Howard County's best restaurants of 2018

For Howard Magazine

With exciting new restaurants popping up on a regular basis and longstanding favorites continuing to shine, there’s never been a better time to be a food lover in Howard County.

More than 2,000 people voted in Howard Magazine’s Best Restaurants readers’ poll, selecting their favorites in 45 categories. Below, we present the eateries that earned top votes, and we share a little about what makes some of the county’s best spots oh-so-special.

Editor’s note: Winners and honorable mentions were determined by popular vote. Readers were invited to vote online in June and July.

Ambience: Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Honorable mentions:

Hudson Coastal

Tersiguel’s

Victoria Gastro Pub

Bakery: Kupcakes & Co.

Honorable mentions:

Touche Touchet

Wegmans

Great Harvest Bread Co.

Bar food: The Ale House Columbia

Honorable mentions:

River Hill Grill

Kelsey’s Restaurant & Irish Pub

Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

Bartender: Sam Waller, White Oak Tavern

Honorable mentions:

Steven Wecker, Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Luke Shagogue, Aida Bistro

Jeremy Reed, Ranazul

Barbecue: Mission BBQ

Honorable mentions:

Kloby’s Smokehouse

Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

The Canopy

Breakfast: Eggspectation

Honorable mentions:

Double T Diner

The White Oak Tavern

Bob Evans

Brunch: Eggspectation

Honorable mentions:

Victoria Gastro Pub

The White Oak Tavern

Hudson Coastal

Burger: Victoria Gastro Pub

Honorable mentions:

The White Oak Tavern

The Ale House Columbia

BGR The Burger Joint

Chef: Christopher Lewis, formerly of Cured Table & Tap/18th & 21st

Honorable mentions:

Thomas Zippelli, The Turn House

Greg Mason, The White Oak Tavern

Fabio Mura, Grille 620

Chinese: Hunan Manor

Honorable mentions:

Jesse Wong’s Asean Bistro

P.F. Chang’s

Hunan Legend

Cocktail: Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Honorable mentions:

Ananda

The White Oak Tavern

Tino’s Italian Bistro

Coffee: Bean Hollow (closed)

Honorable mentions:

Mad City Coffee

Starbucks

Little French Market

Crab cake: Hudson Coastal

Honorable mentions:

Clyde’s of Columbia

The Corner Stable

Victoria Gastro Pub

Deli: Boarman’s Old Fashioned Meat Market

13402 Clarksville Pike, Highland. 301-854-2883. facebook.com/boarmansmeatmarket

When Boarman’s Old Fashioned Meat Market opened in Highland in 1955, the market and deli had already been in business for over 15 years. The Boarman family, which has owned the market for four generations, takes pride in its longevity and in their dedication to making things from scratch.

From country sausage made from a family recipe to ham salad and deviled eggs, the Boarmans make as much as they can in-house, and the community loves it. Over Easter weekend alone, Boarman’s sold about 2,000 homemade deviled eggs.

Homemade salads and sausages “are things people don’t take the time to do anymore,” says Georgie Boarman, son of market owner George Boarman.

The Boarmans also work to make the market accessible to everyone in the community. “We don’t want to be the high-end, high-priced store that only a certain group of people can shop at. We want everyone to feel like they can come in and buy a good steak and fresh produce,” says Georgie Boarman.

Honorable mentions:

Jason’s Deli

Bon Fresco

Charter Deli

Dessert: Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Honorable mentions:

Hudson Coastal

Aida

The White Oak Tavern

Fine dining: Stanford Grill

Honorable mentions:

Terisguel’s

Kings Contrivance

Grille 620

Food truck: T&J Waffles

Honorable mentions:

Greek on the Street

The Jolly Pig

Jurassic Pork

Gluten-free options: Great Sage

Honorable mentions:

Tino’s Italian Bistro

One Dish Cuisine

The White Oak Tavern

Happy Hour: The Phoenix Emporium

8049 Main St., Ellicott City. 410-465-5665. phoenixemporium.net

It’s been a challenging few years for The Phoenix Emporium, the popular, beer-centric bar and restaurant that has been part of the Ellicott City community for four decades. Located at the bottom of the hill on historic Main Street, The Phoenix Emporium was forced to close following floods in 2016 and 2018.

But like its name suggests, The Phoenix Emporium rose from metaphorical ashes, reopening after both floods; this year, its reopening day was in late August.

Despite the closures, the bar retained a steady crew of happy hour regulars, who visit for the dedicated and friendly staff, the charm of the cozy space and for the menu and terrific daily deals.

The bar does not have a draught system, but it does boast a huge selection of beers: about 210 available on any given day. Happy hour, which runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every weekday, includes $3 domestic beers, rail drinks and glasses of wine, and $5 deals on most appetizers.

Honorable mentions:

The Ale House Columbia

Victoria Gastro Pub

Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

Healthful menu: Great Sage

Honorable mentions:

David’s Natural Market

Bon Fresco

Nora’s Kabob

House-brewed beer: Jailbreak Brewing Co.

Honorable mentions:

Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.

The Ale House Columbia

Frisco Tap House

Ice cream/frozen yogurt: Soft Stuff

Honorable mentions:

Rita’s

Cindy’s Soft Serve

Meadows Frozen Custard

Indian: Royal Taj

Honorable mentions:

Ananda

House of India

Mango Grove

Italian: Tino’s Italian Bistro

Honorable mentions:

Facci

Aida Bistro

Maggiano’s

Japanese: Sushi Sono

Honorable mentions:

Sakura

Sushi King

Yama Sushi

Korean: Honey Pig Korean BBQ

10045 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. 410-696-2426. honeypigbbq.com

In recent years, Howard County’s Korean food scene has gained national fame. A trip to the Ellicott City location of Honey Pig BBQ, the local outpost representing the small chain of restaurants owned by Micky Kim, makes it easy to understand why.

“A Korean meal is an experience,” says Honey Pig’s marketing director Hanna Kuark. Meals start with banchan, or small dishes, like kimchi and tofu, designed to whet the appetite. Main courses are grilled by diners, at the table. It’s a fun, interactive way to dine that’s inspired by Korean family meal traditions.

Honey Pig’s most popular dishes include beef bulgogi, beef kalbi and spicy pork belly. “We are focused on making the best possible sauces, and it’s something we work on constantly,” says Kuark. “We work hard to create the environment and taste of what a Korean meal would be like in Seoul.”

She suggests that Honey Pig first-timers let the staff know they’re new to the restaurant; they’ll create a tasting menu as an introduction to the flavors of Korea.

Honorable mentions:

Bon Chon

Shin Chon

Rainpia

Live entertainment: Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Honorable mentions:

Union Jack’s

The Judge’s Bench

Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

Mexican: La Palapa Grill & Cantina

Honorable mentions:

El Azteca

Ernesto’s

Xitomate

New restaurant: Lupa

10215 Wincopin Circle, Columbia. 410-964-9999. lupacolumbia.com

Since its splashy opening in February, Lupa has quickly become a favorite among diners of every age. Located on Columbia’s Lake Kittamaqundi waterfront in the former home of Petit Louis Bistro, the Italian restaurant is sophisticated enough for an elegant evening out, but also kid-friendly and approachable enough for a casual lunch.

The menu includes pizza and pasta, as well as more intricate entrees, all inspired by the cuisine of Rome and its surrounding region. An attached gelateria makes the Roman experience that much more true to life.

“We want to prepare things in honest and authentic ways and translate real Italian food,” says Tony Foreman, who co-owns Lupa and several other restaurants with his business partner Cindy Wolf.

So far, customers are going crazy for Lupa’s gnocchi, lamb meatballs and the buttery, pan-seared bronzino, which comes with roasted vegetables and fennel pollen pesto.

“We try to do really honest food, and from the ground up,” says Foreman. “The pasta is made every day. The pizza dough is made every day. All ingredients are from the best sources we can find, locally when available.”

Honorable mentions:

Lib’s Grill

Cured Table & Tap/18th & 21st

Mad Chef Kitchen & Bar

Outdoor dining: Clyde’s of Columbia

Honorable mentions:

The Turn House

The White Oak Tavern

Tino’s Italian Bistro

Best overall: Hudson Coastal

Honorable mentions:

Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Tino’s Italian Bistro

The White Oak Tavern

Pizza: Coal Fire Pizza

Honorable mentions:

Ledo Pizza

River House Pizza Co.

Tino’s Italian Bistro

Place to take the kids: Double T Diner

Honorable mentions:

Eggspectation

Tino’s Italian Bistro

Hudson Coastal

Place to take out-of-towners: Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Honorable mentions:

Victoria Gastro Pub

The White Oak Tavern

Tino’s Italian Bistro

Seafood: Hudson Coastal

Honorable mentions:

Grille 620

Sushi Sono

Aida Bistro

Server: Charlie Risselada, Tersiguel’s

Honorable mentions:

Boris Bobrov, Aida Bistro & Wine Bar

Marisa Jenks, White Oak Tavern

Roy Cheeks, Victoria’s Gastro Pub

Best service: Hudson Coastal

Honorable mentions:

Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Tersiguel’s

The Ale House Columbia

Best Snowball: The Snowball Stand

1970 Woodstock Road, Woodstock. 443-405-2557. facebook.com/thesnowballstand

For 44 years, people from Howard County and beyond have traveled to the rolling fields of Woodstock in search of a classic Baltimore snowball at The Snowball Stand. What they find is more than just one of the region’s best snowballs: The Snowball Stand is also a place where memories are made.

Michele “Miki” Hill, who owns the stand with her husband, Tim, says people of all ages stop by to share stories about childhood memories made at the stand, from first kisses to sports team celebrations.

The Hills have run the stand for 12 years; they credit the two previous owners with creating a business that was beloved by the community. “We tried to stand on their shoulders,” says Miki Hill.

Present-day visits are made more fun thanks to the engaging staff of young adults.

“Our employees are hands-down the best. We’ve tried to pull together a team of kids who are polite, happy, friendly and conversational,” says Hill. “The kids get along really well and that spills over to how they treat the customers.”

Of course, the snowballs themselves are also a huge draw. “Every one of our flavors are homemade, and that’s a big difference. We don’t use fructose – it’s actual sugar – and they taste really good,” she says.

Honorable mentions:

Cindy’s Soft Serve

Tropical Waters Snowball Stand

Pete’s Snowballs

Sports bar: Looney’s Pub

Honorable mentions:

The Ale House Columbia

River Hill Grill

The Greene Turtle

Steak: Stanford Grill

Honorable mentions:

Iron Bridge Wine Co.

White Oak Tavern

Victoria Gastro Pub

Sushi: Sushi Sono

Honorable mentions:

Sushi King

Katana Sushi

East Moon Asian Bistro

Best value: Double T Diner

Honorable mentions:

Maiwand Kabob

Kelsey’s Restaurant and Irish Pub

Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

Vegetarian options: Great Sage

Honorable mentions:

Royal Taj

Mango Grove

Bon Fresco

View: Clyde’s of Columbia

Honorable mentions:

The Turnhouse

Elkridge Furnace Inn

Sushi Sono

Wine list: Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Honorable mentions:

Aida Bistro (tie)

Pure Wine Cafe (tie)

Tino’s Italian Bistro

Votes tallied by Brad Mutchnik.

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