The dinner menu at Cerando's Kitchen and Bistro changes every week to take advantage of seasonal produce, says owner Jerry Cerand, who buys from local farmers whenever possible.
"I want people to realize that the stuff grown right here is so much better quality than what they're getting in the grocery store," he said.
The 50-seat bistro, which opened Feb. 25, is a redesign of Cerando's Kitchen and Market, a gourmet takeout shop that opened in July.
The new restaurant still offers prepared foods for takeout, but now customers are invited to sit down and enjoy such lunchtime items as smoked turkey wraps and vegetable jambalaya, and such dinnertime specialties as marinated duck breast and vegetable spring rolls.
Part of the fun of eating in the bistro is seeing the food cooked on premises in an open kitchen that can be viewed from the tables. Chef Eric Sollohub, previously from Dean and DeLuca in Washington, is a "great presence out front," Cerand said.
The stylish bistro, in the Golden Triangle at U.S. 40 and Ridge Road in Ellicott City, has trompe l'oeil walls painted by Kyndel Walston Decorative Painting in Baltimore. The artwork hanging on the walls is by local artists and for sale. Diners are invited to bring their own wine.
The lunch menu is heavy on salads and sandwiches, but also offers heartier dishes, including barbecued flank steak, fettuccine in a balsamic cream sauce topped with slices of grilled chicken, and grilled salmon.
An eggplant wrap features smoky slices of grilled eggplant and generous helpings of spinach and cucumber wrapped in a tortilla that's been slathered with humus and yogurt sauce.
The Southwestern Beef Salad is a brightly colored mix of grilled steak, red and green peppers, purple onion and salad greens, tossed in a dressing of lime juice, cumin and cayenne pepper.
Cerand said the dinner menus will generally have about six entrees and three appetizers, including at least one vegetarian offering.
In his first week, a popular item was grilled duck breast with a maple-bourbon walnut sauce, served with mashed sweet potatoes and shoestring vegetables.
"We sold out of it," Cerand said of the $14.95 entree. "Seems like people can't get good duck around here."
Other dinner items offered the first week included a sesame-crusted tuna loin served with Asian slaw and soba noodles, and a chicken spinach salad featuring goat cheese, red onion, green beans and grape tomatoes.
The vegetarian dish was vegetable spring rolls, served with dipping sauces and rice.
Cerand, 40, who lives in Catonsville, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He has been in charge of two restaurants in Washington and two local catering companies.
Convinced there was a need for high-quality takeout food, "I decided it was my time to take a shot," he said. He added the bistro to increase traffic and because some customers had said they would like to sit and eat meals there.
"We were certainly putting out a good-quality product and our guests recognized it," he said. "There were always a lot of calls for `Gee, can we eat it here?'"
He believes the bistro and the takeout business will complement each other. Customers who come for lunch or dinner may be tempted by the displays of pasta salads, meat loaves, crab cakes, lasagnas, desserts and other products available for takeout, he said.
"We're getting some good traffic in here. That's what it's about for me right now," Cerand said. "The feedback has been tremendous. People are just saying, `Wow, this is exactly what we needed.'"
Cerando's Kitchen and Bistro
Where: 8801 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City; 410-750-3353.
Hours: Lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The store is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Prices: Appetizers, $4.95 to $7.95; entrees: $10.95 to $18.95. For lunch, salads are $6.95 to $8.95, sandwiches are $7.25 and entrees are $7.95 to $10.95.
Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa.