Local restaurants earn Association nominations

Second Chance Saloon may be one of the most unlikely nominees in the Restaurant Association of Maryland award field, but it's not the only Howard County venue to be recognized.

Joining Second Chance in the best bar/tavern category is Nottingham's, which is located in the ground floor at an office park off Snowden River Parkway.

"It's an honor," said Nottingham's manager Stuart Rubin. "There are so many bars and restaurants in Howard County and Maryland; its good to be in that top one percent."

Nottingham's, which has been in Columbia since 1992, underwent changes when general manager Mimi Morlock was hired in January 2012, Rubin said.

Morlock shuffled the staff, revamped the menu and added new promotions to the tavern, which Rubin described as adult contemporary.

Nottingham's is busiest during weekday happy hours and weekends, said Rubin, who added music is provided on weekends by local bands or DJs.

Two other county restaurants going toe-to-toe are Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia and Kloby's Smokehouse in North Laurel. Both restaurants have received nominations for "Craft Brew Program of the Year."

"It's a huge honor to just be in the running," said Tori Marriner, Victoria Gastro Pub's chief experience officer. "Fingers crossed, hopefully we can come out with the win."

Marriner said the pub offers 24 beers on tap, which change daily, and 250 in the bottle.

"We pride ourselves on offering eclectic, hard-to-get beers," Marriner said.

In addition to a wide selection, the pub also has a beer club that rewards patrons through giveaways and discounts on purchases and tickets to the pub's beer events, which include two seasonal craft brew festivals and special dinners.

"It's a fun way to encourage people to try all the different unique craft beers we offer," Marriner said about the club.

Steve Klobosits, owner of Kloby's Smokehouse, said the barbecue restaurant offers 32 tap handles, 27 of which are dedicated to craft beers.

"We are all about barbecue and that really ties together well with craft beer," Klobosits said. "It's very exciting to be nominated. It' hard in today's economy and market to be successful, so to have someone recognize our abilities is outstanding."

Aida's Wine Bar and Bistro, of Columbia, also was nominated against four others for Wine and Beverage Program of the Year.

"It's always an honor to be nominated among your peers, especially in a great restaurant state like Maryland," said Joe Barbera, owner of Aida's Wine Bar and Bistro.

Aida's boasts the largest wine on tap system in the state and the second largest in the nation with more than 30 local, national and international wines to choose from, according to Barbera.

"The wine on tap offers the freshest product you can offer. It's consistent and it represents the producer of the wine fairly."

Aida's also has a wine club, which offers special offers and promotions such as discounts and members-only wine tastings.

According to Laurel Kimmel of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, the nominees are chosen by a panel of 10 restaurant and hospitality industry professionals from a list of thousands submitted by members of the public.

Kimmel said the annual awards, which are in their 59th year, are open to the more than 9,000 establishments in the state, not just the 2,000 members of the association.

For 2012, Howard County has put forth one of its strongest showings yet, Kimmel said.

"The dining public seems to voice their opinion a lot (in Howard County). It is a group that will take action and the establishments represented have a really big following," Kimmel said. "For not being one of the largest counties, this is a good representation."

The winners, which were voted on by patrons at association's website through March 8, will be announced on April 15 at the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Awards Gala in Baltimore.

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