I remember the first time I ever rode down Route 2, Ritchie Highway. Sunny, warm -- unseasonbly warm for a February -- it was a Sunday. I drove past Hutzler's and Murphy Mart and Jumpers Mall. I was house hunting. I cannot to this day drive south on Ritchie Highway without seeing in my mind how it looked in 1976.
The Holiday Inn across from the Department of Motor Vehicles was my home away from home. Tucked in the desk drawer was a little brochure listing the fine dining establishments. I circled several that had a Ritchie address.
My first choice on the list, if memory serves me, was a place called the Barn. I remember driving to the address given in the booklet and finding only the sign with a bovine statue on top. Oh yes, there were some charred remains of the building. I ended up eating at a family pizza restaurant -- I think Romano's was the name.
The next day I circled another restaurant in the brochure. I vaguely remember this one being called The Embers. When I got the address of The Embers, all I found was embers. It soon became obvious the Ritchie Highway eating establishments were having incendiary problems.
The fires have been over for a long time. Even back then, in spite of the fires, Ritchie Highway provided some family favorites.
Do you remember them? Right beside the Holiday Inn stood English's Chicken. I remember a pancake house, a White Coffee Pot Jr., a Beef and Beer, several Gino's, the Wagon Wheel, and the Horn and Horn Cafeteria in Harundale Mall and the Severna Park Mall. All places for family dining. Do you miss them?
Up and down the length of Ritchie Highway, changes have occurred in the eating establishments. I have my current favorites, call them Standbys.
These are places I go to eat when I'm not looking for a new restaurant.
Tried and true, these are Hubby and my favorites.
When we want to eat Mexican food, Sancho's in Chesapeake Square shopping center is our first choice. This is above-average Mexican fare and the restaurant has a quieter atmosphere than the other Mexican restaurant further south on Ritchie.
One of our favorite Chinese restaurants is the Imperial in the shopping center where Mountain Road meets Ritchie Highway. The service is superior and the food is consistently good.
For desert and an every-day treat we mosey on over to I Can't Believe It's Yogurt at Festival T.J. Maxx shopping center.
When I'm entertaining at home, I get my extra-special cakes from Waffle-Waffle at Earleigh Heights Road and Ritchie Highway. The fine ingredients used in the baked goods and waffles are apparent in every bite.
Another Ritchie Highway food place I frequent is a shop for busy people who want to entertain at home but don't have time to cook. Heavenly Ham is the solution to delicious and easy at home entertaining.
For a special night on the town, we drive down Ritchie Highway, south of Severna Park to a new dining spot, Hidden Cove. Atmosphere and good food make this place a real comer in fine dining.
If it's a more casual dining experience we're looking for, we head for Damon's located at the same Ritchie Highway intersection as Hidden Cove.
The ribs are delicious and the onion rings are a featured attraction.
Why are these our favorites? Is the food better? The people nicer?
Sometimes. But it's like I said last week, these are the places we have experienced happy times.
These are the restaurants that I will miss. Miss more than the restaurants that are no longer there. These are the restaurant I will miss because they will still be here, and hubby and I won't be.
I have lived in Anne Arundel County since 1976 and my husband has spent all his life here. We have decided it's time for adventure.
Hubby and I are moving to England after the first of the year. This is my last column for the Anne Arundel County Sun. Writing the column is a part-time activity for me, but one I do purely for pleasure. Why else would I do this after commuting to Washington five days a week?
To eat, to savor, to expound and to be compensated for doing what one loves to do -- I am truly a happy woman. I look forward to eating, savoring, and expounding in England. And while I shall miss you while I'm gone, the chance to live abroad is too exciting and too enticing to be missed.
Keep eating and feasting, and I'll do the same. Perhaps we can share notes when I return. Cheerio to you all. (That's cheerio as in a British farewell, not the cereal.) Joan Whitson Wallace, a freelance writer, lives in Severn. She has written about food for a number of publications, and is working on a cookbook, "Mom Taught Me How to Cook."