Yesterday my family went out to lunch to celebrate my sister’s birthday. She found a restaurant (on Yelp!) that she wanted to try out. It’s called Coal Fire Pizza, and it’s located off or Rt 108 in Ellicott City. According to the yelp reviews, it just opened this past April. We got there around 3pm, so it wasn’t crowded at all. It would be hard to judge at that time how well business is doing.

The menu is not that extensive. Their specialty is their pizzas, and they have a few apps, salads, pastas, and sandwiches–nothing too fancy. They don’t really have any defined pizzas; it’s largely build your own, but they do offer a couple of suggestions. Prices are in the Bertucci’s range. A 12″ cheese runs you 10.95 + $1.50 for each topping. A 16″ is 13.95 + $2 per topping. You can choose from three different sauces, classic (which is your standard tomato sauce), spicy, and signature–a combo of classic and spicy. We ordered family style and shared a few plates.

For the app, we got the calamari, which was pretty good. The breading was light, the peppers spicy, and the sauce had a little kick.

Some items on the menu were boxed, which I’m assuming means they’re supposed to be “favorites.” One of these favorites was a cheesesteak. We decided to get that in addition to a large pizza in case there wasn’t enough food. The cheesesteak was actually pretty good. The bread was toasted just right and the meat and caramelized onions were yummy. Though I did think it was kind of expensive. For 8.95 (or 9.95?) all you got was the cheesesteak. It wasn’t huge, and there were no sides that came with it. So I thought that was kind of lame.

For the pizza, my sister chose a signature sauce with sausage. Our server boasted about how the oven temp gets to over 900 degrees so I guess that’s supposed to be a good thing. I did enjoy the pizza. The crust was really thin and crispy. The sauce was pretty good–I’m glad we didn’t get spicy because I think the Signature sauce was already spicy enough. I think this place will do good things for the Howard County restaurant scene. It’s a nice change from all the corporate chain restaurants in every cookie cutter strip mall.

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Okay, it’s not actually called Swanky Wine Place. That’s just how my high school friends and I have nicknamed the Iron Bridge Wine Company in Ellicott City. Iron Bridge is a great little place off of Rt. 108 West in Ellicott City. It used to be a pretty divey place several years ago when I was still in middle/high school, but was bought out and converted into this lovely wine bar/restaurant around the time I went to college. It’s literally across the street from a farm. Your view is of a vegetable stand and corn fields in the summer time. My friends and I got together here on a rainy Friday night and caught up over some wine, coffee, and dessert. I ordered a vanilla latte (pictured: bottom left) and the bread pudding (top right). I thought the bread pudding was mediocre. I like gooey bread puddings, and I thought this one was too dense. One of my friends ordered the creme brulee, and another ordered the chocolate pate (top left, and bottom right, respectively). Both were pretty delicious.
I like going to swanky wine place for dessert. It’s not really a place that is within my budget if I were to go there for dinner. Not only that, it can get pretty packed around dinner hours, and last I checked they did not take reservations. But if I feel like treating myself to dessert with some friends, it’s a nice atmosphere to chat, and generally by “dessert time” it’s not as crowded.
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My mom has been raving about this place and their 99 cent zhajiang mian (noodles and black bean sauce) ever since her friend brought her here last week. She kept saying the next time I visit home she would bring me, which is exactly what she did when I went home over the weekend.

The restaurant is located right next to Lotte supermarket off of Rt. 40. The sign advertises the establishment as “Korean-style Chinese” cuisine. I don’t really know what that means. They covered their windows completely with banners advertising their 99 cent special. As a result no natural light comes into the restaurant, which actually makes for more pleasant lighting from the inside. The inside is clean and very nicely decorated with dark wood panels and brlightly lit with recess lights. You wouldn’t guess from the outside how nice it looks on the inside.

Banner on the outside advertising their zha jiang mian

Menu cover

Most of the servers don’t speak very much English. We had a hard time communicating with them and wound up doing a lot of pointing and gesturing, but we ended up with the right orders, so that wasn’t too much of an issue. We got two orders of the 99-cent zhajiang mian as well as an order of chap jae and a spicy squid dish. The server asked us if we wanted the spicy squid “mild spicy” or “Korean spicy.” which I thought was funny. We are not brave souls, so we went with mild spicy.

They don’t give you much in regards to appetizers. Just some pickled yellow radish, raw onions and a dipping sauce. But I guess since it’s technically a “Chinese” restaurant they’re not obligated to provide any of the traditional Korean appetizers? Anyway, I was never a big fan of pickled yellow radish anyway.

Chap Jae

“Mild spicy” squid

Zha Jiang Mian

The zhajiang mian was surprisingly good. I wasn’t expecting much for 99 cents, but we got a huge bowl of noodles. The sauce had tofu, some potato, and even a few pieces of pork. The only catch for the 99-cent zhajiang mian is they automatically add a $1 tip/order, which is fair. I though the chap jae was really good, though I was surprised that it came on top of rice. I didn’t think chap jae was usually served with rice. And the “mild spicy” squid dish tasted more like Korean spicy…but maybe I’m a weak sauce.

Take home message–I’d definitely go back for more “Korean Chinese” food.

Oh yea…and I saw this on the menu and got a kick out of it.

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I went home over the weekend to see my parents, and we decided to have lunch at Bethany Seafood, since we hadn’t been there in over a month. (*gasp*).

I never noticed that they spelled “Bethany” wrong on the sign before…

They always start you off with a rice porridge

Banchan!!!!

Some of my favorite banchan: kimchijeon and steamed egg

My sister ordered the pork cutlet

I ordered my regular: dolsot bimbimbap with beef

I always love that if you leave a layer of rice at the bottom, the stone pot is so hot it continues to fry the rice while you eat and at the end it’s nice and crispy. It’s literally a rice crispy treat, haha.

On Sunday, I met up with an old friend for brunch at Eggspectations in Ellicott City. My friend, Christine, had heard good things about it, so we decided to check it out. It’s located on University Blvd, off of Rt 108 E past Snowden River Pkwy. We got there around 11 and it was packed. The wait for two people was about 30 minutes. While we were waiting another waiting patron started talking to us and told us the food was “eggscellent” (sorry, I had to) and totally worth the wait. So we were kind of eggscited (I won’t do it again, I promise). The whole restaurant is decked out in all sorts of egg decor: from the murals on the walls to the whisk-shaped handles on the doors. Even the bathroom stall walls resembled that of chicken coops.

The menu was quite extensive (think pages and pages, Cheesecake Factory-style). They offer a lengthy list of cocktails and “specialty” (read: alcoholic) coffees, as well as regular coffee, espresso drinks, and juices/smoothies. They serve typical American fare, but what they really specialize in is breakfast, which is served all day. Christine and I took awhile to peruse the menu since there were so many things that it was difficult to focus. I finally narrowed down my choices to either one of the Eggsbenedict variations or one of their Signature dishes, and settled on the Waffle Benedict: two eggs, poached, bacon, gruyere cheese, topped with hollandaise and served on top of waffles. It also came with a fruit garnish and a side of grilled potatoes. Christine chose the “Eggstravaganza” which was two eggs any style and French toast with choice of protein.

Waffle Benedict

“Eggstravaganza”
I must say I wasn’t super impressed with the food. The service was really fast: our orders came out in probably less than 10 minutes. I think they had five or six line cooks just churning out orders. However, for what we paid, I don’t think it was that great, and not really worth the wait. The eggs were good, but the waffles were kind of eh. My order was $12.99, and I know I could get a really great smoked salmon eggs benedict in New York City that includes coffee and juice for maybe only a dollar more. Our entrees did not include any sort of beverage. And the coffee (albeit with free refills) was $2.50, which I thought was a bit excessive. When we left around 1:30, there were still people waiting for seats, but it was nice that we didn’t feel like we were being rushed out of there. I’d probably go again, but maybe when it’s not so crowded.
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Bethany Seafood

January 6, 2009

This Korean restaurant in Ellicott City off of Rt 40 is a favorite of my parents. We went there on New Year’s Day with some family friends and ordered the large sushi boat shown here:

There was the standard salmon, tuna, red snapper, etc. But there were also some interesting items like sea cucumber (very chewy when eaten raw; shown at the bottom left in the square dish), abalone (just above the Red snapper on the right), and this weird slimy thing that the servers only knew the korean name for (at the tip (bow?) of the boat).

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