Restaurant scene rich with romance

Diners enjoy historic charm, decadent fare


Thinking about a big night out with a special someone?

Maybe you want to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. Or you've finally decided to pop the question. Or you're looking for a place to get married, have a rehearsal dinner or hold a baby shower. Or maybe you're just hungry and want to go someplace nice.

Carroll County has more than its share of romantic restaurants for these sorts of occasions - probably because the rural county, with its wealth of small towns, winding roads and large patches of still-undeveloped land, is close to big cities.

Restaurants such as Antrim 1844, Baldwin's Station, Gypsy's Tea Room, Maria's and Brick Ridge are all housed in buildings that are more than a century old. The Liberatore's restaurants, in Westminster and Eldersburg, are known for their decadent Italian dishes.

Here are some of the county's most romantic restaurants:

Antrim 1844 --30 Trevanion Road, Taneytown, 410-756-6812. Built in 1844, this property was once a 2,400-acre working plantation. It sat empty for about 70 years until owners Dorothy and Richard Mollett took over in 1989 and created a country-house hotel with luxurious dining, 29 guest rooms and formal gardens.

A weekend at the Antrim Inn provides a pampered country getaway. Spa treatments, whirlpool tubs, roaring fires, chocolate-covered strawberries and more all weave a spell of luxury and romance.

About 100 weddings a year take place at Antrim 1844, and the restaurant is a popular destination for other occasions as well.

The French-American cuisine, prepared by chef Michael Gettier and supplemented by a 15,000-bottle wine cellar, changes each night but always includes hand-passed hors d'oeuvres, a salad, an intermezzo, a choice of three appetizers and four entrees, and desserts. Entrees might includes sumptuous fare such as a filet mignon with bacon and walnuts, salmon with roast garlic or braised lamb.

Diners can choose from several rooms in the restored mansion, each with its own personality. These include the formal dining room, the veranda, the summer kitchen and the smokehouse.

Baldwin's Station --7618 Main St., Sykesville, 410-795-1041. The romance of America's railroading past is alive and well at Baldwin's Station, a restaurant housed in a beautiful brick 1833 train station.

The restaurant, on the National Register of Historic Places, is in quaint Sykesville, along the Old Main Line, the oldest train line in the country. And diners can still see and hear the trains chugging by.

The restaurant is known for New American cuisine. From a lobster tart appetizer to entrees of rosemary-and-black-pepper-rubbed tenderloin or roasted Cornish game hen, executive chef Bryan Sullivan provides food that is as classic, American and elegant as the setting.

But food and history aren't the whole story. The restaurant features live jazz, folk and bluegrass concerts, and offers 45-minute children's theater performances on Sundays.

Liberatore's --521 Jermor Lane, Westminster, 410-876-2121; 6300 Georgetown Blvd., Eldersburg, 410-781-4114. This family-owned chain began in Eldersburg in 1988 and now includes five Liberatore's restaurants, plus Cosmopolitan, in Canton.

The Eldersburg location is run by Dante Liberatore, and his brother Pino helms the Westminster location, which opened four years ago.

Liberatore's restaurants are white-tablecloth places, with such decadent Italian fare as lobster tetrazzini, eggplant parmesan, grilled scallop fra diablo and steak pizzaiola. Diners can quench their fra diablo fires with wines from the restaurant's extensive selection, but they should leave room for a tiramisu or cannoli for dessert.

These restaurants are elegant but not stuffy. The look is Italian rustic, with lots of terra cotta colors and comfortable booths. Though bridal showers and rehearsal dinners are often held here, Liberatore's is also a popular destination for a weeknight family dinner.

Brick Ridge --6212 Ridge Road, Mount Airy, 301-829-8191. Todd Bricken, the owner of Brick Ridge, presides over a 114-year-old former one-room schoolhouse that has been converted into a charming dining room, complete with exposed brick and white tablecloths. The school closed in 1947, and the site became home to several clubs and eating establishments, including the Quail Ridge Inn, which lasted from 1975 until 1999.

Then Bricken took over. Every week, he serves food from a different state. Louisiana fare might include jambalaya, while California might be the inspiration for an appetizer of scallops with a lemon ginger sauce and wasabi potato pancakes.

The historic location and delicious food conspire to create a romantic atmosphere. "We've had a lot of engagements here and anniversaries and some small weddings," said Bricken, adding that some customers come back for their anniversary because they got engaged while eating at Brick Ridge.

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