of the Howard County General Hospital.

Riverside Coffee
8865 Stanford Blvd
Columbia, MD 20723

NEAR: This is in the same shopping center as Frisco Grille, Hanamura, Pub Dog and Noodles Corner. From the north, take Rte 175 and turn south on Dobbin Road at the intersection with a Chik-fil-A on the corner. The shopping center is on the left after the second light. From the south, take Snowden River Parkway and turn left on McGaw Road at the light with Apple Ford. Turn right at the light with Dobbin, then look for the shopping center on the right.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea
8180 Maple Lawn Blvd
Fulton, MD 20759

NEAR: Sidamo is in the Maple Lawn development across from Ranazul and Venegas Prime Filet. This is on Rte 216 west of Rte 29.


Anonymous said...

Orinoco Coffee is also sold as the private-label brand at Boarman's.

Kim said...

I really wanted to like Mad City, but the last few times I've been there the surly teens serving me have been extra surly and the coffee has been extra burned. Last time it was so bad I decided never to go back. :( And I go to Howard Community College so it's really convenient.

Adam from GrubGrade said...

I go to Einstein's on Route 40 when I'm back in HoCo. Great bagels and for a buck you an get bottomless refills on your coffee. Their autumn and winter roasts are pretty good.

Great Harvest also has good coffee. They get it from afe Pronto in Naptown.

Innovate Your Way out said...

A vote for Mad City, although I find their normal daily features a little weak for my Starbucks burned out taste. The exception is their excellent Italian Roast, normally brewed on Fridays. They roast their own beans in the large roaster at the entrance which is usually whirling and getting a bag of whole bean IR for home grinding and brewing is worth the trip. I have found their staff very attentive and polite, although I do not visit late in the day or nigths.

Anonymous said...

The Ethiopian Sidamo beans at, well...Sidamo are excellent. They sell for $12/pound. Very close in taste to Orinoco's Yirgacheffe beans, which (as was already noted) are available at Mom's for $7.99/12 oz.

Hungry Bob said...

My one purchase at Mad City left a poor impression (Colombian beans I think). I ended up chucking a good bit of the 1/2 pound I bought there. It made some poor tasting coffee at home - flat, old/musty, not very flavorful. I'll probably stick with Riverside - it's been fairly consistent over the years. (Korean food there is OK too.) Good to hear Orinoco's products can be obtained. Too bad their shop wasn't around that long.

woodsie said...

Big shout-out for Sidamo. Great coffee, good sammiches, much-more simple experience than Daily Grind was - I like that.

They do have inventory problems w/beans at times (because they roast at their DC location), but if you request what you want and can wait a day or two, they can accommodate.

Katie said...

Speaking of brewing your own... If you're ever in the Baltimore area, Zekes Coffee off of Harford Road is definitely worth checking out. You can't buy a cup of coffee here- the store is just where they roast the beans and you can buy them fresh. You can also buy their coffee online.

Work in progress said...

I heard recently that Java Grande on Route 40 is going to be closing. The coffee making equipment would either be going to the pottery stop (a few stores down) or the pottery stop would be moving into Java Grande's space. Either way coffee = jittery hands. Careful with that pottery!

Anonymous said...

I think they sell orinoco coffee at Giant now. I saw it at the Giant on Center park drive.

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