Diners familiar with the historic Milton Inn in northern Baltimore County needn't whet their appetites for a carbon copy of the iconic restaurant's pricey fare when owner and executive chef Brian Boston opens his second eatery in Highland this summer.
That's not the game plan.
The Highland Inn will be located in a renovated 1890s farmhouse that had undergone two modern and somewhat haphazard additions, a stone's throw from the sleepy crossroads of Route 108 and Highland Road in southwest Howard County.
At a groundbreaking Monday, April 30, Boston said July is the target date for the grand opening, though "the sooner, the better."
Labeled "casual fine dining," the menu for the restaurant is still in the works, Boston said, but its portion sizes and pricing will be half that of its renowned cousin in Sparks. The chef at the new restaurant has yet to be named as contract details are still being finalized, he said.
"The restaurant will be distinctive, yet carry over the flavors of the Milton Inn," Boston said. Entrees will be priced between $21 and $30 instead of the $30, $40 and $50 menu choices at his Baltimore County location. Sandwiches and burgers also will be available.
Dan O'Leary, president of the Greater Highland Crossroads Association, told a small gathering on a back patio overlooking an old farm pond on the three-acre plot that the community had reached "a general consensus" that the site makes sense as a restaurant.
"I'm not going to say there was unanimous consent, since there are always people opposed to anything," he said.
Greg Phillips, part of the restaurant's ownership group and a spokesman for Maryland Real Estate Development, said, "There was a lot of pressure for this [property] to be used as commercial since it sits so close to the road. Three or four years ago, we sat down with the community to discuss it."
Phillips said the community had been promised a full-service restaurant on a nearby property but the septic yield wouldn't permit it, so the idea of creating a restaurant was floated again.
"To be honest, I didn't think we could get someone of Brian's stature, but we did," he said. "We've been overwhelmed by the level of community support we've received."
Also in attendance Monday were County Executive Ken Ulman, state Sen. Allan Kittleman, Del. Guy Guzzone, and County Council members Greg Fox, Courtney Watson and Mary Kay Sigaty.
The parcel had been zoned residential rural, but with the capability for business rural overlay, said Fox, a Republican who represents the community. Phillips added that the site's only use now is as a restaurant and "if we bomb, the community can rest assured that another restaurant would take our place."
He added: "It's been a long process to find what would make the property successful, but not too imposing a use for the community."
After the ceremony, O'Leary said that while the community is pleased with the restaurant's plans, it is equally as satisfied with what it won't be doing.
"Although it's an expansion of the commercial area and we didn't want that, the project appealed to us because of their willingness to do whatever was necessary and reasonable to satisfy the community," O'Leary said.
Consequently, there will be a ban on amplified sound, restricted operating hours, low-level outdoor lighting and beefed-up landscaping, he said.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant will seat 131 patrons in four dining areas, giving management and customers alike the flexibility of both attire and ambience, the owners say. Patrons will be able to buy wine by the bottle to take home.
The main dining area will be on the second floor and will be flanked by two 8-by-17-foot equestrian-themed murals painted by Owings Mills artist Sam Robinson. There will be a bar on the first floor and a third indoor dining area in the former basement, which can be opened onto a patio where seating will be under six cantilevered umbrellas. Tents can be erected in the back of the property for special events.
About 75 jobs will be created when the restaurants opens its doors, Boston said.