Two years after a deadly flood gutted many historic buildings, Old Ellicott City in Maryland is bustling again with cafes, galleries, shops and restaurants that make the picturesque Howard County suburb a can’t-miss (and easy) day trip from Baltimore. The former mill town sits in a valley of the Tiber River and is full of historic buildings containing 22 new businesses that have opened since the flood with 78 shops that have returned, said Ellicott City Partnership President Maureen Smith.
“Everything is new and clean and fresh. Everything has been renovated,” Smith says. “We’ve managed to keep the old Ellicott City charm while updating our retail.”
A gourmet popcorn shop, a Greek café, a bath boutique and a beer tavern are some of the businesses that have opened in the last two years. And more shops are on the way. And visitors are eager to see the town’s new look.
“We’re seeing two to three times as much walking traffic as before," Smith says.
Read on for what’s new and improved.
Where to Eat
Georgia Grace Cafe: Owner Paula Dwyer serves her family’s favorite Greek recipes for spanakopita, souvlaki and meatballs. Also try the pita bread and baklava, both made in house. 8006 Main St., 410.988.8052
Manor Hill Tavern: The owners of Columbia’s Victoria Gastro Pub have opened a tavern that serves beer from their own brewery nearby, Manor Hill Brewing. 3733 Old Columbia Pike, 410.465.8500
Portalli’s: After undergoing a complete renovation, the popular Italian restaurant reopened in late 2017 with larger dining areas and a refreshed look. 8085 Main St., 410.505.9300
Syriana Café & Gallery: The beautiful surroundings here make a picturesque backdrop for digging into hummus and Syrian mezze. You can also take home traditional rugs, decorative boxes and other gifts. 8180 Main St., 443.325.5661
Bean Hollow Cafe: Sink your teeth into the delectable cakes and pastries to go with coffee made with beans roasted in house. 8059 Main St., 410.465.0233, no website
Ellicott Mills Brewing Company: This is a three-story restaurant and the bar has been brewing its own German-style beers since 1997. 8308 Main St., 410.313.8141
Judge’s Bench Pub: Located in a stone building, this pub pours 300 whiskeys and an impressive selection of craft beers to go with a menu with vegan options. Live music adds to the festive vibe. 8385 Main St., 410.465.3497
Little Market Cafe: Tucked in a courtyard known as Tonge Row, this café offers outdoor seating with views of the Tiber River. In warmer months, the courtyard fills up with fans of outdoor concerts, digging into ice cream from Scoop Ahh Dee Doo. 3731 Hamilton St., 410.465.5995
Pure Wine Cafe: Oenophiles enjoy a wide selection here and sip favorites on the patio overlooking Main Street. 8210 Main St., 410.480.5037
Where to Shop
E.C. Pops: The gourmet popcorn shop offers more than 50 flavors, including Old Bay caramel and chocolate- covered strawberry. 8143 Main St., 410.750.7677
HorseSpirit Arts Gallery : This homegrown shop showcases paintings, sculptures and photography from local artists, plus wearable art, pottery, wooden works and jewelry. 8090 Main St., 410.461.3505
Sweet Elizabeth Jane: One of the shops hardest hit by the flood, the boutique is back selling its vintage clothes, books, cushions and candles in a new space. 8125 Main St., 410.465.6400
Sweet Suds Bath Boutique: Ice cream, cupcakes and truffles are on the menu here. But don’t eat them; the confections are tantalizing bath products in disguise. 8026 Main St., no phone/website
Things to Do and See
Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum
Since taking over last fall, the Howard County government has been offering free admission to the oldest surviving railroad depot in America. With the main building, freight house, a replica of the first horse-drawn rail car and an “I-5” caboose, there’s lots to see here. 3711 Maryland Ave., 410.313.1945
Ellicott City Firehouse Museum
Housed in a bright yellow building on top of a hill, this site highlights firefighting history from the late 19th to early 20th centuries and was Howard County’s first firehouse. Explore all manner of tools from bells to pumps. 3829 Church Road, 410.313.0420