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Chow in Columbia MD near Snowden & 100

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I'm going to be in Columbia MD for a few days this week for training. The training will be keeping me busy for 12 hours a day, and schlepping around the beltway from Old Town before and after that is less than appealing, so I've arranged to catsit for a friend who will be out of town for the week and who happens to live around the corner from the hotel where the course will be (the Hilton Garden Inn on Snowden River Pkwy).

I'm looking for some suggestions for alternatives to the chains that seem to dominate that area; I'll need to find a fairly quick breakfast and lunch near the hotel itself, and then I can wander a little further afield for dinner although it will be pretty late (probably around 8pm) by the time I get out.

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  1. One of the most interesting places in Columbia is a store Called Produce Galore in the Wilde Lake Village Center...about a 10 minute drive from where you're staying.
    Although they don't have seating...they have a marvelous selection of baked goods for breakfast and a very intesting salad/ food bar for lunch. Also they feature 5 very interesting Home made soups daily. If you're looking for something unique...I highly reccomend it

    1. If you are a fan of a big wine selection at very reasonable prices, and don't mind waiting for a table, the Iron Bridge Wine Company has a nice small plate menu and assorted cheeses to accompany your wine journey. A lot of fun and very nice atmosphere.
      Get there early because they don't take reservations.
      website is www.ironbridgewines.com

      7 Replies
      1. re: keithlb1

        I tried Iron Bridge for dinner tonight, and it was terriffic! A seared scallop appetizer and a tenderloin main dish were both cooked perfectly, and the wines were surprisingly well-priced. Appetizer, entree, a flight of 3 1/2-glasses of Greek wines and a glass of 10-year-old madeira to close came out to around $60.

        Thanks to everyone for the recs; I'm hoping to try Orinoco, An Loi, El Nayal, Frisco Burrito, Produce Galore, and Fuji Sushi (which nobody here suggested but which has been on my to-try list for a while) over the next few days, and I'll post reviews afterwards.

        1. re: sweth

          I'm sorry, it's El Nayar, not El Nayal. There doesn't seem to be a way to edit posts anymore. I wouldn't recommend Frisco Burrito, by the way. I've never had anything that wasn't a soggy mess, although their beer selection is nice.

          1. re: sweth

            Logistics reared its ugly head, so I didn't end up getting to a lot of the places I had hoped to try. Of the ones I did get to:

            1) Orinoco had good coffee and a good ham egg & cheese bagel; Riverside had mediocre coffee and a good ham egg & cheese bagel, and was for more "coffeehouse"-ish (comfy chairs, people hanging out). Riverside also appears to be Korean-owned, and I noticed that they have bulgogi sandwiches; I still drool at the memory of the bulgogi sandwiches from the Korean deli across from the place where I worked in college, so I may have to venture back there for a quick lunch at some point the next time I'm in the area.

            2) Eggspectations had a NY-style lox (w/ onions & capers) & bagel w/ schmear, which is tied with a bowl of pho or a thai fried rice w/ fried egg as my favorite breakfast, so I had to try that; it wasn't bad, but way overpriced (I think $14), and they failed to give any plasticware w/ my to-go order, which made for a slightly messy eating experience.

            3) Aida did a good quick lunch--I got there at 1:15, was seated, ordered, ate, and paid by 1:45. I had a good open-face meatball grinder plus salad; it wasn't anything spectacular, but a good solid dish.

            4) An Loi had a very good bun bo hue (vietnamese spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup).

            5) Fuji, where I'm pretty certain that my waiter was high on something, was pretty miserable. I ordered a chirashi, and had to repeat my order four times to the same waiter in the span of about 30 seconds, twice after he had already written it down and then apparently forgotten that he had done so. About 20 minutes later, he came over to tell me that there had been a "mix-up" at the sushi bar, and my food would be delayed. Eventually, he came over and gave me a bowl that was vaguely similar to chirashi, in that there was some rice, and some fish stuff on top--but the fish consisted of a large slab of some sort of teriyaki fish (possibly salmon, but paler than I've ever seen it), three small slices of "raw" tuna, and one small slice of "raw" salmon; I put "raw" in quotes because the heat from the teriyaki fish and the rice (which had both obviously just been cooked and were still steaming) had all but cooked all of the raw fish. I was starving, and my stoned waiter walked away immediately, so I decided to try some of the faux-chirashi, only to discover that the teriyaki fish was full of pinbones. The waiter came by twice more, and I expressed my dismay at what I had been served, to which his response both times was just "OK" followed by him walking away, so eventually I just asked for the check, paid, and left.

            Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I'll be back in the area for more training in a few weeks, so I'll try to hit a few other places like El Nayar (anyone got an address for that?), the bulgogi at Riverside and the empanadas at Orinoco, and Cafe de Paris.

            1. re: sweth

              Some people here had recommended Fuji over Sushi King, so I had added it to my "try sometime" list, but based on that I'll take it off again. Sushi King would NEVER do anything like that. If you get the sushi craving next time, go there.

              El Nayar is good but hard to find. Take Rt 100 east from Snowden River and get on Rt. 1 south. It's about a half mile south of 100, off to the side, and it doesn't face 100. The first time I tried to go I was coming from the south and never could find it.

              I'm glad to hear that An Loi was still good. I haven't been there in a long time, and had heard mixed things.

              1. re: JonParker

                Sorry about that Fuji experience, which I have never personally had going there many times, but could see it happening as some of the servers do tend to be lackadaisical high school types, and the chef does get overwhelmed at times as he does everything alone. I still think Fuji, when it is on, is a wonderful spot, but I would advise going early or at a downtime. For more consistency, Sushi King or Sushi Sono is a better bet.

                1. re: jeanki

                  I was there late in the evening, and was the only customer there, so I don't think that it was an issue of the chef being too busy. Regardless, Sushi King & Sushi Sono were both good on my visits to those establishments, and are closer to the areas in Colombia where I tend to find myself, so they'll probably be getting my business the next time I crave sushi in the area.

                  1. re: sweth

                    Not too busy, but he could have been very fatigued as he is an old man working alone after a busy shift. I don't want to excuse the fact that your experience sounded genuinely awful, but I also want others to realize that in my experience (and I have been there many many times) Fuji can be wonderful and the chef and his wife usually prepare their food with great care and conscientiousness.

        2. Unfortunately, Columbia is not all that when it comes to the culinary scene. But, there are a few places of interest to you--and they happen to be very close.

          One is Eggspectations. I realize this is sort of a chain (locations in Northern Virginia, Maine, and of all of places Canada), but it has a very interesting atmosphere and good food. It doesn't just sell egg dishes; they're sandwiches, salads, and other items are equally pleasing. Perfect for just picking up breakfast or lunch. It's really close to your hotel, too.

          Also, there's a really good Italian place called Aida Bistro. It's located in one of Columbia's many business parks/complexes. Sandwiched inbetween a Quiznos and child day care center, you'd never believe such a place could exist. But, it does and it's very good. They now have a wine bar selection, too, if you'd prefer something small and lite. Again, it's near your hotel, just about a 3 minute drive to Columbia Gateway Drive.

          If you're in the mood for Chinese, there is always Jesse Wong. He owns two restaurants in Columbia, and both have been received very well. The one near the Columbia Towne Center offers more of a view and atmosphere. Little bit further away, so I'd suggest this one for dinner.

          For quick breakfast and coffee, check out this new place called Orinoco Coffee. They have breakfast items, like bagels, sandwiches, croissants, etc. The owner is steeped in coffee; it's a family tradition. Friendly staff and really good food. For lunch or dinner, you can check our their paninis and definitely their empanadas--all homemade. It's right off Snowden, in a food area on McGaw Road.

          Hope this helps out some!

          3 Replies
          1. re: jrussd

            Do you think I could get to Aida, have lunch, and get back in < 1 hr?

            1. re: sweth

              For the lunch service, they actually have a deli open, in addition to the restaurant. If you arrived, say around 11:30, you could probably be back in an hour.

              1. re: jrussd

                The closed the deli some time ago, so it's all table service now. I haven't been back since.

          2. Down Snowden River towards Broken Land Pkwy is a place called An Loi - they serve Vietnamese food and have great prices. We love to go there for lunch or dinner. They are located behind the Taco Bell in a strip mall. Yummy.

            Another good option is Noodles Corner - in the strip mall off of Dobbin Rd on Staford Rd - should be close to the hotel. They would be great for both lunch and dinner. That same mall has a place called Frisco Burrito (haven't been in ages so I can't recommend it or not), a Riverside coffee house (decent coffee and they have bagel sandwiches along with muffins and such for breakfast). There is also a place called Hanamura there, good sushi and bento boxes, etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mehmig

              People say An Loi has gone downhill of late, but Pho Dat Thanh (also on Snowden River Rd) remains very good.

            2. I agree that the choices are limited. I used to live very close to there, and I'm glad I don't anymore.

              About a five minute drive away is Cafe de Paris off Rt. 100 and Columbia Park Drive. While you'd be pushing it to have lunch in the restaurant in an hour, but they've opened a crepe shop in the same building. I haven't been, but they used to have a deli there that was very good, and the restaurant proper is very good, so I have no problem recommending it based on that. The restaurant is probably the best dinner choice in the area.

              There's a servicable Thai place on Columbia Park Drive as well, over next to the Burger King. Jesse Wong's is not particularly good or bad, although it can sometimes be both.

              Pasta Pizzaz (I think it's called) over next to Eggspectations is quick and ok lunch, although I don't care for the pizza.

              I've never understood Aida Bistro love.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JonParker

                I second the Cafe de Paris mention, although I haven't tried their new crepe service, but I've read the reviews and all seem to be positive.

                As for Aida, I wouldn't say I "love" the place. It's just that for Columbia it's very good. And that's saying a lot.

                1. re: JonParker

                  The Thai place on Columbia Park drive is mediocre, but there is a very good, authentic one near Oakland Mills Village Center (former site of Hardee's). (The name is Bangkok something.)

                2. Mirchi Wok and Akbar both have good Indian lunch buffets, as does Jesse Wong's Hong Kong. Pho Dat Thanh south on Snowden has some good lunch specials. For dinner, since it's a little further out, I'd recommend Maiwand Kabob if you're looking for cheap and delicious. Right across from that is Zapata's, which has great margaritas and good Mexican as well. Also not too far from you for a quick lunch or breakfast is El Nayal on Rt. 1, for quick authentic mexican. They have great Carne Asdada and Lengua. Z-pizza's decent for pizza by the slice, and that's right off of Snowden near Orinico, which, as another poster noted has very good Empanadas. If you're in the mood for great sandwiches and want to take a 15 minutes ride, Noah's on the Side in Ellicott city is the best in the area, but they're only open until 8, so you probably won't be able to make it. Right near there is Oriental Manor, which could be a nice later dinner, with it's authentic Cantonese cooking.

                  1. Hunan Manor off Snowden River Parkway has pretty good Chinese (esp if you order off the Chinese menu)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pagoda girl

                      Hunan Legend in Dorsey Hall Village Center is my favorite for Chinese food in the area. You can request authentic off the menu dishes, but the standards are very well executed as well. Fuji in Ellicott City has great homestyle Japanese food and sushi but try to go early because their service is very slow. Sushi Sono has gotten good reviews. Bombay Peacock Grill has excellent Indian but is hard to find (off Rte 32/Shaker Dr exit on a cul de sac)

                    2. I enjoy Pho Dat Thanh on Snowden River Parkway. I usually get the Pho D8 (well done flank and sliced eye round) and a Vietnamese coffee. Sometimes I get an order of spring rolls as an appetizer if I'm extra hungry

                      1. A lot of good suggestions here.....which I will probably repeat a bit.

                        For breakfast, if you're looking for "right by your hotel," there is a Donna's there. It's a coffee bar/cafe. Decent food, not spectacular, but it's breakfast. Also, Eggspectation's is right there, as well. Both are pretty much right outside your hotel, so you don't even need to get in your car.

                        For lunch/dinner.....ethnic food is the way to go in Columbia (especially if you want to avoid the abundance of chains!!).
                        -For sushi, Sushi King is on Dobbin Rd, about 5 minutes from your hotel. I think it's excellent, and they are really friendly there.
                        -If you like Indian, I particularly like House Of India, on Snowden River Parkway (it's in a strip center on the right). Really good Indian food, plus a decent lunch buffet, if that's your thing.
                        -For Vietnamese.....you can't beat Pho Dat Thanh on Snowden River Parkway (in the strip center right after the one with House of India). It's consistently excellent and cheap. Try the ginger chicken in the clay pot. Yum.
                        -Aida is good for Italian, on Columbia Gateway Drive.
                        -Cafe De Paris is really charming and good. I believe they still do a 3 course dinner for a really good price, too. They are off 108/Center Park Drive.
                        -Another suggestion for a quick lunch is Riverside Coffee, on Dobbin Road. They have good sandwiches, and they are quick.

                        Hope this helps!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: stacylyn

                          I can't believe I forgot Sushi King. This is still my favorite sushi place in the Baltimore area. Anyway, I second the recommendation.

                          1. re: JonParker

                            Sushi King is great! They are SO friendly, everything we've had has been fresh and delicious, and sometimes they have interesting specials.

                          2. re: stacylyn

                            I worked in Columbia for 2 years and got to know the local fare quite well:

                            - Indian Buffet : House of India trumps Akbar (they are located in adjacent strip malls on Snowden River)

                            - Coffee : Starbucks on Dobbin (sorry, haven't tried Orinoco). I went to Riverside and was sorely disappointed by the thin, bitter coffee.

                            - Breakfast : Eggspectaitons off Rt 100. Its a chain, but its good.

                            - American : Donna's (it's a chain, but it's a local chain)

                            - Pan Asian : Noodles Corner (same strip mall as Riverside Coffee). Not amazing but good and consistent.

                            1. re: cpfeifer

                              House of India is still great! Seems like they have some new cooks.

                              1. re: MrsWheatie

                                I heard a funny story about Akbar/House of India from a coworker who worked in Columbia for many years. At first Akbar was better than House of India. Then, Akbar went downhill and House of India got much better. It turns out that the owner of House of India lured Akbar's chef away to his own restaurant. Who knew there was so much competition for indian chefs in Columbia.

                          3. Trattoria e Pizzeria da Enrico in Kings Contrivance Village Center.