Friday, January 14, 2011

The Sun Reviews Frisco Tap House, Then Just Starts Making Things Up About The Suburbs Because Who Is Going To Waste Their Time Actually Knowing About Food In The 'Burbs?

I can live with condescension about food in the suburbs, but the Sun could limit itself to insults that are actually based on the truth.

The Sun's Erik Maza reviewed the relocated Frisco Tap House on Dobbin Road in Columbia, and he liked the place.  He got in a clever dig about Frisco looking like a Chipotle, but then he paged through the Sun's manual for writing about Howard County and whipped out this paragraph:
Though there's not much near the bar — The Mall in Columbia is about five miles away — a drive here is worth it, and for Columbia residents, it's unlikely there's anything remotely as comprehensive around.
Seriously?  Two blocks from the new Frisco Tap is Sushi King, which is as good or better than any sushi in Baltimore, and, from the city, you have to drive past spectacular Indian.  You can pass an Akbar's, but that's fighting to be the third-best Indian in Columbia -- rather than being the top Indian on the Sun's Top 50 in Baltimore.  Anyone driving to Frisco should really stop for dosas at Mango Grove if they come from Rte 175 or House of India if they come from Rte 32.  That's not even mentioning the simpler sushi at Hanamura or sandwiches at Bon Fresco or the up-and-coming Indian at Royal Taj.

That's all within blocks of the new Frisco Tap.

My real complaint is that Maza appears to know that he's just fabricating.  He doesn't know if there are any other comprehensive beer bars for Columbia residents.  So let's just write "it's unlikely" that there are any.

Seriously?  Why not just designate Richard Gorelick as your driver and stop at Victoria Gastro Pub on your way to Frisco.  (They're running similar taps and selling growlers soon.)  Then pick a third craft beer stop of the night from Judge's Bench, T-Bonz Grille, or Kloby's Smokehouse.  Or try the newcomer River Hill Sports Grille.  These aren't hidden joints.  Most have been written up in the Sun.  You'd actually be irresponsible to drink at all the local places that are "anything remotely as comprehensive."

But you'd have to actually look around to know what's going on.

Thanks to Trip Klaus for the first tip about the review. 

Let's be clear that expertise in Howard County restaurants is a freakish and unhealthy trait, and I wouldn't expect Maza to know all these places -- although he could with a single Twitter feed about local beer joints.  But I was a newspaper reporter long enough to know that these factually-wrong insults can spring from knee-jerk condescencion.  To our urban food writers, restaurants opening on rundown/industrial blocks in Hampden or Harbor East were pioneers and heroes.  Frisco Tap opens next to a battery shop, and it's a Chipotle with "not much near the bar."  (Of course, these pale in contrast with the assumptions that  I made about retirees in Hallandale, Florida in 1992.  At the time, I thought 35 was ancient.  I can only imagine 70-year-old readers groaned, "Enough with the shuffleboard references.")

On a practical matter, is there an editor at the Sun who wants to delete from future reviews the shock that Restaurant X is in a strip mall?  Are reporters really shocked to eat good food that isn't in a 19th Century building or a Harbor East tower?


Stephanie said...

Oh! I love River Hill Sports Grill! We went there to watch football a lot during the college season. Great place!

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of Akbar though... it holds its own with House of India just fine, and we actually prefer it. I've only been to Mango Grove for the lunch buffet, but I thought it was just so-so, and it's sister Mirchi Wok was definitely sub-par. I think the leader of the pack is Royal Taj; you still need to make it over there for supper, HowChow!

BTW, have you tried the Indian Delivery place? I think it's called The Gateway or something? We have the takeout menu, but haven't been gutsy enough to try it yet...

UhOhBadDog said...

Excellent rebuttal HowChow! Thank You!

Reuseableplastix said...

Here, Here! I read the review and thought very similarly. Thanks for putting to words what I was only able to muster in thought.

Anonymous said...

To give the guy more credit than he is probably due, I think he meant there's nothing entertainment (i.e., non-food) that's close by, which is a slightly more apt critique. After all, after going to eat at Frisco, one is unlikely to immediately be searching for sushi or Indian. And the things close by (measuring generously) to Frisco entertainment-wise are: a good-but-not-great used bookstore, a Gymboree, a Borders and an old-but-still-decent movie theater. I suppose one could stumble over to McGaw Rd to shop for a Ford or some furniture.

BTW, the Indian restaurant with the odd name Gateway Pizza and Subs is pretty good -- generous sizes and tasty. The naan ends up being uninspired by the time it gets to your house and needs a quick trip into the oven, but otherwise everything there has been very good (although not quite as good as Royal Taj or House of India).

Chris Bachmann said...

Never mind that Mike is trying to fill the gap left behind by the old Last Chance Saloon and their 53 beers on tap. That's been a long goal of his since it was just a burrito place. Good beer in the HoCo predates Mahaffey's by almost a decade.

HowChow said...

I really do need to get to Royal Taj. Several people have loved it. It is shocking that there are four restaurants that people can reasonably order as excellent Indian. It is funny that they're basically clustered around Frisco Tap House.

In the post, I am actually recommending that people consider eating Indian, then going for beers. But BaltAssoc is right that I can't think of any nightlife right nearby -- although I know nothing about HoCo nightlife so I'll defer to the folks at the HoCo Hangover blog.

BeerGuy said...

I'm trying to avoid criticizing Maza, he's new and frankly he's been taking a beating by MANY and Ieel bad for him given the sheer volume of it. I tipped him off about Frisco's new place a while back and he followed through to check it out, which I appreciate.

Obviously a little research would have helped, and we should also note there is no BMW Bike salesroom per se, that area is part of Frisco and Adam has turned it into a temporary display for the bikes until he gets brewing equipment in there at some point down the road.

As for HoCo (young/clubby) nightlife nearby = Pub Dog and the fairly well hidden Nottingham's. I'm actually curious to see what Maza thinks of Nottinghams, now that I think about it.

Maybe HowChow and Gorelick can collaborate on something about that booming Snowden corridor, with Frisco/Victoria, the multiple Indian places, the NY deli, BON FRESCO, Anna's House of Nuts and eventually, WEGMANS. That'd put the area a little more on the map and force all of us (myself included) to explore a bit more what's there.

I think Jessie X mentioned once that HoCo or Columbia needed something resembling a downtown and that Snowden might become that avenue. Maybe she's onto something.

HowChow said...

@BeerGuy -- That Snowden corridor is great post one day.

For the record, I had no idea that Maza was brand new. Not sure that it affects my annoyance, but I didn't mean to join any mob of pitchfork-wielding villagers. I just meant to make a specific point.

I'm waiting for HoCo Hangover to review a few more places. Then, I'm hoping to ask about nightlife. They already wrote about Union Jack's and Looney's, which I know packs a crowd. I think several of the village center pubs do too.

Kevin said...

I am disappointed that there will be no pitchfork wielding mob. That's always a fun Friday night. As a HoCo native, I have a big red button that gets pushed when I hear someone get down on it. There's so much to eat in HoCo, and it's easy to miss it during the 15 minutes it takes to drive through on I-95. At any rate, thumbs up on the post.

BeerGuy said...

@HowChow no worries :)

I totally understand where you're coming from it just made me cringe more than anything given the beating the guy's been taking lately. No way of your having knowing that other than that I've been reading his blog for a while and his commenters are pretty over the top in contempt and I'm not sure they're always being 100% fair. Thats neither here nor there and I probably went astray in introducing it.

And slightly off topic but as for Indian I've been to Akbar and House of India and much prefer House of India. Its probably a totally innocent cultural thing but service is always awkward and slow at Indian places no matter where I go (and I've had Indian in at least a half dozen states) but Akbar can be really frustrating sometimes. Their food is good, no complaints there, and I hate really getting negative on places ever but they've been uneven on several visits and its too bad, given the quality of food prepared.

House of India has its strange service moments too, but they're far less frequent at least in my experience so far.

Regardless both are excellent options for variety and taste.

BeerGuy said...


Interesting point about missing out on HoCo driving its 15 or so minutes worth on Rt. 95. Its weird that a county bound on the N and E by FWY's (70 and 95, roughly) there is no real "front door" so to speak.

At least with Baltimore city going on the 95 to say, the 395 you pass the Stadia and end up downtown and with the Inner Harbor but there is no generally agreed upon common area for HoCo to showcase itself.

Its planners probably intended that (I've only lived here a few years), but maybe something is lost in not having an agreed-upon area to build out from. I know cityfolk who head out to the Columbia mall but otherwise have no idea whats elsewhere in Columbia or Ellicott City or places beyond. Or Ellicott sometimes gets the Money Magazine writeup with its quaint downtown but nary a mention of what else to check out in areas beyond.

Its sort of like the sports team with no star player, its a really good team but no central figure for everyone to identify with and build the narrative around.

The good of it is there's a ton of places spread all around the county to enjoy but its maybe not as easy to explain the joy we get from being here to an outsider where our self-guided tourism efforts might spread multiple days across many miles of the county.

Fortunately there's outlets like HowChow to selflessly pull it all together but even then ...

BeerGuy said...

FWIW I spoke to Frisco Grille's owner Adam tonight and he thought the review was solid but initially he was in a panic after reading the first paragraph.

He liked the rest of the Sun's review but worried the initial negative comments early in the review might've turned some people off and perhaps never finished reading the writeup and the overall positive commentary on Frisco.

Anonymous said...

Maza is new, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But he just seems so darn desperate to show off insider knowledge...knowledge that he does not yet possess. As a result, his reporting is sloppy and errors abound. As for Frisco, I've been a big fan of the place since it opened as a restaurant, before it had a liquor license. I wish the restaurant had kept more of its humble beginnings in its new menu. I badly iss the bean tacos. Between that, the overcrowded parking lot full of newbies, and the high decibel level caused by the high ceilings, I'll be thinking twice before going back.

Morty Abzug said...

Stephanie: Gateway Pizza serves not only Indian and pizza but also a little Nepali (i.e. momo. I like the momo. I've tried Lamb Vindaloo from there, but found the meat to be less tasty than Akbar's, and the rice to be considerably less tasty than Akbar's. Yaka warns that Gateway's "hot" is extremely spicey. This is also my experience: Gateway's max heat level is closer to typical Thai than typical Indian. I've also tried the pizza and stromboli, both of which are reasonably good. Note that they will do paneer as a pizza topping, but are usually unwilling to make pizza with a curry sauce.

You can do carry-out from them until 10:30p, which is one of the better times for a carry-out place in the Columbia area, IME. I've gone there a number of times over the last few months. But they're not at the top of my carry-out list. Maiwand (Columbia) still reigns supreme (lamb shish, spicy, substitute eggplant and chickpeas), followed by Frisco (chorizo burrito).

[Hey, HC: any chance of getting a "Rest" link/tag for Gateway Pizza?]

HowChow said...

The very polite folks at Nottingham's Tavern pointed out on Twitter that they've been nightlife right near Frisco's location for 19 years. They're tucked off Stanford Boulevard, easy to reach from McGaw or Dobbin.

As I mentioned above, nightlife isn't my expertise. In the Jeopardy version of HoCo, I'll have to take "Locations of Indian Grocery Stores" before "Places To Dance And Drink." I told Nottingham's that my only excuse is that my HoCo years have come after my liquor years had passed.

K8teebug said...

I thought he was kind of off putting in that article as well.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

I pretty much echo everything BeerGuy said, save for the Indian restaurant comments (I'd love to check out more, but my vegetarian wife loves Mango Grove so much.....). If I wanted to be a condescending "city slicker," I'd say that Howard County is one of those places you move to when you have kids and write off the concept of "nightlife" for 20 years. <:-)

More realistically, I would argue that the "planned" Columbia region is simply not conducive to the accessibility and marketing that "nightlife" in a city environment thrives on. Relative lack of transit and taxis, an environment that makes people drive everywhere, lack of signage and straight roads..... I once had a book recommended to me on the basis of "If you hate Columbia but can't place your finger on WHY you hate it, this book will tell you why."

Vernon said...

I found the Friscos write up a bit lac-luster and confusing with the detour to Indian and Thai restruants. As for other area locations, just up the road from Nottinghams is Safford Grille serving some of the areas best stakes and roasted chicken with a very good wine and tap selection. Just like going to Nottinghams just staight thru the circle and on the left past the hotel. Enteratinment wise are the movie theaters behind Home Depot the old ones mentioned or were they unknown but the writer? Buzz

Vernon said...

Oops, Safford Grille serves great Steaks too!

Anonymous said...

Frisco sucks food sucks even more unless there is a special beer there dont waste your time