The 50 best county restaurants in Howard County, Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County is a mix of the old and the new, destinations for special occasions and joints for Monday night suppers, the chef-driven and crowd-pleasing.
What made the list? The consistent, the conscientious, the creative and, sometimes, the cool.
Don't see your favorite? Leave a comment below.
Here are numbers 50-1:
50. Edo Sushi
53 East Padonia Road, Timonium, 410-667-9200
The first Edo Sushi opened in Timonium in 1997 and reinvigorated Baltimore County's strip-center sushi scene, earning high marks for the quality and presentation of its sushi and for the kitchen's casseroles and hot pots, too. All of that remains, and there are now three more Edos to serve you.
49. Mia Carolina
4844 Butler Road, Glyndon, 410-526-5711
Sauces from scratch and fresh-baked breads have helped chef-owner Jay Cohen win over the North Baltimore County crowd. So has the dining room, which appeals to both the white-tablecloth clientele and the trattoria crowd.
8171 Maple Lawn Blvd., Fulton, 301-498-9666
The tapas restaurant and gathering spot has survived the other early tenants of the Maple Lawn development. If the suburban-contemporary setting is a bit cold, such consistently performing dishes like the frito mixto, lamb chops and tuna tartare warm it up considerably.
47. Severn Inn
1993 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., Annapolis, 410-349-4000
The quality of the cuisine has tended to ebb and flow over the years at this waterside restaurant. At its best, the restaurant comes close to the ideal traditional seafood restaurant. The scenic view from here, hard to beat, cushions the blows when things aren't perfect.
46. Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro
8775 Centre Park Drive, 410-772-5300
When it opened back in 1999, Jesse was credited with bringing bistro-style sophistication to a drab Asian dining scene. ("Asean," by the way, stands for "Association of East Asian Nations.") The tide has turned in Howard County toward more homespun Asian cuisine, but Jesse Wong's is still a sterling date-night option.
45. Michael's Cafe
2119 York Road, Timonium, 410-252-2022
The very model of the reliable, unpretentious, boisterous, family-owned, family-friendly Baltimore County café and pub. The Dellis Family converted the old Fairgrounds Inn into this haven for softball-sized crabcakes back in 1990, expanded it in 1996, and it's been packed ever since.
44. El Salto
8816 Waltham Woods Road, Parkville, 410-668-3980
The original and still much-loved home (in a former fast-food joint) for inexpensive Mexican food. Old-school combination platters and unlimited supplies of chips and salsa. It's reached inexpensive-eats institution status.
43. Cafe de Paris
8808 Centre Park Drive # 101, Columbia, 410-997-3904
Nine years after making the move to Columbia from its original Laurel home, Erik Rochard's lively French cafe has shown the impressive legs of a can-can dancer. Croque Monsieur, onion soup and escargots of course, but Rochard's approach isn't a museum curator's - it's lighter and more accessible.
1725 Taylor Ave., Parkville, 410-661-4357
In her 1999 review of this Parkville landmark, Elizabeth Large said, "Basically Pappas is the kind of Old Baltimore restaurant - it's been owned and operated by the same folks since 1972 - that I'm very fond of." People swear by the crabcakes here, and standouts like crab imperial and stuffed shrimp. Not the most exciting menu, her review concluded, but "regulars will know the best things on the menu to order."
5002 Honeygo Center Drive, Perry Hall, 410-256-9136
"You can't really go wrong," I wrote in my 2008 review of this pretty restaurant located in the Honeygo Village Center. The menu of Japanese and Chinese favorites has much to recommend, but don't pass up one of the house's "sizzling specialities." A second location operates in Forest Hill.
40. Artful Gourmet
9433 Common Brook Road, Owings Mills, 410-356-2606
The service is sharp and the surroundings are pleasant at this hard-working bistro. The wholesome Mediterranean cuisine has its creative moments but few real surprises. The outdoor patio is worth waiting for.
39. Sunset Restaurant
625 Greenway Road S.E., Glen Burnie, 410-768-1417
Writing in 2003, Elizabeth Large said, "If any restaurant has inherited Haussner's mantle as the quintessential Old Baltimore eating place, it would have to be the Sunset, a Glen Burnie fixture since the '60s." It would be worth a visit just for the relish tray, but the seafood dishes are solidly built, soups are delicious and drinks are stiff.
38. Harry Browne's
66 State Circle, Annapolis, 410-263-4332