Just a special kind of place

Celebrations: Kings Contrivance's historical ambience, fresh food and vast wine list make it a popular place to mark birthdays, anniversaries and the like.

Restaurant profile

March 23, 2000|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Kings Contrivance Restaurant in Columbia is the kind of place where people dine for special occasions.

Classical music greets patrons as they enter the 100-year-old converted farmhouse. The service is attentive, the food fresh and elegant and the wine list extensive.

Richard Ackman, a maitre d' at the restaurant for 20 years, says most weekend diners are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, promotion or other occasion.

The restaurant opened in 1962, but its history stretches much further.

The king of England granted the land to the Calvert family and the Calverts, in turn, granted the land to the Rev. James MacGill. The MacGill family owned the 350-acre farm until 1961, when it was sold and the restaurant opened.

In its first incarnation, the restaurant had a Colonial theme, Ackman said. Waiters wore powdered wigs and served exotic game and other Colonial-style dishes.

The current owners, Stuart Teper and Richard Pirone, took over in 1975. They are partners of the Country Fare Group, which also owns the Brass Elephant and City Lights, both in Baltimore, and Milton Inn in Sparks.

The new owners at first offered a country French menu, with dishes such as fish in puff pastry, beef Wellington and pate.

In 1987, the menu was changed to an "American-style cuisine," Ackman said. Emphasis was placed on fresh ingredients, light sauces and herbs. That focus is still prevalent, yielding such popular dishes as venison with blackberry sauce and seared duck breast in an orange ginger sauce.

In the summer, one of the most requested items is soft-shell crabs coated in a crispy beer batter.

A fixed-price menu, available from 5: 30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, allows diners to choose an appetizer, main course and dessert from a menu for $19.95.

Kings Contrivance, which offers 260 wines from all over the world, won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence last year, Ackman said. The restaurant is also known for its extensive selection of single malt scotch, he said.

It has seven dining areas and can accommodate parties as large as 165, Ackman said. The restaurant doesn't have a dress code, but jeans and T-shirts are discouraged.

Kings Contrivance

Where: 10150 Shaker Drive, Columbia; 410-995-0500.

Hours: 11: 30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5: 30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $3-$9; lunch, $9-$16; dinner, $18-$28.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover.

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