Monday, February 20, 2012

Shop 'Til You Drop: Markets, Butchers, Bakeries And More Where You Can Find Special Foods

House-made tortillas at Lily's.  They'll make a meal.
The world is going to change when Wegmans opens in June -- at least as far as everyone says.

But Howard County, even apres le deluge, lets you shop for food worthy of a king.  Markets, butchers, bakeries and more are tucked into all kinds of shopping centers and out-of-the-way places.  No matter where you're looking to live, you'll have something close by and many things worth driving to explore.

This is part of HowChow's 2012 guide to Howard County -- "Welcome Home."  Ten posts to prove there are dozens of places worth your time, that you can find great food all across the county.  It's written for someone new to Howard County (maybe a link you send a friend thinking about moving here), but hopefully it's useful to anyone.

Your neighborhood is bound to have a basic supermarket -- Giant and Safeway have slowly been giving ground to Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Weis and other brands.  They're fine.  I shop there, but I tend not to write about them because people know what to expect at a supermarket.

But special shopping runs from Ellicott City to Laurel, from Clarksville to Catonsville just over the county line.  Hundreds of HowChow posts describe these places and highlight what you can buy there.  Your perfect place will depend on your tastes, but this is how I think of them -- with a few concrete ideas so that you're guaranteed delicious if you nose around:

Organic Markets -- Organic vegetables, bulk grains, gluten-free options, gourmet cheeses, supplements and vitamins.  As I noted in a prior post about organic markets, your three options are spread across the county from east to west -- Mom's Organic Market in Jessup (formerly My Organic Market), David's Natural Market in Columbia, and Roots in Clarksville.
  • Cheese at Roots.  Apres Wegmans, the Clarksville store has the most interesting cheese in the county.  Mom's Organic comes right behind.
  • Michele's Granola at any market.  This Baltimore company makes delicious, expensive granola, and it's worth every penny.
  • The sandwich counter at David's.  Definitely worth stopping for lunch, then checking out David's.  Across the parking lot in the other half of the shopping center is Today's Catch for seafood.
Asian Groceries -- Korean-run grocery stores are expanding out from Northern Virginia, and they are providing spectacular opportunities for great produce, seafood, some meats and then varying arrays of Korean, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Indian and other groceries.  Seriously, the produce alone makes them worth checking out -- enormous selections, great prices, and quality that lasts longer in the fridge.

The Asian groceries differ.  H Mart in Catonsville is my gold standard with everything listed above -- plus a small restaurant and a place to order Korean fried chicken.  Lotte in Ellicott City is smaller, but it the produce, meats and Asian items.  Super Grand in Laurel goes broad.  They have some American brands, plus a world of ethnic food heavy on Hispanic and Indian options.  And the new Family Market in Columbia makes a similar attempt -- American items to serve as a local supermarket, plus produce, seafood, Korean and Hispanic items to draw people from across the county.
Bakeries -- For simplicity, let's say there are three ways to divide Howard County's bakeries.  First, sweet bakeries offering a wide array of cookies, pastries and (for two) cakes: Bonaparte Bread in Savage, Touche Touchet in Columbia, and the new Linda's Bakery in Columbia.  They're all delicious.  They all offer completely different items.  Second, cupcake and cake specialists: Kupcake & Co. in Elkridge, Oh! What a Cake in Columbia, and Cooks N' Cakes in Ellicott City.  Third, places for bread: Bonaparte again and the Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery in Columbia.
Of  course, that description leaves out the Korean bakeries along Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  They have terrific sweets, including my favorite red-bean-filled items, along with some unusual breads as well.  Check out Bon Appetit Bakery (including a frozen dessert called bingsoo) and La Boulangerie.  It also leaves out the donuts at Laurel Tavern Donuts and the bagels at the various Bagel Bin shops.

Butchers -- Like the bakers, the butchers can be split into three groups.  American joints like Laurel Meat MarketBoarman's in Highland, and J.W. Treuth in Oella are professionals who cut in-house, great for roasts and steaks, mostly beef with pork, chicken and some fish.  The new halal butchers have added a completely different lineup heavy on lamb and beef at joints like Nazar in Columbia, Columbia Halal Meat in Elkridge and Caspian Market in Ellicott City.  Then there are Mexican or Latin American butchers at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia and Panam Supermarket in Laurel.
Ethnic Markets --  Smaller than the Asian groceries, but still powerful in the food that they carry.  My top two are probably Lily's Mexican Market and Nazar in Columbia because they each offer a butcher, a small amount of produce, and aisles of organized shelves with canned, dried and frozen items -- Latin American and Turkish-Middle Eastern-Pakistani, respectively.  Right behind are the Indian offerings at Eastern Bazaar in Laurel -- again because it has unusual produce on top of the usual boxed and frozen offerings.

But you'll find great items across the county.  Closer Indian at Food Cravings and Desi Market in Columbia.  Persian items (along with Greek, Indian and others) at Pars Market in Columbia and Caspian Market in Ellicott City.
Seafood Markets --  The Asian markets have an array of fish, and I'm a fan of talking to folks at the H Mart seafood counter to get ideas for whole fish, squid, etc.  But the Howard County fish markets have won me over as well -- Frank's Seafood in Jessup and Today's Catch in Columbia.  The fish are fresh, and the people can answer questions.
Bonus -- The Laurel Dutch County Market offers a group of vendors Thursday to Saturday.  They have butchers, bakeries, a candy shop.  It's a great spot for organic meats.  Plus, they sell hot pretzels and fresh-squeeze orange juice so every visit should be a sucess.

What I Don't Know:  Where else do you shop in or near Howard County?  This isn't definitive.  It isn't even as long as the 2009 series where I posted about What I Learned writing this blog.    Anyone should stop for a takeout empanada at El Patio in Jessup.  What other markets, bakeries, butchers do you frequent?  What else do you recommend at your favorite place?


Zevonista said...

" I picked up a wife with a bag of lychees." Aside from being a great title for the future HowChow autobiography, it sounds like a great story! Hopefully we can get details on a future post - perhaps when you celebrate your anniversary!

Adam said...

I know it's a chain, but how this blog never talks about Great Harvest stumps me. A little pricey, but amazing bread and pastries (plus sandwiches, soup, etc.) plus they are always packed.

Alicyn DelZoppo said...

I'm definitely Bookmarking this one. I always forget a lot of these places when I'm out. I do try to frequent Today's Catch and Laurel Meat Market or JW as much as possible.

What about The Breadery? Though it has crossed into Balt Line now.

Marty Katz for Zagat said...

Restaurant Depot, the local branch of a national restaurant, chef and convenience store supplier in Arbutus may not be in Howard County, but is a great asset for everything from aprons to foil to saffron to pots, pans, knives and packaged case lots of Good N' Plenty to Gatorade.

Judith said...

I thought you had to be in the business to shop at Restaurant Depot. True?

Morty Abzug said...

There is now a source for smoked whitefish in Howard County. Giant in Hickory Ridge carries real smoked whitefish. No more driving up to Baltimore just to get smoked whitefish!

Anonymous said...

I want to read that HowChow autobiography.When will it be out?

Anonymous said...

Wow, how could you forget about Ann's House of Nuts -?! On Berger Rd, Columbia. A real HowCo treasure!

HowChow said...

@Anon -- LOL. I have already begun to draft the skeleton of a "What did I leave out" post for Saturday. Ann's is already in that post.

Alicyn DelZoppo said...

Who has the best fresh plantain chips?

Marcia said...

Not a fan of Ann's House of Nuts - what I've gotten there has been stale. Sorry. I buy online ( or Trader Joe's. Not buying local, though, I know.

Agree on the bread bakeries- Great Harvest has wonderful bread. My favorite is The Breadery, while it has crossed the county line now and is in Oella, if you go to JW Treuth's for meat, the Breadery is almost next door. Then take a walk on the Trolley Trail - wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

We just went to Family Market this weekend and it's wonderful. My wife is Filipino and I can get 99% of the ingredients I need from there rather than driving down to Laurel and going to the Filipino store by the Amish market.

The parking is better than Lotte and, right not at least, the store is cleaner than Super Grand/Lotte/H-mart etc etc.

P90 Noir said...

I finally went to Frank's and Mom's this weekend. Not sure why it took so long. We got ocean perch and salmon and both were great. Although the perch had quite a few pin bones remaining. I'm working on a post re: what I made for dinner with ingredients from both places.

Anonymous said...

You missed Clark's Ellioak Farm (and produce stand) on 108 by Centennial Park for meat. They're mostly seasonal but are frequently open for meats over winter. I follow them on Facebook for announcements of open days. All the meats are local and from their farm.

Mallory said...

Hello How Chow!

I am new to Howard County and have been reading your blog to get the 411 on Howard County restaurants and markets. But I have a question:

Do you know of a good place to buy crawfish? It's crawfish season and I would love to throw a crawfish boil, but I haven't seen any crawfish at Wegman's (my usual grocery store). Is there any particular place I could look?

Let me know if you have any answers for me!!

Mallory :)

Blondie said...

According to their website ( Frank's Seafood over in Jessup has crayfish (their spelling) in their frozen section. That may be your best bet this far north.

When I am looking for southern items, like White Lilly flour, I usually head to Harris Teeter. They are based in North Carolina and tend to carry more of the southern brands I grew up with than other stores around here. I don't know if they have crawfish or not, but it might be worth checking out. The Winn Dixie in Mississippi was full of them when I was visiting down there in March.

AlPal3 said...

It's not in Howard County, but Arundel Seafood sells Crawfish and I'm sure they're fresh. Great place to buy fresh seafood for take out or to have them steam them for you while you wait then eat it at one of their picnic tables indoors.