A guest Tuesday list, all about Howard County
Every week is Restaurant Week in Howard County.
That's what the tireless keeper of the HowChow blog, says. I asked HowChow to contribute a Top 10 Tuesday list on the eve of Howard County's upcoming dining promotion, Winter Restaurant Weeks, which begin on Monday, January 17th and run through Monday, January 31.
More information about the promotion, in which participating restaurants are offering fixed-price menus ranging from $10.11 to $40.11, is here.
Here is HowChow's HoCo Top 10 (kind of) for Howard County dining on and off the Restaurant Weeks circuit. The photograph, of a spread from Shin Chon Garden, is HowChow's, too.
My thoughts on Howard County Restaurant Weeks depend on whether you need to drive out here or whether you're already living the dream.
Howard County offers great food. But when I think about food that you must leave Baltimore to enjoy, my first argument is Korean along Rte 40. The city's old Korean joints serve their role leavening Gorelick's list of Baltimore's Best 50, but come to Ellicott City to see what people are eating today. Korean customers inspire miles of restaurants with different styles and different menus -- from Shin Chon Garden's classy bulgogi to Lighthouse Tofu's casual soon doo boo to Honey Pig's hipster pork belly. This is an array of food that you can't get anywhere else in Maryland, and I wrote an outsider's primer last week because I still haven't explored half of it yet.
If you live within 10 minutes of Woodberry Kitchen or Tapas Teatro, I'm not going to say that you must drive to the suburbs for fine dining. But the Restaurant Weeks list lets Howard County folks splurge at places that can compete with much of Gorelick's list, and you urbanites might have foodie friends who had babies and moved to the 'burbs.
Come share a meal where they can save an hour's driving on the babysitter bill -- and get your new-Mom friend tipsy on exotic margaritas at Azul 17 in Columbia. Beyond that, think about the expanded Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia (with high-end Italian and its new on-tap wine bar) or consider the $30 menus offered by Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia and Portalli's in Ellicott City. And watch for Bistro Blanc in Glenelg to post its prix fixe menu because that kitchen pleased the prior Sun regime and wants to compete in the deep water of seasonal small plates with Woodberry and city spots.
But my real advice about Howard County is that any week can be restaurant week out here. I eat far more meals in ethnic joints than in places that tell you what type of orange juice they used to poach the snapper tonight. Although Korean is spectacularly unique, there are several cuisines -- including Indian, dim sum, sushi and authentic tacos -- that beat or meet anything in Baltimore. You can eat for a week even without special pricing:
- Sunday: Dim sum at Red Pearl in Columbia. Dim sum here or at Asian Court in Ellicott City beats anything in the city. Get the steamed pork buns, roasted pork, and all the dumplings you can grab off the cart.
- Monday: House of India or Mango Grove in Columbia. Indian may be the deepest cuisine in Howard County, and these two top the list. House of India excels at curries and tandoori dishes. Try the whole fish. Mango Grove does vegetarian south Indian food. Get any dosa and the baigan bartha, and you won't miss a moment of meat.
- Tuesday: Victoria Gastro Pub for a burger and the beer sampler. Craft beer lovers can enjoy places like Frisco Tap House in Columbia or Judge's Bench in Ellicott City, but the burger -- even the regular, not the kobe -- makes Victoria a special place to curl up on a cold night.
- Wednesday: Tacos and lamb soup at R&R Taqueria (nee R&R Deli) in Elkridge. Spectacular takeout lunch two minutes off I-95 at Rte 175. Savory chicken, carnitas and chorizo tacos that got my wife to order food in a gas station.
- Thursday: Iron Bridge Wine Co in Columbia. Super-friendly, down-to-earth. The wines and small plates make this a romantic place. We still laugh about the tiny burger, fries and shake.
- Friday: Rainpia in Ellicott City for cold beer and Korean fried chicken. Simple decor, but piping hot chunks of chicken to accompany a night of drinking. Ask for spicy sauce on half of your order.
- Saturday: Sushi Sono in Columbia. Exotic, creative rolls and exquisite fish. The bright flavors makes this our favorite place these days, especially with the sunshine roll and the No. 12.