7-Elevens And All, Dining Guide's OK

COMMENT

April 11, 1993|By KEVIN THOMAS

7-Eleven wasn't exactly what I was looking for when I picked up a copy of the Howard County dining guide compiled by the local Tourism Council.

But there it was -- or should I say there were all three of them -- heading the list of places to eat in our fair county.

It caused me to ponder what culinary delights were being offered at 7-Eleven that merited such a prominent spot among local eateries. Had the local convenience store branched out beyond hot dogs to include escargot and beef Wellington on its menu?

Alas, 7-Eleven is still 7-Eleven. There were some practical considerations in including convenience stores on the dining guide list.

"We wanted to include places where someone -- like a businessman -- who wanted to just run in quickly and get a sandwich, they would know where to go," explained Cynthia Montgomery, marketing manager for the Tourism Council.

7-Eleven comes first because all the restaurants are listed alphabetically, with numbers posted before letters.

Having 7-Eleven appear at the top of the list may raise questions about how worthwhile the guide is, but actually this is a thorough and helpful compilation of just about all there is to offer in Howard.

It's the first time the Tourism Council, which has maintained a relatively low profile since it was established in 1981, has published such a guide. It should at least put it on the map as an agency doing something truly worthwhile for the county.

Not only should the guide be useful to tourists, people who live here would find some value in it. As a long-time resident myself, I was stunned by the number of entries -- more than 300 in all. Where have these establishments been hiding?

I counted close to 200 places to eat in Columbia alone. Of course, seven were High's stores. But come on, you can get a bite to eat there.

Also included were some of the finest restaurants in the city, including Clyde's, China Chefs and Courtyard Cafe.

Elsewhere, the list starts to thin out. Cooksville, which lies west of the County Fairgrounds on Frederick Road, lists only one entry -- the Cooksville Carry Out.

With a name like Cooksville, you'd expect more to be happening around the frying pan. Still, if you happen to be on a junket there and looking for a place to grab some grub, there is at least one place to go.

For some fine dining in a quaint atmosphere, one turns, of course, to Historic Ellicott City. The dining guide lists such favorites as Cacao Lane and Tersiguel's. Unfortunately, the guide makes no distinction between restaurants in old and new Ellicott City.

Don't expect Bippy's Pub to be nestled among the turn-of-the-century row houses on Main Street. It's on Baltimore National Pike among the strip shopping centers. Still, it does serve some very good food.

All in all, the dining guide gets my endorsement, which may not be worth a whole lot anyway. Still, I'm in good company.

Consider the raves coming from County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who is quoted on its first page.

"Our dining facilities specialize in an assortment of culinary delights, including pasta, seafood, American and international delicacies. Call ahead for daily specials and operating hours."

Somehow I don't think Mr. Ecker said exactly those words; someone probably put words in his mouth about what to put in yours. But I'm sure it conveyed the gist of his sentiments.

And while steering tourists toward that 7-Eleven for lunch may not be putting the county's best foot forward, no one will claim that the Tourism Council left any establishment out. At least not on purpose.

Once you've perused the county's dining guide and made your best selection from among the 300-plus offerings, there really is only one thing left to say:

In the words of Chuck Ecker, "Bon Appetit!"

Kevin Thomas is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

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