During a recent post, I dropped a reference to visiting the Maryland suburbs. I’ve counted up all the time I’ve spent in that area for work and family visits — the total stands right around seven months. That’s a good chunk, and I still find little to love about it. I can never find a decent espresso drink out there, and good breweries or restaurants are also way too scarce. It seems like everything is a Starbucks or a Chili’s. Good news, though – I actually found a few cool things in the Maryland suburbs this time. I’m going to focus on two new towns I hadn’t visited before — and actually liked.
I’ve spent very little time near Baltimore. Most of the in-laws seemed clustered around Rockville, until the sister-in-law and her husband got a place closer to Baltimore. About 10 minutes down the road from it, we found a cool little town called Ellicott City.
It has a river, a railroad and a bunch of nicely kept brick buildings. One of these fine buildings is home to the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. Unfortunately, it specializes more in German-style beers, and they didn’t have an IPA or a stout. They still served a fine plate of fries and a nice late-night chocolatey dessert, along with some great advice about other local pubs and breweries that are worth a visit.
We visited the next day for breakfast, where we had some nice egg sandwiches at Bean Hollow. If you know the difference between a dry cappuccino and a wet cappuccino or know what a macchiato really is, Bean Hollow’s coffee won’t impress you. This is a frequent problem in Maryland. We took some time to wander the streets – Ellicott City is full of antique shops and other kitschy stores. It’s definitely a fun place to spend the better part of a day. Just beware all the paid parking.
After a few days, Sarah and I just wanted to get OUT of the sterile, endless tract of laboratories and chain restaurants that define Rockville and Gaithersburg. So we took a 30-mile drive to Frederick. Before we arrived, the terrain actually started to roll and have a countryside flavor to it.
We found a place to park, and started to wander the downtown Frederick district. It’s full of cafes and shops, much like Ellicott City. But it’s a lot bigger, and a bit less rustic. The North Market Pop Shop was one of my favorite finds – think of it as a microbrew store for high-end sodas; I drink a soda only every few months, usually because I find a place that offers something with real sweeteners instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
There’s also a cool knife shop called Edgeworks, which offered a better selection than anything in my home city of 4 million people. We also struck out coffee-wise in Frederick, though. Again on the plus side, I found a very fun record store (yes, real vinyl) called The Record Exchange. I picked up some coasters made from old Iron Maiden albums!
If you need to kill a day, Frederick is definitely a good place to do it. It’s a pleasant change from the typical Maryland suburbs.
One last thing: I have to imagine that some of the less-business focused areas in the Maryland suburbs have to be awesome on Halloween. That area just as a great Ichabod Crane colonial feel to it. I could see kids having a great time hitting the streets and scaring each other out there.
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I spent a weekend in downtown Baltimore in the Inner Harbor a few years ago. At the time, it was really nice with a great craft brew place. I forget what the name of the place was, but I remember hearing that it closed their doors, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are new places there to get some food and drink. Anyway, the view was pretty and it was relatively safe. Good for a weekend trip.