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Carroll County Restaurant Week appeals to a plethora of palates

After visiting family in Westminster, siblings Julie Holtkamp and Richard Koucheravy enjoyed lunch at O'Lordan's Irish Pub Sunday afternoon.

The pub is one of 31 restaurants participating in the sixth annual Carroll County Restaurant Week, Aug. 14 through 21. Each restaurant creates special fixed price menus.

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"We came here 10 years ago, and I remembered it as a very authentic Irish restaurant," said Holtkamp, of Bristow, Virginia. "We wanted to come back, try it again and get some crab soup. We live in Virginia, so we miss Maryland flavors."

"I ordered the corned beef and cabbage. It's the perfect Irish meal, and I also got a good Irish ale," added Koucheravy, of Fairfax, Va. "I like it here. It has a very Irish feel."

Crab soup as well as corned beef and cabbage are featured on O'Lordan's 2016 Restaurant Week menu.

Local restaurant owners Dante Liberatore and Ken Lurie launched the first Carroll County Restaurant Week in 2011, according to Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations Peggy Soper. Now the chamber, the Carroll County Department of Economic Development and the Carroll County Tourism Office partner to promote a week of discounted dining throughout Carroll County.

O'Lordan's general manager, Cody Snyder, said all participating restaurants are featuring meals they regularly serve.

"This week allows people to try something or a restaurant they wouldn't normally pick. If they like it, they can come back and get it again," Snyder said. "Customers love it because they're getting a great bang for their buck. It's a great time for people to come out and see what their local restaurants are doing. Supporting local businesses is critical in Carroll County."

In town for a horse show, Chip and Cindy Brown, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, dined with their daughter, Maddie Brown, of Towson, in the downtown Westminster eatery.

"We did a drive by and liked that it looked old and historic," Chip Brown said. "We came in, and it has a great feel. We wanted to try the traditional Irish fare, and that's what they had for restaurant week."

With his parents and brother visiting in town, Joe Mancuso, of Westminster, said O'Lordan's was a great place to catch up.

"It's one of my favorite places around here. Mom loves this place. And every time they visit, we eat here at least once," Mancuso said. "It has a unique layout, the food is always good, they have a great beer selection and good service."

Relishing lunch upstairs, Carole and Charles Strumsky, of Finksburg, said they have patronized O'Lordan's many times.

"It's our favorite restaurant in Carroll County," Carole said. "We like it for the quality of their food, and its variety and uniqueness. It's authentic Irish fare, and we love the ambience. The wait staff is attentive without being intrusive."

John Clark Jr., of Taneytown, brought his wife, Eileen, to O'Lordan's to celebrate her birthday.

"I ordered the fish and chips," John Clark said. "I had it last time and it was good. We really like it here."

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"We started coming here about two years ago after our grandson brought us," Eileen Clark added. "We like the atmosphere."

Roberto Flores and Clay Barrow own Habaneros Mexican Kitchen & Tequileria in Westminster. The restaurant opened in February, and this is their first year participating in Carroll County Restaurant Week. The restaurant offers authentic Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine, and recently began serving Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and meeting new customers," Flores said.

"The restaurant business in Carroll County can be slow in July and August. It's a great way to get local people out around town," Barrow said, adding, "I hope the specials intrigue people. It's a pretty good deal."

According to server Jillian Eastwood, Habaneros' Restaurant Week menu highlights the chef's dessert specialty Sweet Jorge. Named for the chef, it is a fried Mexican street bread rolled in cinnamon sugar and topped with ice cream and caramel sauce.

"It's bread like you'd find at a street fair," Eastwood said. "It's soft and gooey on the inside, and the outside is crispy. It's my favorite because it's so delicious."

Customer Bill McGargle, of Finksburg, said he started coming to Habaneros the week they opened. He visits two or three times a month.

"The food's good, and the people are very friendly," McGargle said. " I like that the music isn't so loud. It's easy to have a conversation here."

Angie Grim, of Eldersburg, returned to the restaurant for a second time and brought a few of her friends and family.

"I have food allergies, and they're always very accommodating," Grim said. "It's a pleasant environment, and the food is amazing."

Sean Storm manages Finksburg's Belisimos Ristorante, a local Italian chain that features classic dishes, pool and live music in a casual setting. Storm said the restaurant has participated in years past and always has a good turnout.

"I think it's a good thing for the community," Storm said. "It encourages people to try different things."

Storm said their Carroll County Restaurant Week menu features a Powerhouse salad loaded with charbroiled chicken, bacon, onions, tomato and hard-boiled eggs.

"It's been a really popular item. We use all white meat chicken, and the char broiling really brings out the flavor," Storm said.

The menu also features gyros.

"We use lamb right off the spit and grill it up," Storm said. "We serve it on warm pita bread with tomatoes, onions, lettuce and tzatziki sauce."

While playing pool, Levi Morfoot, of Upperco, praised Belisimos for its great atmosphere and very affordable prices.

"It's the cheapest beer and food in town," Morfoot said.

Jimmy Gordon, of Westminster, and his wife, Cindy, patronize Belisimos at least three times a week.

"There are a lot of locals. It's kind of like a Cheers bar. Everybody knows everybody," Gordon said.

Mt. Airy Tavern owner John Alascio said Carroll County Restaurant Week brings a lot of people into his establishment. Alascio said their Restaurant Week menu features filet mignon.

"It's a good draw for us. They see the deal, and they know it's a deal and it brings them in," Alascio said.

E.W. Beck's Pub's general manager Dan Feehan agreed that Carroll County Restaurant Week helps drive business to the Sykesville eatery. Feehan said their Restaurant Week menu features a crab cake sandwich, one of the pub's signature dishes.

"August is typically a slower month because of vacation season. It's a good way to bring in some new faces, and it's very reasonably priced," Feehan said. "It gets our name out there, and we want people to come in here and try the items. I think it's great that it's getting bigger and bigger each year. It's a good way for people to go out and try new places."

410-857-7873

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If you go

2016 Carroll County Restaurant Week

Where: Belisimo's, Cryin' Johnnies, Memories Charcoal House, The Mt. Airy Tavern, Baldwin's Station, The County Cork Wine Pub, E. W. Beck's Pub, G. L. Shacks Grill, Glory Days Grill, Liberatore's Ristorante (all locations), Oscar's Alehouse, Salerno's Restaurant, Flick's Pub, The Buttersburg Inn, Blue Bistro Deli & Catering, Bud's at Silver Run, Bullock's Family Restaurant, Gypsy's Tearoom, Habanero's Mexican Kitchen & Tequileria, Jeannie Bird Baking Co., Johansson's Dining House, Legend's Café, Maggie's Restaurant, O'Lordan's Irish Pub, Paradiso Ristorante, Rafael's Restaurant, Sakura Japanese Steakhouse, The Stables Restaurant, Texas Roadhouse and Tim Thai Classic.

When: Aug. 14 through 21

Cost: Varies

For more information and menus: visit http://carrollcountyrestaurantweek.com/.

For questions: call 410-848-9050.

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