If you’re like us, you’re eager to explore Howard County as much as you can. We began covering the county as regional reporters for The Banner this year, and the more we learn about the ever-changing and ever-growing area, the more we want to get to know the people and places here.

We asked local residents for the names of some beloved spots from different parts of this large county. Here are some hidden gems we uncovered.

Konstantine’s Greek Taverna, Highland

Konstantine’s Greek Taverna of Highland Road in Highland, Howard County, sits among acres of open fields with galloping horses. When inside, it feels as though someone opened their home for a homemade meal. (Abby Zimmardi/The Baltimore Banner)

Along a scenic drive past roaming horses on acres and acres of land, I came across Konstantine’s Greek Taverna. The olive-green building slowly emerges off the side of Highland Road in Highland, in southwestern Howard County, and almost feels like you’re walking into someone’s cozy — slightly fancy, but you can wear jeans, of course — home.

Once inside, you’ll find a wine cellar to your right displaying numerous bottles and an intimate-looking bar to your left. The wood floors creak as you walk to your table.

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I went for lunch recently, and the menu was simple and classic. So, if you’re indecisive like me, you’re in good hands at Konstantine’s. I ordered a chicken souvlaki in pita bread, and it came with some of the best, soft and salty fries I’ve ever eaten. The food was exquisite and I got to enjoy my meal with friendly service and what sounded like traditional Greek music as my soundtrack. At lunchtime, the restaurant was nearly empty, making me think this is the perfect example of a hidden gem.

Abby Zimmardi

Boarman’s Old Fashioned Meat Market, Highland

A family-operation for nearly a century, Boarman’s Old Fashioned Meat Market, off Highland Road in Highland, Howard County, has a little bit of everything. There’s fresh produce, a butcher, prepared on-the-go meals and Boarman’s own spices, ground coffee and more. (Abby Zimmardi/The Baltimore Banner)

After enjoying a meal at Konstantine’s, hop in your car, make a right out of the parking lot and drive a short distance to Boarman’s market at 13402 Clarksville Pike.

A family operation for nearly a century, Boarman’s market has a little bit of everything. But before you start shopping, you must wash your hands, per the protocol. Once inside, you’ll find fresh produce, a butcher, prepared on-the-go meals and Boarman’s own spices, ground coffee and more.

As you make your way through the aisles, you’ll also come across cleaning supplies, frozen foods, bread and plenty of alcohol.

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Jess Nocera

Charter Deli, Columbia

Charter Deli is tucked away in a medical park, making it a great spot for health care workers and patients to stop by for a quick bite or a quiet place to meet with a friend and catch up. (Jess Nocera/The Baltimore Banner)

In the midst of medical and doctor’s offices in the Charter Professional Center at 10700 Charter Drive in Columbia is Charter Deli. You might question if you’re in the right place when you first drive up, or you might miss it altogether. I did both.

At around 11 a.m. on a recent Tuesday, a young boy enjoyed an ice-cream cone before being told it was time to get to school. An older woman worked her way through a daily edition of The Washington Post, while an older man sitting behind her perused the pages of The Baltimore Sun. Their newspapers were scattered across their respective tables, as they read section by section.

For over 20 years, this quaint delicatessen has served health care workers, patients and local residents. Charter Deli serves breakfast all day, including scrambled egg sandwiches with or without cheese and meat, deli sandwiches such as chicken salad and pastrami, sweet treats and daily specials.

Jess Nocera

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Trifecto Bar, Clarksville

Nestled in the back of a food hall in Clarksville, Howard County, is Trifecto Bar. Come for the friendly service and stay for the coffee. (Abby Zimmardi/The Baltimore Banner)

As a coffee lover who isn’t all that picky about their java, I’m typically pretty pleased when I sip a cup of coffee. But I know a good cup of joe when I taste it, and Trifecto Bar at 12250 Clarksville Pike in Clarksville always delivers for me.

It’s nestled in the back of a most aromatic food hall and has both tables and a long bar. The barista was friendly and chatted with a few regulars. It’s a cozy spot with a rustic feeling, has free WiFi, and serves food and alcohol. But the coffee is what keeps me coming back.

In 2018, Trifecto was created, according to its website. The bar is a brick-and-mortar dream come true from three people who created a wholesale company in 2014 — with no retail location — that sold juices and granola, called District Juicery.

Abby Zimmardi

Kelsey’s Restaurant, Irish Pub & Banquet Room, Ellicott City

Stepping into Kelsey’s Restaurant, Irish Pub & Banquet Room, it feels like St. Patrick's Day every day. Enjoy a cold Guinness with some traditional Irish fare. (Jess Nocera/The Baltimore Banner)

Dining at Kelsey’s at 8480 Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City can feel like St. Patrick’s Day, even when it’s not. Traditional Irish music blares from the speakers as many diners sip on a cold Guinness. There’s even an electronic countdown to the holiday in the restaurant. When the actual holiday rolls around, it’s a weeklong celebration.

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Kelsey’s has been around for decades. The restaurant serves Irish favorites such as corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie, but also has an ahi tuna sandwich, a raw bar, burgers and salads. On a recent visit, I ordered “The Beast,” a sandwich featuring warm roast beef, cheddar cheese, arugula, red onions and horseradish tiger sauce on ciabatta bread.

Jess Nocera