No strangers to adversity, many historic Ellicott City restaurants offer carryout during coronavirus outbreak

While restaurants, cafes and bars around the state are either temporarily closed or only allowed to provide carryout and delivery services amid the spread of the new coronavirus, Syriana Cafe in historic Ellicott City is taking it one step further by lending a helping hand to those in need and donating meals

For every carryout meal purchased, the cafe is donating a meal to those in need through a partnership with Calvary Chapel. Syriana Cafe is open for carryout and delivery with limited hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Orders can be made by phone or online.


Syriana Cafe is a family business that was created first as a social responsibility, a source of income second, owner Majd AlGhatrif said. First opened at 8180 Main St. in 2017 as a craft store and gallery, the cafe opened in early 2018.

The cafe hires Syrian refugees to help them put food on their own tables, AlGhatrif said. The cafe also hosts monthly cultural events.


“Yes, as ominous as this picture of holding hands might appear in this pandemic, as much as we need what it implies: being there for each other,” the cafe wrote in a Facebook post about its donation initiative.

“In this ordeal, we were faced with the responsibility to maintain income to our hardworking staff, to provide food to our neighbors in need and to inject some joy in your lives with our delicious food,” the post states.

“While it’s fiscally sensible for us to be closed, we find there is some opportunity while we are not on lockdown to provide some service, provide patrons with food and help those in need,” AlGhatrif said.

The restaurant is also offering delivery with GrubHub.

On Tuesday, the cafe donated 18 meals to the Calvary Chapel. Those meals were donated ahead of the buy a meal/donate a meal campaign.

“We didn’t want to wait until next Tuesday to help people in need,” said AlGhatrif, who is looking to provide meals each Tuesday.

Calvary Chapel Pastor Dan Sexton said he grew emotional when he received a text message from AlGhatrif, who was looking to lend a helping hand.

Sexton has eaten at the cafe a couple of times and, after speaking with AlGhatrif on a few occasions, they exchanged contact information. Sexton was surprised that AlGhatrif remembered he was a pastor and that AlGhatrif wanted to give back to the community when he has to keep his own doors open.

“I was really moved by his generosity,” Sexton said.

The Tuesday meals will coincide with the grocery boxes the church provides to families weekly. In partnership with Trader Joe’s in Columbia, the church makes boxes out of the store’s grocery surplus.

Besides the church, Syriana Cafe is looking to collaborate with other local organizations and churches.

As of Thursday, there have been at least 107 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maryland, according to state officials, with 16 of those in Howard County. Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that a 5-year-old girl in Howard County has tested positive, the first case with a child. There has been one death in the state so far, a Prince George’s man in his 60s.

Restaurants offering carryout, limited service

Historic Ellicott City restaurants and small businesses are no strangers to having to close abruptly and not knowing when they will reopen.

Many of the businesses along Ellicott City’s Main Street have suffered from two catastrophic, deadly floods in 2016 and 2018 that left the downtown area devastated. Some reopened, while some owners decided to move on.

“This is a whole different kind of thing, but the fact we have dealt with such extreme things in the past with the flooding, we are way more prepared than most people are,” said Jeni Porter, owner of Little Market Cafe.

For now, Little Market Cafe is offering its full menu from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through carryout only. Patrons can order and pay by phone ahead of time, so they don’t have to stand in line, Porter said.

The cafe will take it day by day and is keeping in mind the safety of its staff, Porter said.

Little Market Cafe, as well as the Phoenix Emporium and Jaxon Edwin, recently were part of the filming of a special two-hour episode of “24 Hours to Hell and Back” that will air in May. Celebrity chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay was in historic Ellicott City at the end of February for the renovations and filming.

“This whole sort of team descended upon that gorgeous little town. I understood ... no one’s looking for a pity party — let’s get that right,” Ramsey said in an interview on Feb. 28. “They were just desperately struggling to bounce back the way they should’ve done, but who can on the back of two critical, serious adversities. It’s bloody hard.”

Porter said this week the quiet streets are “very reminiscent of the flood except that nothing is destroyed.”

After previously saying the Phoenix Emporium’s lower Main Street location would permanently end its restaurant and bar service and not serve carryout, owner Mark Hemmis changed his mind.

He said the reversal was because of his strong commitment to his employees.

“After both floods, all of my employees were able to find temporary jobs at other restaurants and bars,” Hemmis said Thursday. “That is not possible with this current closure.”

Phoenix Brewing Company, a merger of the Phoenix Emporium and Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, is closed and will not serve carryout at its new upper Main Street location at this time.

The original lower Main Street location is serving carryout, and patrons also can purchase gift certificates.

Hemmis said 100% “of the sales of gift certificates and carryout is going into a fund that will provide emergency relief for my employees. I could have never come back from either flood without them. I’m doing anything I can to make sure that they are taken care of.”

Carryout and curbside pickup is available from 5 to 9 p.m. every day with a daily menu posted at 3 p.m. Patrons can begin calling at 4:45 p.m. every day at 410-465-5665 to place an order.

To purchase mail-ordered gift certificates, customers can call 410-313-8141 from noon to 4 p.m. The certificates will be mailed the same day as they are purchased.


Georgia Grace Cafe, located on lower Main Street, also is offering carryout services. The cafe’s modified schedule is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday.


Owner Paula Dwyer said this week she is looking to provide a service to those who need food.

“It’s a fluid situation,” Dwyer said. “I want to still have the service for people.”

Matcha Time Cafe, a Japanese cafe and gift shop, is operating with carryout, call-in orders and GrubHub delivery from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Monday.

The cafe is staying open to be able to pay its bills and its employees, said co-owner Derek Smith. The cafe will make adjustments as necessary.

“To say business is still great is a flat-out lie; it’s terrible,” Smith said. “We went from being pretty busy, pretty much status quo, to barely making enough to keep the lights on.”

While Sweet Cascades Chocolatier’s two Howard County locations are temporarily closed, the kitchen is open to fulfill Easter bunny orders and any other chocolate goodies, according to owner Sue Whary.

Its Main Street location and shop within the Savage Mill are closed.

“If [residents] are missing their favorite chocolate, they can call us and place an order or visit our website and get it shipped,” Whary said. “We’ll get the chocolates to them.”

As orders are made and ready to be delivered, there will be a curbside pickup option or the orders can be shipped directly to a patron’s home. Customers can call 410-750-8422 or visit sweetcascadeschocolatier.com.

La Palapa Grill, at 8307 Main St., is offering carryout and curbside pickup every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Old Mill Cafe, located across the Patapsco River from Main Street, is open for carryout and curbside pickup with a limited menu from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. People are asked to call 410-465-2253 to order.

“Until further notice, will keep our business and doors open in an effort to continue to support the community and keep our staff on payroll,” a representative from the restaurant said in a statement.

The Trolley Stop near Old Mill Cafe is offering carryout for its lunch and dinner menus from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The restaurant also has beer, wine and liquor available for carryout purchase.

Judge’s Bench, a historic pub with 19 rotating taps at 8385 Main St., is open for growler sales from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A limited menu of carryout food items is also available with any growler order. For information, call 410-465-3497 or go to judgesbenchpub.com.

Main Street businesses temporarily closed

Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant announced last week it will be temporarily closed and hopes to return to normal operating hours as soon as it is able.

“With heavy hearts, we are suspending operations,” the restaurant wrote in a Facebook post. “We all have to do our part during this outbreak, this is ours.”

Even with being closed, the restaurant is encouraging patrons to frequent small businesses at this time.

“On a personal note, our restaurant family and extended [Old Ellicott City] business community has been here before. We encourage you to frequent small businesses in the coming weeks and months. We thank you for your continued support,” according to the restaurant’s website.

UMI Sushi announced last week it also will temporarily be closed. The Japanese restaurant hopes to reopen as soon as possible, according to its Facebook page.

Manor Hill Tavern, at 3733 Old Columbia Pike, offered curbside pickup for a brief time but has since closed completely.

“Manor Hill Tavern is committed to the safety of our staff, our guests and our community and have made the difficult decision to close until it is safe to reopen,” a post on the restaurant’s website reads.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun