By L'Oreal Thompson
9:51 AM EDT, May 16, 2011
From Mexican to Italian and hamburgers to seafood, Harford County has a variety of restaurants to whet your appetite. Featured here are your “Reader’s Picks” for best restaurants. So hop in your car, grab some friends and get ready to sample some of Harford’s best places to eat, drink and have a good time.
Since its opening in 2002, Looney’s North in Bel Air has become Harford County’s go-to spot for watching football games, live entertainment and drink specials after a long day of work, making it the “Best Sports Bar,” “Best Live Music” and “Best Happy Hour” in Harford County. “You’re guaranteed to have a good time when you come to Looney’s,” says Adriane Kleinman, general manager of Looney’s. “Or, as we call it, the Looney Bin.”
Happy hour runs Monday through Friday and, on the weekends, there is live music. With more than 80 high-definition TVs, there is no excuse for missing the big game, especially when the Ravens are playing. “Everyone is bleeding purple,” Adriane says. “It’s so loud and everyone is so pumped for the game. It’s sports craziness all day.”
Cory Skidmore and John Lotz of Street, Maryland come to Looney’s every Wednesday for lunch. “We like the area, we like the bar and the staff is wonderful to deal with,” Cory says. “We have a lot of fun.” Cory’s grandfather, John, agrees. “It’s the atmosphere and the camaraderie,” John says. “And the sports, obviously.”
New to the restaurant scene in Harford County is Famous Dave’s, a nationwide chain known best for its award-winning barbecue ribs and hickory-smoked meats. The Bel Air location opened in September 2010 and quickly became a crowd pleaser, earning a coveted title as the county’s “Best New Restaurant.”
In addition to St. Louis-style ribs, the menu at Famous Dave’s features Georgia chopped pork sandwiches coated in the restaurant’s renowned Rich & Sassy barbecue sauce, scrumptious side dishes and homestyle desserts. “I love the bread pudding at Famous Dave’s,” says Roksana Chesley of Abingdon, Maryland.
Jim Lenchner, regional manager for Famous Dave’s, believes the restaurant’s family-friendly atmosphere and superb service has greatly contributed to its success. “It’s some place you can come in with the kids and eat a reasonably priced meal,” he says.
For the best martini and seafood in town, you’ll want to make a reservation at Bonefish Grill, located next door to Five Guys Burgers and Fries at Harford Mall in Bel Air. The restaurant was voted “Best Martini,” “Best Seafood Restaurant” and “Best Place for a Date.”
“Quality is first and foremost,” Matt Hoffman, managing partner of Bonefish, says. “We care for our guests. We want this to be their favorite place to eat, drink and be with friends.”
Bonefish has a variety of martinis to choose from, including the Skinny Rita-Tini, made with Sauza “Hornitos” tequila, fresh lime and agave nectar; Pomegranate Martini, a house-made infusion with Fris vodka, pomegranate and fresh mango; and the Bonefish Martini, made with Stoli vodka, cranberry and sparkling Prosecco.
On the seafood side, the Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer—crispy shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce—is so popular it has its own day. Every Wednesday, you can enjoy Bang Bang Shrimp for just 5 dollars. Chilean Sea Bass and Imperial Longfin (stuffed tilapia) pan seared, baked and stuffed with shrimp, scallops, crab meat and lemon caper butter are popular dishes as well.
Five Guys Burger and Fries
For the best bang for your buck, head on over to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. With everything priced under seven dollars, Five Guys keeps it real with delicious burgers and mouthwatering fries.
“Five Guys is a unique beast, in my opinion,” says Jeff Mengel, franchisee for the Bel Air, White Marsh, Timonium and Towson locations. “It’s a no-frills atmosphere with a brown bag and napkins in the bag. The focus is really not on the attractiveness. There’s a fanatical focus on the food.”
Hamburgers, cheeseburgers and hot dogs come with your choice of free toppings. For the vegetarian in your group, Five Guys offers veggie and grilled cheese sandwiches. “There are not a lot of alternatives on the menu,” Jeff says. “We stick to the few things we do really well and focus on that.”
Specializing in Mexican cuisine, La Tolteca knocked out the competition to earn “Best Ethnic Restaurant” in Harford County. With locations two locations in Bel Air and Aberdeen, the menu is full of appetizing Mexican favorites, such as fajitas, nachos, tacos, enchiladas and burritos. Chips and salsa are served with meals and the margaritas are a huge hit as well.
Eva Lukasik, of Bel Air, is a fan of the enchiladas at La Tolteca and cites “good service, good food and good prices” as her reasons for eating there.
Manager David Carrillo, of the Churchville Road location in Bel Air, thinks people like the food because it’s fresh. “We make it every day. We prepare rice every day,” David says. “Everything is day to day. People taste that and they like it. We have good quality food, and the price is right for the amount of food we give.”
With melodious Italian music playing in the background and picturesque portraits of the Italian countryside hanging on the walls, it may be hard to believe you’re still in Harford County when you visit Basta Pasta, which was voted “Best Italian Restaurant.”
Located in Fallston, Basta Pasta has been serving homemade Italian recipes since 2005. The menu includes traditional Italian dishes, such as Chicken and Veal Parmigiana, Baked Penne and Seafood Marinara, which includes jumbo lump crabmeat, scallops and shrimp sautéed in marina sauce served over linguini.
All entrées are served with unlimited salad and homemade breadsticks. “There is someone actually cooking here,” says John Skevo, one of the managers for Basta Pasta. “We have pots of sauce on the stove boiling. We have true homemade food. People feel that when they come here.”
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