It’s pretty much a given that every neighborhood is home to a public house where locals can gather for quaffs and noshes. The latest in conviviality is The Corner Stable in the Columbia village of Kings Contrivance. This 198-seat watering hole is an offshoot of the very successful Cockeysville eatery of the same name, which has been around since 1970. Owners of the original Corner Stable (for the past 10 years) as well as the new Corner Stable (Part Deux) are Chip Reed and his wife, Randy.
The ambience in the newer eatery is contemporarily sporty or sportily contemporary, depending on where you’re seated. Done up in burgundy and charcoal, there are sports memorabilia in a few places, plus horse-racing pictures, since the Reeds are into the Sport of Kings. And, of course, televisions, although one would be hard put to actually hear the game that’s on, since the Reeds arguably forgot to do something about noise abatement when they redid the former Michael’s Pub.
There are small two-seater booths in the new bar area if you’re doing a one-on-one meal, and plenty of tables for four or more that wind around the restaurant.
The new bar is quite expansive and is topped by Peruvian marble. In the politically correct spirit of recycling, though, the floors and one of the walls are done up in old brick that was salvaged during the recent takedown of a defunct Chicago bank that opened in 1900, says Reed.
We have to think it’s the food, however, that brought this Corner Stable almost immediate success. Even on the Monday evening that we five visited, the place was crowded. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that the Monday-night dinner special is a rack of spareribs for $14.99.
Classic pub fare
If visitors to these shores were seeking an example of quintessential contemporary American pub cuisine they would need go no further than the Corner Stable. The menu boasts everything you’d expect from such an establishment, plus a few items that are a bit different. Battered, fried cheddar cheese nuggets, for example, and fried pickle spears. And that’s just for “starters.”
The menu is as substantial as the food, with something in each section to please traditionalists and the more adventurous.
It isn’t necessarily what’s on the menu that makes an eatery popular, however. It’s what the kitchen does with the raw ingredients. From what we sampled, the kitchen staff, headed by Chef Bryant, has recipe interpretation well in hand. However, there were some draggy times between our orders and the food’s arrival, so a bit more coordination among the employees is needed.
The Stable Combo ($10.99) served as a shared appetizer. It boasted four sweet corn nuggets, three breaded pickle spears, five beer-battered onion rings and three jalapeño poppers, all crisp, hot, nicely fried, with honey mustard and barbecue ranch dressing.
We also tried the sweet corn nuggets ($5.99), which were like corn fritters, only very tender and moist inside and delicately crisped outside. The nuggets came with maple-style syrup for dunking.
Our party tried a variety of entrées, including an entrée salad. The blackened chicken cranapple salad ($10.99) delivered what the menu promised, only with the chicken non-blackened (per our taster’s request): crisp, fresh romaine, tender, moist grilled chicken, Granny Smith apple slices, mandarin oranges, craisins and croutons, with a somewhat spicy mango vinaigrette dressing on the side. It was ample in size and just a bit “different.”
There’s a build-your-own-burger option, and one of our diners did just that. His angus burger ($8.50) was built from the grilled beef patty and topped with Swiss cheese, bacon and blue cheese crumbles. And don’t forget the fries. The burger was excellent, but the fluffy, eggy bun was a bit too “wussy.”
Barbecued baby back ribs — a signature dish — were on special for $14.99, including fries (good, by the way). The whole rack arrived hot and fall-off-the-bone tender. The restaurant rib sauce is a sweet-spicy concoction, and we found it rather overwhelmed the meat. So next time we’ll get the sauce on the side.
The other Corner Stable specialty is crab cakes. We sampled them amid the bounty that is known as the “Showstopper” ($29.99/perfect for two). There was another full rack of ribs in this offering, plus a half-pound jumbo lump crab cake. (The dish also comes with a choice of two side dishes.)
Anyway, the crab cake got super-rave reviews. It was really lumpy with a nice balance of spices. The small amount of filler only added to the overall good flavor and comforting satisfaction.
A final note: Although there was a little lag time between courses, our food seemed worth the wait. That is until it came to dessert when we opted for one order of rice pudding ($5.99). It was too sweet, with a cinnamon syrup and a dab of whipped cream over very sticky rice that didn’t have much flavor of its own.
The Corner Stable
Kings Contrivance Village Center
8630 Guilford Road Columbia