Delicious fare for any appetite, taste and mood

Dining: From romantic dinners to family-friendly meals, local restaurants offer a seemingly endless variety of choices.

March 21, 2004|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Choosing a restaurant can be complicated. Do you want a romantic dinner or are you taking the kids out for brunch? Are you in the mood for a big steak or a small salad? In Howard County, the choices seem endless, from fancy French restaurants to family-friendly diners, from unassuming kabob shops to elegant steakhouses.

For that special occasion, Howard County eaters have a wealth of restaurants from which to choose. Perhaps the best-known is Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant (8293 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-465-4004), which serves lovingly prepared French classics such as chateaubriand and roast duck, in a charming 19th-century building.

Nearby, Jordan's Steakhouse (8085 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-461-9776) wows customers with its elegant dining area, fantastic meals, sumptuous desserts and thoughtful wine list. This is a steakhouse with a feminine side, with plush seating and soft, romantic jazz. And there's plenty on the menu for diners not in the mood for steak.

Ellicott City's historic downtown has a number of restaurants that aren't as fancy but serve delicious food in charming settings. These include Cacao Lane (8066 Main St., 410-461- 1378), Side Streets (8069 Tiber Alley, 410-461-5577), and Tiber River Tavern (3733 Old Columbia Pike, 410-750-2002).

The historic part of Ellicott City isn't the only place to head for a special occasion. The Kings Contrivance (10150 Shaker Drive, Columbia, 410-995-0500) boasts fine food and a historic setting in a former mansion that dates to the 1730s and was rebuilt after a fire in the 1890s. Elegance is the word, from the beautifully appointed dining area to the classics-with-a-twist menu featuring such items as seared yellowfin tuna with wasabi vinaigrette, pickled ginger, stir-fried vegetables and baby shrimp, or a Roquefort-crusted filet mignon.

The Elkridge Furnace Inn (5745 Furnace Ave., Elkridge, 410-379-9336) provides another solid choice for a big night out. The cozy inn was established as a tavern in 1744 and has evolved into a renowned dining destination with a changing seasonal menu that might include an appetizer of wild boar sausage or a main course of sauteed John Dory fish wrapped in prosciutto and served in a sweet pea broth with polenta and snow peas.

Fancy restaurants are just part of the story in Howard County. For a nice dinner with family or friends, you can't go wrong at Clyde's of Columbia (10221 Wincopin Circle, Columbia), which serves burgers, salads and delicious, creative entrees in a fun, pub atmosphere.

Another nice choice is TBonz, which opened in 2003 at 4910 Waterloo Road, Ellicott City (410-461-4748). This restaurant is casual enough for the whole family, yet offers high-quality steaks and other food at reasonable prices.

Those with young ones will love Eggspectation (6010 University Blvd., Columbia, 410-750-3115). Not only are the waffles, pancakes and omelets terrific, but kids can sit on stools and watch the chefs work. And it isn't just for breakfast. Salads, sandwiches and other entrees make it fun all day.

Another family-friendly place is PastaBlitz (6010 University Blvd., Ellicott City, 410-750-7788 and 5805 Clarksville Square, Clarksville, 443-935-9777). You order at the counter, then pizzas and heaping plates of pasta and salad are brought to your table.

For really young kids, the Whistle Stop Cafe (8167 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-465-1001) is a treat because they can watch toy trains run along a track near the ceiling while enjoying a casual menu of pizza, fries, sandwiches and ice cream.

Also in historic Ellicott City, Sarah and Desmond's (8198 Main St., 410-465-9700) has vegetarian sandwiches and baked goods, plus a well-stocked playroom on the third floor with comfy couches for adults. The stairs are steep, but once you're up there sipping coffee and nibbling muffins you may never want to leave.

For barbecue, Bare Bones (9510 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-461-0770) offers good food and excellent service. Though the menu includes steaks, shrimp and crab cakes, barbecue is best-known here. Pork ribs are rich and tender, slathered in a gooey sweet-tart sauce, and the chicken, coated in the same sauce, is wonderfully juicy.

Lily's Southwestern Grill & Bar (5484 Harpers Farm Road, Harper's Choice Village, Columbia, 410-715-6929) sports a wide variety, including menu items from Mexico and Argentina to New Orleans and Santa Fe.

For light fare, a nice option is the Iron Bridge Wine Bar (10435 State Route 108, Columbia, 410-997-3456). In the morning, this small, elegant eatery serves coffee and baked goods. For lunch and dinner, it serves a changing, sophisticated menu of light meals such as cheese plates, salads and seafood. The walls are lined with bins of wine that are for sale, and many wines can be ordered by the glass or bottle.

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