We couldn't leave out Harry Browne's, an Annapolis landmark that specializes in providing a kind of classic fine-dining experience that's all but disappeared. How often Harry Browne's still delivers on its promise is one of the capital's evergreen chattering topics.
51 West St., Annapolis, 410-990-9868167 West St., Annapolis, 410-280-0086
A solid one-two punch for the stylish consumption of sushi and pan-Asian cuisine (Tsunami) and Thai food (Lemongrass). Under the same ownership, the two restaurants were left unblemished by the unhappy expansion into Baltimore. Service issues still erupt occasionally, and the atmosphere can be loud (Tsunami) or crowded (Lemongrass).
36. Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar
1905 Towne Centre Blvd., Annapolis, 410-897-1022
The best thing about this stylish newcomer, imported from Cleveland, of all places, is that it knows what it is. Early on, it felt well managed and sincere about making large groups of people happy on a Saturday night. The main courses can lean toward the fruity or the bland, but the guacamole is surpassingly fresh and a few of the tacos are outstanding.
35. Edgewater Restaurant
148 Mayo Road, Edgewater, 410-956-3202
Only recently has this 60-year-plus roadside eatery become a must-stop on any grand crab cake tour. Its ambience typically gets described as "not fancy" -- and sometimes "definitely not fancy" -- and there are few superlative claims about the balance of the menu, but a great crab cake is worth a road trip.
34. Kings Contrivance
10150 Shaker Drive, Columbia, 410-995-0500
Not inspiring but dependable, well managed, and one of the last destinations for old-school continental dining in Howard County. It endures as a special-restaurant that still feels special.
33. Grille at Peerce's
12460 Dulaney Valley Road, Phoenix, 410-252-7111
Back from the dead, the old Peerce's Plantation has been redone, under different ownership, as a friendly tavern. The menu is in Mark Hofmann's reliable hands, but the bar has been the big draw early on.
32. Christopher Daniel
106 West Padonia Road, Timonium, 410-308-1800
In the capable hands of Christopher Ellis, the contemporary American restaurant has survived the departure of co-owner Daniel Chaustit for Crush in Belvedere Square and somehow even overcome the resistance some diners have to its crowded strip-mall dining room.
7530 Montpelier Road, Laurel, 301-604-5555
Gino Palma-Esposito is the chef at this comfortably stylish bistro, which became an instant hit by hitting all the right notes. It's chic but accessible, and seems to know that kids don't need to be babied with crayons and chicken fingers, which is why they love it.
30. Shin Chon Garden
8801 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-461-3280
The entire list of 50 nearly could have been devoted to Howard County's Asian restaurants. This one is a category-breaker, though, a restaurant that serves memorable and even mesmerizing Korean barbecue. It's worth the trip.
69 West St., Annapolis, 410-268-0003
A main street newcomer that burst out of the gate with an ambitious menu and an attractively self-assured attitude, the "small plates lounge" earned a heap of praise its freshman year.
28. Rumor Mill
8069 Tiber Alley, Ellicott City, 410-461-0041 This is an ambitious small-plates fusion joint. It has been know to trip itself up, resulting in inconsistent results, but in a conservative dining town, the Rumor Mill's gung-ho attitude deserves some patient support.
803-805 Frederick Road, Catonsville, 410-788-0075
Regions, the follow-up restaurant to the neighboring Catonsville Gourmet, is another winner for the team. It's admirably sure-footed and impressively versatile, making for an especially welcome addition to the upscale-casual category. It's a place for adults, who have taken to it.
26. Mango Grove
6365 Dobbin Road, Columbia, 410-884-3426
An aside mention here for the House of India, which easily could have made the list. But Rohit Chawla's restaurant earns its ranking by establishing its own cuisine category - the vegetarian cuisine of South India. The dosa, a kind of crepe, is a revelation, and the owner's adjacent restaurant, Mirchi Wok, has meat on the menu, too.
25. Aida Bistro
6741 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, 410-953-0500
Mary and Joe Barbera took their Italian bistro out of its comfort zone, relocating in a new and bigger location across the way. The best addition is an innovative wine-on-tap program, the area's first, which comes along with a full-service wine bar, a great amenity for the area. The menu has kept its seasonal, homemade and local focus and now includes more small-plate options.
24. Elkridge Furnace Inn
5745 Furnace Ave., Elkridge, 410-379-9336
Romantic and gracious, Daniel Wecker's destination restaurant rewards the investment put in it. But the menu has evolved over the years, and has kept evolving without ever lapsing into trendiness.
23. Grace Garden