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Good (Non Chain Food) in the Columbia, MD Area?

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I like variety and I like good food. What I can do without are the chains. Living in Columbia, I have searched and searched for a few good restaurants that aren't major chains and have something special to offer. I'm not doing well. El Azteca is decent thought the remodeling took away some of its charm. Narita Sushi has a limited menu but is worth the visit.

I've tried asking my co-workers for suggestions but they all recited the usual list of suspects (Z Tejas, Copelands, etc...). Recently my co-workers and I went to "this cool new restaurant" that had opened up. To my horror we pulled up in front of FUDDRUCKERS!

My fiance and I spend more time eating in Rockville, Bethesda, and Silver Spring that we're seriously considering moving to one of those areas.

Please, please tell me that there is at least 2 or 3 real restaurants in the Columbia area that I've overlooked. Or am I doomed?

Thanks for the help all...

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  1. I believe that the water in Columbia must cause it's resident's taste buds to wither away and die. That's the only explanation I can muster to explain why the masses line up every night to wait in 2 hour lines to eat glorified fast food. The wealthiness of Howard County certainly doesn't reflect it's dismal level of culinary sophistication. My girlfriend lives in Columbia, and I now work in Columbia, but I try not to dine in Columbia.

    My experiences have led me to a few decent places. The Akbar (Indian) on Snowden River by Broken Land is quite good. So is the Indian Palace in the Long Gate shopping center. Either of these are as good as any Indian I've had in Downtown Bawlmer.

    For lunches, mostly vegetarian, there is the Cafe at David's Natural Market in Wilde Lake. They have phenomenal soups and the specials are always interesting and always delicious. It's really casual, not open for dinner, but cheap and probably my favorite food in all of Columbia.

    There is a pretty new Vietnamese restaurant (An Loi?)off of Minstrel Way and Snowden River, that is good - not great, but it's incredibly cheap and good enough to satisfy my occasional need for Pho. It's also very casual and is in a sparsely decorated dining room.

    I also like Clydes, although a chain at least it is a small local one. I find the food there pretty good and reasonably priced. I also like the Tomato Palace, next door and affiliated with Clydes. Tomato Palace is nothing fancy, but again it's cheap and pretty decent for simple Italian.

    House of Asia by 29 and 40 is okay to fair. Also, Il Giardino next door is pretty good for Italian. The Afghani kabob place in Harpers choice is fair, their bread is better than the kabobs, and I'd rather make the drive to the Helmand for Afghani. There's a non-chain seafood Restaurant in Harper's Choice that I've never been (mentioned because I'm running out of non-chains).

    I also haven't been to Kings Contrivance, although I've heard decent things about it. Usually if I'm thinking of going to a better restaurant, I leave Columbia.

    1. There were some posts on this subject about a month ago (the link is below). I mentioned some places in Olney--I don't know if that's too far away for you or not. There were other suggestions that I'm going to try as well. Hope you find what you're looking for.

      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      1 Reply
      1. re: asun
        t
        Thomas Jaehnigen

        I went back and looked at these links and here are my opinions for what they are worth--

        Trattoria y Pizzeria -- Stop what you are doing and run to this restaurant. Best pizza, great pasta, wonderful guys running the place. You will not be disappointed.

        Pasta Plus in Laurel -- Great specials. Everything is available to go too. Cramped, but lots of character. Expect to wait in line out the door. We recently waited over a half hour at 6PM on a weekend night to get in. There is no waiting room inside and it was cold (brrrrr) but oh so worth the wait).

        Shannon's in Ellicott City -- good pub food. Expanded a few years ago to tame the crowds. Sometimes they run a great peeel & eat shrimp special. Specials are usually quite good. Near a good wine shop too (Jason's).

        Tersiguel's -- Ellicott City. Expensive, but unique and great. If you love good food and good wine lists, go there. Love it there!

        We recently lost a favorite place, Piccolo's, due to too much competition from the chain restaurants. It was wonderful, sorry you missed it.

        Barring these choices, go to Bethesda, or better, yet, to DC.

      2. I cannot recommend highly enough House of Asia (thai/vietnamese) in Ellicot City. Try whatever is on their special board, the mussels and the tofu pad thai. it's amazing and dirt cheap.

        also great for lunch off dobbin road is Frisco Brothers, a burrito place, very fresh and yummy. In same shopping center is noodles corner, where I recommend the chow fun or the noodles in hot pot. fantastic. I too, have been searching for a long time for great non chain restaurants in our area.

        I think the best indian around is bombay peacock grill.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Debbie
          t
          Thomas Jaehnigen

          Noodles Cafe is a good choice. It is patterned after Oodles Noodles of Bethesda and DC fame, I think. Pretty comparable. Hell, the menus look eeerily similar.

          1. re: Debbie
            t
            Thomas Jaehnigen

            Bombay Peacock Grill is OK. Been there a few times, albeit a few years ago. No problem getting a table, service was great. I've had better Indian, but for Columbia it's good.

          2. One of the reasons that Columbia's restaurant population is mostly chains and fast foods is because Columbia is mostly about families. So many of the good things in Columbia are for children (i.e. the swim center, the horse center, and all the children's theatre groups).

            When you have kids, you take them where it is noisy, fast, edible, kid's menu, and you can still get a beer. Trust me, I know.

            There are good restaurants nearby in Ellicott City and (yes it's true) Laurel. Pasta Plus and Ferrarri's have been mentioned, and also there is a good seafood house on Route 1. Ellicott City has many quality restaurants mentioned on this board. Again, you are not far from Baltimore and the fine spots there.

            But Columbia? Bring the kids and get there by 6:00 pm!

            1. Try the Ram's Head in Savage Mill. I almost do not want to post about it, I want to keep it for myself.

              In the warm months, eat on the deck that goes out to the river. In the old smokestack nearby live thousands of rare chimney swifts. They come and go in a beautiful vortex every day.

              I have never had trouble getting a table, they have a neat bar downstairs, and music on the weekends. The food is good, but maybe not exotic.

              Next door is a French bakery that comes directly from Paris. The family has been in the business since the 1700's. Take home bread and dessert.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Johnlw

                you can keep ram's head to yourself. I've tried it and the food was no better than Bennigen's. The nice ambiance does not even make up for the food disappoi8ntment.

              2. There is a little place on Dobbin Road, just up from Oakland Mills. It is in a brick office strip that used to have (may still) a video store. I think it says Donuts on the window. It is run by Malasians, I think, and ironically it is a classic greasy spoon from the 1960's.

                Eggs, bacon, home fries, and toast for a couple of bucks. Pancakes, waffles, sausage, you name it. For lunch, old style club sandwiches or ruebens. Many of the working folks in Columbia (as opposed to the many upper middle class residents) go there. The food is cheap, plenty, and with a lot of grease. Don’t go here if you are watching your diet. It reminds me of the greasy spoons where I would eat when I was young, driving a cab and going to college.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Johnlw

                  I know exactly where you are talking about but never went in. Will now!

                2. Some of these places were already mentioned, but I like Noodles Corner and Bombay Peacock. Also, Jesse Wong's is kind of a trip--pan-Asian food in this bizarro strip-mall-turned-piano-lounge-with-fake-palm-trees setting. Ignore all there apps, which all look great but taste pretty forgetteable. But some of their entrees are great.
                  Also, your really not very far away from Ellicott City there, which has some great places. Go grocery shopping at one of the massive Korean supermarkets on Rte. 40. For food, there are a lot of places in the historic district, including one of my favorites in the entire Baltimore area: Tersiguel's. It ain't cheap but if you've read other posts on this site you know that its worth it, for special occasions at least. I've been to La Palapa next door once too and had a good time (though honestly it was pretty margarita-induced! but I think their food was tasty, too.). But Tersiguel's is a gem. They have a website you can check out.

                  1. Try Maiwand Kabab's in Harpers Choice village center. Decent, cheap good afghan food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: BudgetGourmetGuru

                      How did you find this 12 year old question? I suppose it's helpful to reflect on how things have changed quite a bit in the last 12 years. Bon Fresco, Victoria's Gastropub, Petit Louis, Royal Taj. I'm not sure how they missed Sushi Sono and Sushi King, which I'm pretty sure were around them. And some of the the chains that have moved in or are going to be moving in are great such as Mission BBQ (on the way), Jersey Mike's, Garbanzo,

                    2. Have you been to the Iron Bridge Wine Company? While not "in" Columbia it is on Clarkesville Pike and has a Columbia address. Excellent food and fantastic wine selection. (They have a tavern license so you buy a bottle of wine from them and if you want to drink it at dinner, pay a $10 corkage fee.)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dinwiddie

                        Yes, missed them on my list. Another major improvement since 2002!