Posts Tagged 'Columbia'

Rudy’s Mediterranean Grill & Bar

7185 Columbia Gateway Drive
Suite D
Columbia, MD 21046
410-290-2004 / 410-290-2010

Pros: Doner kebabs, seafood

Cons: Other dishes may need more flavoring

We have been longing for a good diner in Columbia, and we may have finally found one. I have to admit that it took us a few visits to really fall in love with this place. One thing this place suffers from is the standard Columbia curse: hard to find. You really have to hunt for this one, but we hope word of month will help them out.

We tried first some of the more standard and some not-so-standard diner dishes. The crabcakes, and stuffed mushrooms, and calamari were quite tasty, but sandwiches and wraps were thoroughly mediocre. A lot of the side dishes could use more flavoring; the table-side salt and pepper will be your friend for the lentil soup and breakfast potatoes.

The dishes that finally won us over, however, were the doner kebabs. For dinner, the Famous Iskender Kebab is pretty close to perfection. Think of it as an open-face gyro pita sandwich drenched in a tasty tomato sauce. The garlic yogurt helps balance out the peppers on the dish. The gyro, itself, is perfectly prepared, and the toasted pita adds a welcome crunchy texture.

The place does quite well with its seafood, such as the Crabcake Benedict and Fried Calamari, but the doner kebabs are what have my taste buds talking for days.
Rudy's Mediterranean Grill & Diner on Urbanspoon


Red Pearl

10215 Wincopin Circle
Suite 100
Columbia, MD 21044

Pros: excellent service, the food, amazing view

Cons: spicy, bit pricy

We have to admit that we have an invested interest in Red Pearl, in that we are hoping to have our wedding reception here, so we definitely we want to make sure that this relatively new Chinese restaurant stays in business at least through Spring 2011. There’s good reason we want this place for our wedding banquet. First, this sits on the lakefront of Lake Kittamaqundi, so the entrance of the restaurants overlooks a gorgeous view. The service staff is incredibly friendly, probably moreso than what we find at most Chinese restaurants. The interior has a very warm and classy decor that gives a very comfortable atmosphere. Prices may be a bit pricey, but you’re really paying for great ambiance and a wonderful lakeside view.

And of course, how can you miss the food? The cuisine has a bit of a Schezuan bent, so if your stomach can’t handle spicy, this is not the place for you. Usually, the wait staff will ask you what level of spiciness you want, so you can at least customize the spice to your taste. The manager boasted that she has at least 2 renown chefs working the kitchen. Regardless of who is working in the kitchen, you cannot ignore that the food simply tastes amazing! Our Szechuan String Beans not only had some kick, but also a hint of bean sauce that added to our enjoyment. The Filet Fish with Soft Tofu tastes wonderfully both in the restaurant, but even the next day for leftovers. Some restaurants have a habit of over-crisping or under-crisping noodles, thus ruining the intended texture. Red Pearl doesn’t make either of these mistakes and their Crisply Noodles with Seafood was prepared just perfectly.

Really, it’s hard for us to think of anything negative about this restaurant. They also advertise that starting August 2010, they will start serving Dim-Sum, which should be another big draw. This is a relatively new restaurant, but with everything that this restaurant offers, we genuinely hope that this one stays for a long time.

UPDATE (11/5/2010):  Since our original review of this place, we have made repeat visits, and we can genuinely say that this restaurant continues to impress us. The dim-sum rivals that of the longstanding local favorites like Oriental East in Silver Spring, MD. At our most recent visit, the manager also announced that the menu will soon expand to include some Cantonese dishes. We have also fallen in love with a Szechuan lamb dish that is on their off-menu. So addictive, but once again, watch for the spice.

UPDATE (11/1/2012): We are very sad to report that our beloved Red Pearl has closed its doors. This was one of our favorite (if not our absolute favorite) Chinese restaurant in the Columbia area, and one of our favorite Dim-Sum places. Over its short tenure, we brought several friends over for dinners/dim-sum. We even held our wedding reception here and thought that we would have an annual tradition of coming back on our wedding anniversary for an intimate anniversary meal. Sadly, this will not happen, and we wish the owners our very best and hope that they soon open a new restaurant nearby.

Noodles Corner

8865 Stanford Blvd, #103
Columbia, MD 21045

Pros: Unexpected and authentic Chinese menu, speedy service, and of course, the noodles

Cons: Artificial crab meat

We have to admit that we weren’t expecting much the first time we walked into this restaurant. I was recommended this restaurant by a former co-worker, who admittedly does not have the most adventurous palate. Plus, based on the restaurant’s name, we expected something along the lines of of the Noodles & Co. franchise. Boy, were we mistaken. We had no idea that what awaited us was more of a pan-Asian menu with a bit of a Chinese emphasis. Plus, the menu offers more than just noodles.

When you walk in, you are met with a more modern and hip Asian decor. Presumably because we are an Asian couple, the restaurant managers also slipped us their “secret” Asian menu, a tactic common among Chinese restaurants, so as not to intimidate more Western customers who may have a weak stomach for items such as “Stewed Pork Intestine & Duck Blood.” This was the first thing that surprised us. All in all, the quality of the food impressed us so much that the very next day, when some friends were asking where we might all go to eat, we had the perfect suggestion!

I have my own recipe for Ja-Jain Mein (Beijing-style spaghetti), and I have to say that Noodles’ Corner recipe is just as good. (My fiancee claims that my recipe is better, but I think she may have been saying that due to impending marital obligations.) The following day, I had the Indonesian Noodles, a dish with noodles and a medley of seafood. My only complaint comes from this dish, as the crab meat supplied in this dish was obviously artificial, something considered heresy in the crab-loving state of Maryland. Other than this, the dish was superb, with the perfect blend of other seafood and vegetables in a sauce with the perfect amount of taste and kick.

Interestingly, despite the name, my fiancee has yet to order an actual noodle dish. With our visits, she usually elects to order off the (not so) secret menu. She has ordered (not so intimidating) dishes such as Fish Fillet with Spicy Black Pepper Sauce on Hot Plate, Black Mushrooms with Bok Choy, and their myriad of tofu dishes. She and I were virtually fighting over the fish dish, trying to see who would eat the last bite, as it was prepared so perfectly. The vegetables were also magnificent, so much so that you truly want to savor each bite.

Perhaps because the restaurant was very sparsely populated – likely due to us going their at such an odd hour, and because it suffers from the Columbia curse of being rather hidden from the casual-driving public – the service was top notch, bringing us food in a very speedy manner. Seriously, though, we wouldn’t mind seeing this restaurant a little fuller, even if it does mean we have to wait a little longer. The food is THAT good!

UPDATE 19-Jul-2012: We have since become regular customers at Noodles Corner, and the owners seem to have taken a liking to us, as they tend to recognize us when we come in. From what we’ve seen, business looks have increased, and the restaurant continues to do well. We have eaten through most, if not the entire menu at this point. If you like the more authentic Chinese cuisine, see if you can get a whole fish (yes, the head included) drenched in a magical tofu sauce. Seriously, we don’t know what’s in the sauce, but it’s addictive! Another one of our favorites is their fried tofu. My mother-in-law, who came from Fuzhou, China, and spent some time in the restaurant business herself, actually enjoys this restaurant…and that’s a REAL endorsement! In all honesty, it’s hard to go wrong with any of their menu choices.
Noodles Corner on Urbanspoon

Bon Fresco

6945 Oakland Mills Rd
Columbia, MD 21045

Pros: Amazing bread, great prices!

Cons: Slightly hidden location

Yes, it has been a while since we’ve added anything to our list. We took a break and wanted to return with a place truly deserving to be on a best of list.

Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? And what you will find here are some phenomenal sandwiches! The bread alone is worth the price admission! The bread is made fresh daily, and you can taste the freshness. We’ve made a few different visits here to try a breadth of different sandwiches and bread types. Even with flatbread, which I normally don’t expect much from is just amazing. Your sandwich will be packed with different ingredients, and feel free to ask to customize your sandwich a bit. Given how good the bread is, we really need to go back to try some of their baked desserts. They usually offer some sides along the lines of chips, lentil salad, and potato salad. The potato salad’s ingredients are very subtle, to the point that you would swear that you are simply eating freshly made mashed potatoes (which I actually loved).

Truthfully, in trying to come up with some cons for this little restaurant, I was hard pressed to find anything wrong with them. Their location is a little out of the way and hidden, but honestly, what isn’t hidden in Columbia? On a good spring day, Bon Fresco is the perfect place to pick up a couple sandwiches to take for a picnic.

Pho Dat Thanh

9400 Snowden River Pkwy
Columbia, MD 21045

Pros: Impressive menu encompassing multiple Asian cuisines

Cons: Summer rolls are tiny, inconsistent service

After a few visits, we have determined that this restaurant deserves a firm place on our list. After a few visits to An Loi, we finally realized that we were missing an incredible Vietnamese restaurant just up the street a bit. At first glance, we were a listtle hesitant because the menu actually derives quite a bit from several Asian cuisines, and in the past, we’ve have unfavorable experiences with some pan-Asian restaurants, but this restaurant does it right!

Given that the primary portion of the menu is devoted to Vietnamese cuisine, we of course had to indulge in our favorite Vietnamese dishes: pho and vermicelli. The pho was excellent with a great tasting broth that leaves you yearning for more, especially on a cold winter day. The vermicelli topped with grilled pork and crispy egg rolls was actually approaching the standard set by our all-time favorite Vietnamese restaurant (Atlanta’s Pho 96). Our only complaint was that the summer rolls that we ordered seemed tiny…not at all worth the $3.50 they charge for them.

We also ventured over towards other areas of the menu, which shows a bit of a Chinese and Thai influence. The fried tofu and vegetables over crispy noodles was one of the best versions of this dish we had tasted (outside the version coming out of a home kitchen). And the clay-pot fish (actually a bit of a misnomer, as ours came in a metal pot) was simply amazing…better than our home-made attempt at this dish.

If you come in the middle of the week, business tends not to be very busy, but towards the end of the week, business booms. This just goes to show that Columbians know how to eat well after a long week of work.

Lucky’s China Inn

5865 Robert Oliver Pl #D
Columbia, MD 21045

Pros: Great prices, excellent Americanized-Chinese food

Cons: Not exactly the most authentic cuisine, could use more variety in vegetable dishes

Please give us a moment to let us stand up on our high horses. Given that we are foodies, we have a preference for the more authentic cuisines. And given that we are both Chinese, we sometimes scoff at what most Americans think of as Chinese food. These are dishes that have grown in popularity due to presence at many smaller take-out restaurants as well as the likes of places like P.F. Chang’s and Panda Express – dishes such as Orange Chicken, Moo Shoo Pork, Chinese Beef and Broccoli, and General Tso’s Chicken.

Having said that, we will acknowledge, however, that we sometimes have cravings for “fake” Chinese food. If you are ever in such a mood and want to avoid the big chains, Lucky’s China Inn hits the spot ever so perfectly. This looks to be a family-owned restaurant that works both on the dine-in and take-out end, and we’ve tried both. You can walk into this restaurant, and you won’t be intimidated by Chinese characters on the walls detailing off-menu items, because there honestly aren’t any real off-menu items to choose from. However, the menu items are quite good. We’ve been able to try a variety of different dishes, including Szechuan String Beans, Orange Chicken, Chow Fun, and Moo Shoo Chicken, and each were prepared excellently. Many dishes, particularly the ones labeled as Szechuan have a relatively subtle spicy kick, which adds to the flavor. The only mild disappointment was that their vegetable menu left a little to be desired. The Szechuan String Beans were excellent, but we were hoping to find a little more variety and not so many that use tofu as their focal ingredient (personally, we think tofu deserves its own section on the menu, much like how they divide the menu between poultry, beef, chicken, and seafood dishes.

So yes, we are Chinese, and we are prideful of our culture to say that Lucky’s China Inn has excellent (fake) Chinese food!

Cheeburger Cheeburger

2135 East York Rd
Timonium, MD 21093

15755 Columbia Pike
Burtonsville, MD 20866

8872 McGaw Rd
Columbia, MD 21045

14921 Shady Grove Rd
Rockville, MD 20850

Pros: amazing build-your-own-burger-menu; diner atmosphere

Cons: Limited menu outside the burger/sandwich realm

We were led to Cheeburger Cheeburger by a TV ad. And we’re glad that we found it! If you ever have a craving for burgers, this is the place to visit. The diner atmosphere recalls the 50’s and 60’s diners that you see in movies, and the service staff is incredibly friendly.

And of course the burgers…Cheeburger Cheeburger offers a range of sizes ranging from kid-size (1/8 pound) to the monstrous Pounder (actually 1 1/3 pounds). They offer the Pounder as a challenge to customers, and their entry way is filled with photos of those who have successfully taken on that challenge. Along with the burgers come a build-your-own topping menu. The topping list is fairly extensive. Be careful that you don’t end up piling on more than you can handle, and it’s easy to get a little too eager.

The fries are a little salty for my taste, but are otherwise fried beautifully and deliciously. The skins left on the potatoes leave a nice taste and texture. And while you’re there, try finishing off your meal with a malt or a shake. Just like the toppings menu, the soda and ice cream menu offers an amazing range of options.

So next time you’re there, see if you’re up to the Pounder Challenge!