5 cozy Howard County restaurants for warm specials this winter

Ken Phillips of Mount Airy looks at a freshly made salted chocolate-covered pretzel martini, a winter-themed drink at Shannon's Saloon at 9338 Baltimore National Pike.
Ken Phillips of Mount Airy looks at a freshly made salted chocolate-covered pretzel martini, a winter-themed drink at Shannon's Saloon at 9338 Baltimore National Pike. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

As winter brings on the cold — and sometimes snowy — weather, we search for cozy places to go out and have a warm meal. From fireplaces and hot comfort foods to special drinks and inviting decor, these five restaurants should be at the top of your list this season.

Shannon’s Saloon

9338 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, shannonssaloon.com, 410-461-4588


An Irish pub with a focus on comfort food, Shannon’s offers a hearty roast beef sandwich smothered in brown gravy in addition to similar hot meal specials on a daily basis.

For winter, the restaurant is featuring a salted chocolate-covered-pretzel martini with salted caramel vodka, Frangelico hazelnut liquor and chocolate sauce lacing the glass.

More than 2,000 people voted in Howard Magazine’s Best Restaurants readers’ poll, selecting their favorites in 45 categories.

“We’re all about comfort food and drinks here,” said Melissa Malone, general manager at Shannon’s Saloon.

A wooden bar and large televisions for watching football games make this a cozy place to gather with friends for a game or to catch up when it’s too cold outside.

Elkridge Furnace Inn

5745 Furnace Ave., Elkridge, elkridgefurnaceinn.com, 410-379-9336

Warm up by the fireplace at this fine-dining restaurant in a historic Elkridge mansion, where the food is still seasonal in winter.


Dan Wecker, executive chef and owner at Elkridge Furnace Inn, said the ingredients come from local farms, the farthest of which is only five miles away.

“We serve a true winter menu with seasonal foods and meats, charcuterie and sausages,” Wecker said.

The historic surroundings at Elkridge Furnace Inn may be more enjoyable than the food, but it's still a charming spot.

Other winter dishes include house-made bacon, free-range eggs and local chicken and veal.

On Jan. 18, Elkridge Furnace Inn is planning a “gourmand gathering” with dishes from five countries influenced by France (among them, Tunisia, Morocco and Spain) with a special themed meal. Tickets are $100.

The White Oak Tavern

10030 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, thewhiteoaktavern.com, 410-680-8974

A unique twist on a classic winter drink is one of the most popular seasonal specials at the White Oak Tavern.

The spiced hot chocolate is made with vanilla vodka, chocolate liquor, chocolate whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

“For fall and winter we have hot drink options that are aimed at being delicious and keeping you warm,” said Clare Frey, one of the owners of the White Oak Tavern.

The restaurant also features a menu of comfort food like grilled tavern steak with parmesan mashed potatoes and brisket stroganoff with fettuccine and wild mushrooms.

The White Oak’s decor aims to be as warm and inviting as the meal. The restaurant features live music indoors during the winter to keep diners entertained when it’s not concert weather outside.

Manor Hill Tavern

3733 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City, manorhilltavern.com, 410-465-8500

Locally sourced vegetables and herbs from their farm highlight the seasonal menu at Manor Hill Tavern right off Main Street in Ellicott City.

The restaurant serves beers from Manor Hill Brewing, which is Howard County’s first farm brewery, including the Manor Hill TDH IPA, Farm Fuzz and the Manor Hill Porter.

Manor Hill also features seasonal specials including a peanut butter candy cake and a s’mores-themed chocolate and marshmallow dessert.

The owners of Victoria Gastro Pub bring their beers and seasonal fare to historic Ellicott City's Manor Hill Tavern.

Their winter drink is a spiked apple cider with local ingredients.

“It’s a fun seasonal adult beverage with Captain Morgan, fresh local apple cider and spices including allspice, cinnamon and cloves,”said Nicholas Thompson, senior operations manager at Manor Hill Tavern.

With bars upstairs and downstairs, there’s plenty of space to bring a group of friends to catch up on a cold winter day and enjoy a warm Neapolitan-style pizza from Manor Hill’s custom-built brick oven.

Pure Wine Cafe

8210 Main St., Ellicott City, purewinecafe.com, 410-480-5037

Warm drink specials, prix-fixe meals and seasonal flights greet those strolling down Main Street at Pure Wine Cafe.

The cafe recently created $30 prix-fixe three-course meals, posting seasonal offerings on their social media accounts with appetizing pictures to get out the word.

“We started it after the last flood as a way to have a special seasonal menu out there,” said PJ Strain, owner of Pure Wine Cafe. “It’s been a struggle since the flood, but necessity builds invention and we’ve been really creative with our new specials.

These specials include meals such as short rib ragu with house-made pasta and braised kale and chicken and mushroom risotto with mushroom stock, exotic mushrooms and white wine.

The cafe also features themed drink flights, like an adult version of milk and cookies – three different holiday cookies are paired with homemade spiked milks.

On Historic Main Street Ellicott City, the cozy restaurant features an extensive wine list and a casual atmosphere where work from local artists adorns the walls with the artwork rotating quarterly, creating a unique and interesting space to spend time indoors.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun