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U.S. 1 and Rte 175 -- A Great Spot To Graze

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If you want to graze for fun food in a new pasture, check out the intersection of U.S. 1 and Rte 175 in Jessup.

The shopping center there has been trying for years to be "Columbia East," and I'm sure the landlord is psyched to have a Starbucks and a Rita's pay the rent. But the neighborhood has actually developed an interesting cluster of food that you can check out in a short afternoon.

  • The First Stop: Start with a takeout empanada at El Patio Market on U.S. 1 just south of Rte 175. It's a small Hispanic grocery. They sell terrific empanadas that they'll heat there or that you can take home. They also sell frozen empanada wrappers imported from Argentina that are easy to use and absolutely delicious. (The Mexican restaurant next door was just okay on my single stop, but other people talk it up.)
  • The Traffic Stop: Drive north on U.S. 1 until you see a taco truck. That is Pupuseria Lorenita's. Keep snacking on great tacos in your car. There are several trucks along U.S. 1 from Jessup through Laurel, but Lorenita's has my favorite tacos and pretty regular hours. It has moved a bit recently because Paco's Paints (it's host) moved and then closed.
  • The Goody-Two-Shoes: Go back to the Columbia East shopping center and check out My Organic Market. Good vegetables, bread and a small cheese selection. All the national organic brand basics.
  • The Bad-For-You: Across from MoM is Fortune Star Buffet. This is all-you-can-eat Chinese. When it's busy, the selection can be large and interesting, and the food stays fresh. Avoid the boring stuff. Explore the rest.
  • The Mystery: Press your nose against the window at Coco Butter's down the row from Fortune Star. It advertises chocolates and jazz. It's only open at night. There is a story there, but I can't figure it out.
  • The New-Comer: Pollo Fuego just opened on the back side of Columbia East. It's selling Peruvian chicken around the corner from MoM. Juicy, flavorful chicken. It's a basic, but there is real skill in turning out a bird with a peppery taste, moist meat, and skin that is just too delicious to leave on the plate. Pollo Fuego turns out nice chicken, and that makes a great plate with fried yucca and red beans -- still holding their shape, but cooked soft and creamy.
  • The Old-Timer: Frank's Seafood in the wholesale fish market. From Polly Fuego, turn left on the road running behind Columbia East. That deadends into the fish market where you have to show an ID, but don't pay anything to visit the retail Frank's for fresh fish and crabs, crabs, crabs.

That is just a little taste. There is also a West African grocery in Columbia East on the side that faces U.S. 1. I don't know that food, so I haven't ever been able to figure out if it is worth visiting. If you have time, it is definitely worth driving north on U.S. 1 into Elkridge -- El Nayar for basic Mexican at Business Parkway, Smokey's & Uncle Grube's pit beef stand at Roosevelt, and Caezar's International Market for Middle Eastern groceries and the neighboring Persian restaurant on Rte 103. But that's probably another post.

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