Howard restaurants put their best plates forward

For the Columbia Flier
"This is an opportunity for the chefs to get creative and do something they don't normally do."

Great Sage opened in Clarksville in 2004 as a vegetarian restaurant. Six years later, it went all vegan.

While the restaurant has been successful and earned a loyal following, it is trying something new this summer by taking part in Howard County Restaurant Weeks. Great Sage hopes that by offering interesting, fixed-rate specials that use locally grown ingredients, new customers will join familiar faces to give the business a summertime boost.

"Restaurant Weeks is a great opportunity to showcase our talented chef's creations and get to know more people in the community," said Katie Smallwood, the marketing and community outreach leader for Conscious Corner, which runs Roots Market, Great Sage, Nest (clothing and gifts) and Bark! Pawsitive Petfood. "We are hoping to see some new faces throughout the weeks and encourage our devoted regulars to take advantage of a delicious deal on quality food."

That sentiment also holds true for the other businesses participating in the eighth annual Restaurant Weeks, which runs from Monday, July 20 through Monday, Aug. 3. Twenty-seven restaurants, including five from outside Howard County, will participate. The lunches (2 to 3 courses) and dinners (3 to 4 courses) offered in the promotion will be part of a price-fixed menu, ranging from $10 to $45.

"This is an opportunity for the chefs to get creative and do something they don't normally do," said Amanda Hof, partnership promotions manager for Howard County Tourism and Promotion.

The promotion showcases the importance of local farms and their products and how fresh ingredients make a difference. It also encourages people to try something new at a special rate.

"We participate to expose younger folks to try a venue that they would not normally think for dining," said Richard Ackman, the maitre'd at The Kings Contrivance restaurant in Columbia.

The county's tourism and promotion office holds Restaurant Weeks during the winter and summer. Restaurants that are part of the organization's promotional partnership program are eligible to participate in Restaurant Weeks for "a very small fee," said Hof.

Roughly half of the restaurants in the promotional partnership program take part in Restaurant Weeks, according to Hof. The collected fees are matched by the tourism agency, said Hof, and the money is used to market the event through TV, print, websites and social media. Hof said between $10,000 and $15,000 is spent promoting Restaurant Weeks.

"It's really the power of everyone working together," said Hof. "When all the restaurants come together it gives us more marketing dollars to have this county-wide event."

Hof added that "we know the event is popular through the web traffic we get" at She said the website had 125,000 visitors for the winter event earlier this year.

"Most [restaurants] will say they had an uptick in business, some will say they were really busy," said Hof.

Smallwood said Great Sage, which recently debut its summer menu, "wanted to share a special menu with the community. Summer provides us with an optimal time to showcase our favorite seasonal vegetables and fruit."

She added that "utilizing local ingredients is a high priority for us. We always jump at the chance to feature local produce and products."

Joining Great Sage as a new entry to Restaurant Weeks this summer are the Centre Park Grill and Fifty Four Eighty Five Restaurant at Double Tree Columbia from Howard County, three restaurants at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City and The County Cork Wine Pub in Eldersburg. The Horseshoe Casino restaurants and two Carroll County restaurants —The County Cork Wine Pub and Baldwin's Station — are members of Howard County Tourism and Promotion and eligible to participate.


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