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Columbia/Ellicott City Dining? We need new places!

Hi there,

My husband and I live in the Columbia/Ellicott City area of Maryland (basically at route 100 and 29 in Dorsey's Search) and often eat out on the weekends. We both work in downtown Baltimore, thus, unfortunately, we often do not feel like driving back downtown to eat. We have found a handful on "non-chain" restaurants that we like around here (e.g., Iron Bridge Wine, Zapata's Mexican, Dimitri's Greek, Donna's ,etc.), but was wondering if there were any other places to eat that we should try...

Can anyone recommend any good to great restaurants within a 15-20 minute driving radius from the Dorsey Search area (e.g. route 29 and 100)??? We are also unfortunately pretty poor and try to spend under $50 total for a meal out for two (for two entrees and sodas basically). "Non-chain" restaurants are preferred, but honestly, at this point, we would be willing to try a chain restaurant that was considered pretty good bang for the buck that maybe we aren't used to (we are from Florida originally)! ;)

Thanks for any ideas!!!

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  1. Hello - I just moved away from that area and there are a few places I will miss (and will return to) that you should try. First try Leelynns right off Old Annapolis Road (http://www.leelynns.com/) Be sure and try the homemade potato chips and lolipop lamb racks... You should also hit a couple of places on Historic Main Street in Ellicott City... Tiber River Tavern has pretty good sandwiches. I've had a good Salmon BLT and Blackend Beef Tenderloin sandwich there. Jordans is fantastic but certainly out of the $50 price range for meals. But stopping in for a Tuna Tartar appetizer and a glass of wine is still worth the trip. For a good pub atmosphere "burger and beer" meal try Kelseys (http://www.kelseysrestaurant.com/). For a decent pork Barbeque sandwich go to Bare Bones both in Ellicott City...Back to Columbia, Sushi Sono is still the best sushi I have come across -And yes! I still haven't tried Matsuri so please no comments regarding "how crazy" i am!! :)--- But to me it is the best in Columbia area!!

    3 Replies
    1. re: tapas gal

      Tiber River Tavern had decent food on their bar menu, and a very good (hand formed) burger when the first opened. But it's been going downhill since. About a year and a half ago they began using premade/frozen burgers, and it's been awful since. I also like Bare Bones, especially their enormous onion loaf, even though their barbecue always reminded me more of midwestern barbecue than Southern. I also wasn't a fan of them kicking their brewers to the curb when they stopped making beer on site.

      1. re: tapas gal

        I live in Catonsville Ellicott City area.I agree we are hurting for good places to eat for sure. I go to the Tiber River for the bar food too. Good muscles and burgers. I also like Iron Bridge, on 108 and Great Sage in Clarkesville .

        1. re: mlanda

          Another fan of the bar side of Tiber. La Palapa's on Main St. is good for Mexican. Also Bangkok Delight for Thai on Center Park Drive.
          If you want Japanese, Nichi Bei Kai on Snowden River is good too. They do the typical Benihana style Teppan Yaki thing but also have a sushi bar.

      2. Definitely do a search on here, as this subject has been covered quite a few times recently! But......to give you a few:
        Sushi King (Dobbin Rd)
        Pho Dat Thahn (Snowden River, in shopping center with the TCBY)....really cheap and good
        House of India (Snowden River, shopping center next to the one with TCBY)
        Cafe de Paris

        1. Have you tried Great Sage in Clarksville?

          1. Highly recommend Tersiguel's on Main St in Ellicott City. Tereffic French country place, exc menu, and w/in your budget if you go for lunch

            1 Reply
            1. re: tartuffe

              I heartily concur! Tersiguel's is wonderful French country food. I also recommend Great Sage in Clarksville.

            2. How about Rooster Cafe, Aida, Jordan's and Cacao Lane?-

              3 Replies
              1. re: lovemywft

                Rooster Cafe has been closed for a few months now.

                The Chinese restaurant at Dorsey's Search VC is probably the best in the area. (I wasn't impressed with Asean Bistro or Hunan Manor.) In the same center, the Trattoria de Pizza, or something like that, has good thin-crust pizza. T-Bonz, at 103 and 104, is pretty good too. Their BBQ sandwich platter is only 7.95 for a huge sandwich and 2 sides.

                1. re: little audrey

                  I agree with Little Audrey. Both the Chinese restaurant and Enrico's Trattoria in the Dorsey's Search village center serve very good food. Enrico's has excellent and reasonably-priced pasta entrees in addition to their pizza.

                  1. re: elgringoviejo

                    I third this, Hunan Legend is delicious and I think the best Chinese in the area as well, and also serves more authentic entrees off the menu if you request them. The Trattoria pizzeria/pastaria is also a true chowhound bargain, with real Italian pasta entrees that are really reasonably priced for how tasty they are. Try the gnocchi ciociara, yum!

                    I also really like the Thai restaurant near the Oakland Mills Village Center, Bangkok something, it's quite authentic, try the chili fish. (It's much better than the one off Rte 108 IMO).

              2. You might want to try Kauffman's Restaurant In Gambrills, 329 Gambrills Rd.

                It looks like your average road house, but it is a pretty good restaurant.


                Kaufmann's Restaurant
                329 Gambrills Rd, Gambrills, MD 21054

                1 Reply
                1. re: Denise

                  Cafe de Paris is great, and you can each do three courses on their prix fixe for I think $39 per person. You can keep it a lot less by doing less than three courses, too. Eric is a great host, too.

                  Tersiguel's is great, but higher than your budget allows except maybe for a splurge now and then. But I highly recommend it.

                  Trattoria e Pizzeria in King's Contrivance village center (where the new Harris Teeter is being erected) is very good Italian food, and their pizza is quite good, too. Try the macaroni pie. And it is all practically dirt cheap.

                  Pasta Plus is in Laurel and is about a 20-min drive from where you live. It is in the center space between Route 1 North and South at the Rt 198 intersection. Great Italian food, especially their specials.

                  Aida, which is in the difficult to find location of Columbia Gateway Drive in what arguably looks like an office park/building, is decent Italian-inspired food with some American twists. These are the same folks who used to run Piccolo's. Definitely a worthy joint and reasonably priced.

                  I think there is a very good sushi place downtown near Lake Kittamaqundi, or so I am told as I have never been.

                  Bombay Peacock Grill, I think it still exists, is pretty good Indian, though priced a bit on the higher side. I believe it is in the King's Contrivance Village, but is also a bit difficult to find...


                2. I've had only average experiences at Sushi King (the one off Dobbin Rd next to the MVA.) I highly recommend Fuji Restaurant in Ellicott City. Drive west on Rt 40 until you pass Bethany Ln. Right after you pass Bethany Ln, there's a strip mall on the right and you'll see Fuji in there. They can be quite slow but I've found them empty many weeknights, much to my delight. If you don't like sushi, their salmon teriyaki and assorted tempura dishes are also very good.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: bmorecupcake

                    I agree, Fuji is real authentic Japanese food prepared with care and wonderful flavors. Even their salad dressing is delicious. The udon and teriyaki are some of the best I have had, and the sushi is very fresh. I personally find it much more satisfying than Sushi King (which is Chinese owned), but the service is slow and the place gets overwhelmed easily when it is busy, so I would try to go early or on weeknights.

                    Han Sung in a St Johns Lane shopping center has above average Korean eats and OK sushi as well.

                    1. re: bmorecupcake

                      I went to Fuji last week and it was unbelievably bad. And I know that both the Sun and the Post have written nice reviews, but this place is a train wreck. Normally, I just don't even try to eat in Catonsville/EC but every 6-8 months I forget how awful the dining here is and go for it.

                      I called to see if we could even get in around 7 p.m. on a Friday and they said "of course" which probably been my first hint considering this place probably can seat 40 people. So we walk in and instead of being seated are just told to sit wherever. No big deal, but it foreshadowed the lousy food and service that was to come. Next we sit for about 10 minutes waiting for water and a server. Nothing. Mind you, this is a tiny place and it is about half full with no one at the sushi bar.

                      Then our waiter appears and asks if we are ready to order. No drink order, no "hello" no specials. I told him I would like a beer. My wife made the mistake of ordering a red wine (which was red, and may have technically been a wine, but all similarities end there), but that is on her. We order a couple of appetizers and some sushi. Drinks come out first. I get a can of beer (unopened) and wife gets the aformentioned "wine" (although to give credit, it had been poured) followed shortly by misu soup.

                      Nothing for another 10-15 minutes and by this time I have decided that everything will show up at once. Then we get chicken and onion skewers. Tastes like frozen warehouse club chicken breasts cubed, drenched with warehouse club teriyaki and grilled (the onions appeared to be fresh). Nauseating.

                      Next, we simultaneously received several orders of sushi and edamame. Again, all of this was delivered with no consideration of the other courses or the pace of the meal. I looked at my wife and asked (and this was in light of the very young wait staff,) if there was any adults in the place. The Sushi was fine, but certainly nothing spectacular and certainly not up to the normal fare I would get if I trusted my instincts and gone to Baltimore for Minato or Matsuri.

                      Just poor on many levels. Maybe we hit it on a terrible night, but it was typical of the lousy food on the west side of town.

                        1. re: orangecrush

                          I just don't get it personally because I've never had an experience quite like this despite having been there many times. I do agree the service is poor (since they rely on high schoolers apparently), and that's why I would not advise going on a Friday night during primetime. Should they be able to handle this, yes, but they just can't with the resources at hand. But I can't agree about the food. I've had the yakitori and can't agree with your harsh assessment, and I'm pretty picky about Asian items. It's just too bad they can't manage the service end of things because when the food here is good, it's really good.

                          1. re: jeanki

                            I kind of find it funny that you suggest that I was "asking for it" by going to a restaurant on a Friday night during prime time! Even so, they were not in the weeds. Maybe half full. I stand by what I said regarding the yakitori. Again, the sushi was fine, as were the soup and edamame, even if the order in which the food was served was off. The service was abysmal, and I have no reason to believe that high school kids cannot provide fine service. Maybe we hit it on a terrible off-night, but I am skeptical. You go next time and tell me it was an aberration. I will stick to places I know that I will get a good meal and service.

                            1. re: orangecrush

                              FWIW, I had a similarly bad experience at Fuji earlier this year, as described at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39881... . Since that thread, I've tried Sushi King, which was much better than Fuji, and was comparable w/ Sushi Sono only without the crowds that were at Sono the two times I've been there.

                              In your price range, you may also want to check out Red Parrot (I think that's the name--it's the place next to Cal Tort in the same plaza as Orinoco), which is an Asian fusion sort of place; it's a chain, but a small one (I think one other location in Annapolis, and they're planning on opening two others according to their website). I stopped by there once for lunch while in the area, and it was pretty good.

                              Fuji Restaurant
                              10226 Baltimore National # 5, Ellicott City, MD

                              Sushi King
                              6490 Dobbin Rd, G Columbia, MD

                              Sushi Sono
                              10215 Wincopin Cir, Columbia, MD

                              Red Parrot Asian Cafe
                              8874 Mcgaw Rd, Columbia, MD

                              1. re: orangecrush

                                Orange, I didn't say you were asking for anything. If you read my previous post another way, I was basically agreeing with you about the service, but saying they have limitations that can sometimes be worked around. I can understand that for most patrons, that isn't worth it. (And the high school comment was a joke. Of course some HS servers are perfectly competent. Just not these for the most part.) For me though, for the times I've had really great food there, it is worth it. The sushi is fresh and authentic. The udon is really perfectly balanced (although it does take a long time to prepare), and the chicken teriyaki sauce is delicious. I personally find Sushi King quite mediocre, the salad dressing tastes cheap, the tuna always seems a little off, and the cooked dishes ordinary, but they do have much better service and a wider array of sushi items. To me, Sushi King is run of the mill strip mall pseudo-Japanese you can find anywhere, but when Fuji is on, it tastes like real homemade, more nuanced and flavorful to me.

                        2. For under $50 for 2 entrees and 2 sodas you could try Trapeze in Maple Lawn. While some of the entrees would run you over that there are plenty that wouldn't.

                          There is also Hunan Manor in Columbia that still puts out decent Chinese food that is easily in that range.

                          In Catonsville you can try Ships Cafe on Frederick Road which is a seafood joint mainly but not overly expensive at all, Matthews 1600 on Frederick road ( my meals there have ranged from really good to just OK but it's in your range).

                          In Ellicott City there is Niko Japanese Restaurant on Rt. 40 that we have always been pleased by. There is also Jilly's in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center on Rt. 40...it's your basic typical bar food but the menu is pretty big and the food is good for what it is. The same people who own Jilly's own the Forest Diner also on Rt. 40. Rt.40 Ellicott City is also home to Shannon's Saloon and Kelsey's both of which are run by the same people. Shannon's is more intimate than Kelsey's but both put out good food. The crab dip at Shannon's is really, really good. You will also find Bare Bones on Rt.40 which also has quite a large menu and makes decent food. The Crab Shanty is also on Rt.40 ..it's your typical seafood place...the food isn't remarkable but I have had a decent meal or two there.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ryzaroo

                            I'll second the Shannon's suggestion, but it is not food to make you swoon over, just good solid dependable food. I also enjoy their crab dip.

                            Forest Diner is another great suggestion, but more so for breakfast.

                            Hunan Manor...it should be pointed out that this place is more 'Americanized Chinese' as opposed to the real sort of Chinese you can get at say Joe's Noodle House in Rockville. But, for what it is, it's very good.

                          2. Right around the corner is La fiesta on centre park drive which has some great salsa, a bit pricey for a burrito but the crab burrito is really nice.

                            trattoria in dorsey's serach is amazing and cheap, especially monday nights with the pizza deal..

                            mango grove in dobbin center has good indian food.

                            hunan manor or jesse wongs are decent

                            tomato palace and clydes by the mall are pretty good too.

                            1. I just tried Soto's Grill in Ellicott City today and really liked it. The location is a little out of the way unless you live in the Worthington area, but it's worth it. It's a Greek/Italian place, and they also have pizzas and subs. I had the Gyro platter, and I enjoyed it as much as I have similar dishes in Greektown. Hopefully, the location won't kill it. Give it a try.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: personalchef

                                Thanks for the tip - I saw the signs by Baughers and was wondering about it

                              2. I live right in your area (by the pool) and know how you feel. If you're feeling like something vegetarian, both Great Sage and Mango Grove offer excellent meals. Great Sage is Californian and Mango Grove is Indian. Actually, Columbia has a few good Indian restaurants. Mango Grove has a non-vegetarian attachment called Mirchi Wok and House of India is my kid's favorite.
                                I can second Kelsey's pub on Rt 40 - it's a decent place to relax and get pub food.

                                1. Trapeze, Sushi Sono, Cafe du Paris, and Great Sage are all great.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lkmSS

                                    aida bistro, and tho i havent been yet, heard victoria's opened recently

                                  2. I give a (third) enthusiastic vote for Mango Grove on Dobbins Rd. It's Southern Indian food, which is definitely harder to find than the usual Northern variety. They are exclusively vegetarian, but the menu is extensive and does include some Northern Indian choices too. Their masala dosai is great. And if you're in the mood for something different than the usual kheer for dessert, try their rasmali (sweet cheese with pistachio or a hint of rose water.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: trillgirl

                                      We are Indian and Mango Grove really didn't satisfy our cravings at all - the last time we went everything was poorly made. I think it really depends on your 'Indian palette' but for my parents and our family in general we werent impressed at all.

                                    2. I grew up near Ellicot City - we used to go to Bangkok Delight quite often which is near you. Haven't been there in a while, but it was some of the best thai food I had before moving to DC 10 years ago ... Good luck!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hungryhumboldt

                                        Some of these have been mentioned but here's my list of non-chain like restaurants to grab a bite to eat at (some of these are local chains): Aida Bistro in Columbia (great Italian), Leelynn's in Columbia (great small plates), Clyde's in Columbia (always reliable food and service), Bare Bones in Ellicott City, Matthews 1600 in Catonsville, Sushi Sono in Columbia, Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro (not the Hong Kong) in Columbia, Eggspectations in Ellicott City (great for brunch, but busy), Coho Grill in Columbia Hobbit's Glenn golf course (great for lunch). That's all I can think of in the area right now that is not "fine dining". We do need more non-chain restaurants in the area