Howard County’s food and beverage scene is abuzz with new arrivals like Peter Chang heating up the Merriweather District.

And there is a lot more in the works, including a bar coming to the mall and a brewery where you can buy a Big Mac pizza.

The influx of new spots is welcome news to Harry Evans III, chairman of Howard County’s Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board and an enthusiastic supporter of the area’s dining scene. “I don’t want to have to cross either 495 or 695 for anything — does that sound very selfish?” he said. Evans said he is quick to approve new liquor licenses for businesses that don’t currently exist in Howard County.

As a resident who moved to Columbia from Baltimore in 1985, he believes that residents “should not have to leave Howard County to spend our money.”

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Harry Evans III, pictured at a March 28 hearing, sits on the Howard County Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board. (Handout)

Evans is a character; I can’t say I was surprised when he told me he once hosted a TV show. In hearings, he holds court, often asking entrepreneurs how they plan to cater to the scores of area seniors like himself, who he feels are an underserved demographic (though he declined to give his own age). He also grills business owners about how they plan to prevent underage drinking and alcohol abuse on their premises. That’s a particular concern, he said, because Howard County has 300 to 400 liquor license holders and a limited number of inspectors that can enforce compliance: “Guess how big our inspector force is? One.” (In contrast, Baltimore City has about 10 inspectors for around 1,100 licensees.)

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One pet peeve: when owners come from Carroll County to open businesses in Howard. “I prefer [owners] who live out here. It changes the whole formula. The money stays in the community.”

Two people walk by a sign outside The Mall in Columbia on Feb. 13, 2023. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Among the newcomers Evans is excited about is Tapville Social, which will launch a 300-square-foot location inside the food court of the Mall in Columbia. Part of a national chain, the company offers cocktail flights and self-pour wine and beer walls. Customers use a “pour pass” to get their own drinks and sip them at tables nearby.

Chandra Goodman and Katrina Greene, co-owners of the local outpost, are lifelong friends with a passion for wine. Goodman told Evans at a liquor board hearing last month that their goal is to offer locally made beer and wine to make sure that “Maryland is known for more than just crab cakes.” The space will also serve light fare like chips and charcuterie boards.

Alexis Suk Bible is also a partner on the project; the trio received support from the mall through its Partner to Empower program, which gives money to minority business owners.

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Identical twin sisters RaeShawn, left, and LaShone Middleton started R&L Crab Company during the pandemic. (Farrah Sheiky)

Evans told me he is desperate for a lake trout spot to come to Howard. In the meantime, the county has a new place to get crabs: R&L Crab Company at 7185 Columbia Gateway Drive.

Identical twins RaeShawn and LaShone Middleton started delivering steamed crabs door to door during the pandemic after both lost their jobs as servers. Since then, the twins and their concept have taken off. They have been featured on “Good Morning America,” “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and NPR.

While the Middletons started the company as a ghost kitchen in Washington, D.C., they later added a brick-and-mortar store in Columbia that offers delivery and carryout. The sisters hope they can add on-premise dining by this summer.

For the Columbia location, the sisters teamed up with local chef Marc Dixon, whom they first met during a culinary training program while attending Howard County’s Reservoir High School.

With the issuance of a liquor license, the restaurant will serve beer and canned cocktails, too. At the hearing, Dixon said the menu will eventually also include fried fish sandwiches and other seafood options.

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Perhaps Evans will get that lake trout after all.

And Columbians won’t have to leave town to get beer and pizza from Western Maryland.

Cushwa and Rad Pies Tap Room is coming to the former Frisco Tap House at 6695 Dobbin Road in Columbia. It’s the second-ever location for the brewery and pizzeria, both based in Williamsport. Among the offerings: German-style Kölsch and Big Mac pizza with ground beef and animal sauce.

The more than 6,000-square-foot tavern will sell beer for on- and off-premise consumption. There won’t be table service; customers will order at the bar.

At a meeting of Howard County’s Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board last month, brewery co-owner Brian Tarantino said the service style will be similar to that in other Howard County breweries like Black Flag or Jailbreak.

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“Are you going to have things for seniors?” Evans asked him.

“That’s a fantastic idea,” Tarantino said.

An opening is set for late June or early July. The space will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Christina Tkacik is the food reporter for The Baltimore Banner.

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