The reason to make the trip to Lake Kittamaqundi is that Sushi Sono might just have the best sushi in the four-county area. Now a perennial award-winner, the Japanese restaurant has steadily built its reputation over the nearly 13 years it's been open, and news that the owner and chef, who goes by the name of King, is introducing a new roll to this repertoire spreads like green tea over rice.
10. The Oregon Grille
1201 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, 410-771-0505
The beautiful steakhouse has only grown in stature over the years, as it's served generations of northern Baltimore County residents their birthday, anniversary and graduation dinners. It succeeds by never slipping and never stinting. Its only lapse -- a smugness that occasionally peeks, though.
9. Corner Stable
9942 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-666-8722
Ribs and cakes since 1972, and in the capable hands of Chip and Andy Reed for the past eight years or so. It's true landmark dining, and there's nothing in the city that comes close to competing with it.
8. Victoria Gastro Pub
8201 Snowden River Pkwy., Columbia, 410-750-1880 Its chief strength is that is has no big weaknesses. Folks come here to do business, to hang out with friends, to unwind over happy hour, to gorge on duck-fat fries.
7. Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant
8293 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-465-4004
Now in the hands of the Tersiguel family's younger generation, the Main Street classic (nee Chez Fernand) has weathered its share of storms, inluding a fatal fire, a move to and from Baltimore and a name change. The romantic restaurant has shrugged off some of its conservative clothes, but it remains true Brittany bleu.
6. Great Sage
5809 Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville, 443-535-9400
It went completely vegan last year, and it got better and more popular, which is a good lesson for restaurant owners from Clarksville to Sparks: Do what you think is right, and, people will support you.
5. Catonsville Gourmet
829 Frederick Road, Catonsville, 410-788-0005
Reviewing Catonsville Gourmet in 2008, Elizabeth Large wrote, "Every once in a while, a new restaurant hits the jackpot. It's the right kind of food in the right kind of location with the right kind of atmosphere." This informal, beachy-keen restaurant has held steady since then, and its fans are still singing the praises of the fresh fish preparations and the friendly service.
4. Bistro Blanc
3800 Ten Oaks Road, Glenelg, 410-489-7907
Part wine bar, part restaurant, and a fine showcase for the culinary talents of Marc Dixon. People like to drink a nice glass of wine in a pretty room, it turns out.
3. Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 State Route 108, Columbia, 410-997-3456
What it does, it does perfectly, and the only serious objection is that it's too popular.
25 Crossroads Drive, Owings Mills,410-356-3030
It manages to please without pandering, and Linwood Dame still shows up every day, ready for battle. Due was a momentary distraction, but now Linwoods stands out as one of the area's most focused restaurants.
1. The Milton Inn
14833 York Road Sparks, 410-771-4366
It leverages every bit of history and drama out of its historic setting while never succumbing to a museum-food approach. You can relax here, indulge yourself, and enjoy the fact that Brian Boston is never going to bore you.