Since The Corner Stable opened in Cockeysville in 1972, it has attracted hungry, happy crowds with its aim-to-please menu—heavy on fall-off-the-bone ribs and oversized crab cakes and light on anything that might be construed as newfangled or trendy.
The dark, casual interior always had a cheerful bustle of people, drinking beer on tap as they waited for their food. Even after the restaurant changed hands in 2001, it maintained its popularity, probably because owners Chip and Randy Reed kept the rib recipe that earned the restaurant numerous “best of” awards from local publications over the years.
Today, The Corner Stable has opened a second location in Columbia’s Kings Contrivance Village Center, where Michael’s Pub used to be. The new Howard County outpost, helmed by the Reeds’ nephew Bryan Hiller, is larger and able to seat about 200, more than double what the original restaurant can hold. It also has an interesting décor, like the 100-year-old bricks from a Chicago bank that line the floors and walls.
The restaurant provides a welcome blast of unabashed Baltimore dining attitude in a county that can seem stuck in a rut of Italian and Asian restaurants. The menu, which has evolved under the Reeds’ ownership to include steaks, homemade soups, and more desserts, is the same in both its locations.
Yes, there are sandwiches and salads, but most people come to The Corner Stable for ribs and crab cakes. But first, we wanted to sample the appetizers. This section of the menu is heavily deep-fried, with the expected onion rings and chicken wings plus adventurous choices like battered-and-fried pickle spears and cheddar-cheese nuggets.
We dipped into a gooey crab dip, which is served warm with carrot sticks and soft puffy baguettes. The portion is large enough for two or three people to share, but the dip lacks serious crab lumps or flavor. A nondescript tossed salad with bland dressing didn’t excite us either.
The main courses redeemed our meal. The messy ribs are, as they have always been, meltingly tender, with a sweet-smoky sauce. The crab cake is an eight-ounce beauty with crab lumps as large as Ray Lewis’s knuckles.
It was offered as a special with fries on our visit, but no side-dish substitutions were allowed. So, we decided to order our crab cake off the regular menu and add coleslaw, a lightly dressed, fresh-tasting mix that was worth a few extra bucks, and green beans, which deserve praise for keeping a bit of snap.
Our server was a little too quick in presenting our check, though. We weren’t even asked if we wanted dessert or coffee, which was disappointing. We’ll just have to return another time to try the cakes made from scratch by Hiller’s mother, Vicki.