The first 18 years of my life were spent in Baltimore County before continuing my education in Wilmington, North Carolina for college; then Coral Gables, Florida for graduate school; and for the past six years I have lived in New York City. I have been lucky enough to live in cities where chain restaurants and stores are not the norm.
I visit family fairly regularly and my time at home is spent walking the York Road corridor (here’s a handy Google map if you need help navigating!) With the holidays approaching, I wanted to share my favorite family-owned businesses and restaurants. Independent I love going when I’m back in Baltimore.
11121 York Rd. #2006, Cockeyville
Butler Gallery is not just an art store or a frame shop. It has the most fascinating selection of jewelry – all pieces are created by artisans for the owners of Butler Gallery. The compliments flow every time I wear a piece of jewelry from Butler Gallery, and that’s in New York City! Butler Gallery sells custom art of all shapes and sizes, plus offers fun and unique gifts with style. My other most flattered purchase is my Monet “Water Lilies” winter gloves; I originally bought these gloves for my mother and later kept them for myself.
Insider tip: Butler Gallery owners will give you a discount if you’re not in a rush to get something framed. Beautiful quality, workmanship and professionalism. Their framing services are more affordable than any box store.
11035 York Rd., Cockeysville
Valley View Farms reminds me of the Carole King song “You’ve Got a Friend”.
“Winter Spring Summer or Autumn
all you have to do is call
Do you have a friend.”
I have wonderful memories of my own childhood in Valley View and now new memories with my young niece and nephew. Fall festivities include the largest array of pumpkins you’ll ever see, a small corn maze, photo opportunities next to the largest pumpkin in the patch, and an extensive Halloween shop.
For spring and summer, Valley View Farms has all your gardening and nursery needs with expert advice, ranging from garden workshops to outdoor furniture, pottery, fountains, and if you’re like many of my friends who became In avid bird watchers during the pandemic, wild bird supplies.
People come from all over the region for the Valley View Farms Christmas Store. In addition to the standard lights, wreaths, trees and garlands, you’ll also find international items such as imported Christmas decorations and specialty nutcrackers. You’ll find every decoration you ever thought possible and every interest represented in a themed Christmas tree. Walking inside Valley View really does feel like vacation on steroids – prepare to be delighted!
10265B York Rd., Scott’s Corner Mall, Cockeysville
My “go to” florist for birthdays, pick me up, get well flowers, etc., Janda Florist is reliable and their quality is top notch. They also do weddings and events. In recent years they have moved to Scott’s Corner shopping center where the store is now larger and offers beautiful home decorations and ideal gifts. Its changing windows give a glimpse of the creativity and originality of the interior. They also have a popular section for babies and children, specialty candles, and Maryland-themed gifts.
My own personal story: My mother bought some type of holiday decoration item from Janda Florist, and on several occasions I asked, “Can you bring it to me?”
10249 York Rd., Cockeysville
In the same strip mall as Janda Florist, you’ll find my favorite authentic Italian restaurant, Vito’s. One of the many reasons I love Vito’s is because Signore Vito and his fratello, Tony, are from Puglia, Italy. They are molto nice when I try to speak my basic Italian.
There is a stylish bar area, tasteful decor, and in the spring and summer months there is pleasant outdoor seating. Vito’s is expanding and the addition should be completed by 2023. On rainy days my family usually calls for pickup. My personal favorites are the original pizza margherita or the chicken parmigiana (by the way, the parmigiana slice is so huge you can easily share). *Kiss from the chef!*
49 E. Padonia Rd., Timonium
What was life like before Über Bagels in Timonium? Their website says, “Simply the best bagels this side of New York,” which is a REALLY bold statement, but one that owner John Nocher (a New Yorker) delivers on. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have fresh bagels when I’m missing my New York Bacon, Egg and Cheese (BEC).
Whenever I’m with my parents for more than a week, I order a dozen and freeze a few so I have a few available. I usually order ahead (bless me, I love to order ahead) and choose my favorite for lunch, “Kelly’s California Veggie” (hummus, dill havarti, avocado, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, red onion, and dressing balsamic).
My favorite breakfast is an everything bagel with regular cream cheese or a lightly toasted rosemary sea salt bagel with butter; both may sound basic, but boy are the flavors tasty. Along with a cup of dark roast coffee, I’m ready to take on the aggressive drivers on York Road.
47 E. Padonia Rd., Timonium
Cake by Jason Hisley is my favorite candy store. And that’s coming from someone who lives three blocks from the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York. Seriously, I’ve never had better cupcakes and every time I’m home for my birthday, I order a custom birthday cake from Cake by Jason. I haven’t even told you how Jason Hisley is a Food Network award-winning chef!
Cake by Jason offers vegan and gluten-free versions of cupcakes and cake jars, specialty cakes are available to order year-round, and there are dog treats. Cupcake flavors are classic (vanilla/chocolate), Jason’s favorites (like my favorites, black bottom and red velvet), and weekly seasonal flavors (a Thanksgiving week example: maple pecan and bourbon: a vanilla cake with a bourbon caramel pecan filling topped with maple bourbon buttercream). If you ever want to be in awe of someone’s creative genius, check out @cakebyjason on Instagram.
If Jason sees this, I hope he’ll consider bringing back cupcake toppers for kids and adults birthday parties.
11 W. Aylesbury Rd., Timonium
Bluestone Restaurant describes itself as a “New American Seafood Specialist, offering everything from light fare to full dinner in a modern setting with a bar,” and I have to agree. I was last there in September and enjoyed excellent Fried Green Tomatoes with Chunk Crab and a delicious main course of “Firecracker” Salmon with Vietnamese Brussel Sprouts.
The spacious bar is very popular and due to Bluestone’s convenient location Y cocktails to go, you can have the peace of mind to drink and use an Uber or Lyft home. I recommend always making a reservation, although their takeout is always an option!
There is a bar! I repeat, there is a bar! Last year I needed to resize some rings and the owner of Meritage Jewelers, Brian McCullough, impressed me with his warmth and kindness. While I didn’t frequent the bar area, I want readers to know. I can see it now:
Her: “Hey babe, why don’t you check out this bar with your friend that I’m reading about in The Baltimore Banner?”
Him: “Oh yeah, we’re hanging out to watch the big game!”
*Guys appear in Meritage Jewelers*
*Hours later: the boys happily leave Meritage Jewelers, high-five and complete their holiday shopping*
820 Kenilworth Drive, Towson
Gundalow Gourmet is one of the newest additions to Kenilworth Mall and a culinary delight. Created by Dana Poist, a former nutritionist turned chef and businesswoman, Gundalow Gourmet creates delicious and healthy convenience meals to give customers the gift of time. Gundalow Gourmet not only offers personal chef and catering services, but also kitchen organization and design (which I desperately want for my parents’ chaotic and messy kitchen!).
So when you head to Kenilworth for the Holiday Train Gardens, stop by Gundalow Gourmet and enjoy their delicious Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies, choose your tasty and nutritious meals for the week, a meal almost too pretty to eat. cheese tray, a mini gingerbread house activity kit for the kids and beautiful decor items.
825 Dulaney Valley Rd., Towson Town Center, Towson
Wockenfuss Candies has been a part of Baltimore’s candy-making history for over 100 years. The store has a wide variety of fresh candy and chocolate selections and a heavenly aroma upon entering the store. Perfect for business gifts, hostess gifts, and the best kind of gift: a “from me to me” gift!
But here’s a sweet surprise: Wockenfuss candies may be your one-time purchase this holiday season. You’ll find the best gifts for sports fans, pet lovers, kids, Maryland-themed items, and my favorite: fancy holiday jewelry (seriously, her earrings are amazing – I’m currently wearing my stocking earrings with leopard print) .
Wockenfuss Candies has an online store so you can send your candies to any part of the country. There are several locations in Baltimore, but the Towson location is the one I frequent.
PS Before I leave Maryland, I always pick up packs of Berger cookies. My porters love these, they are a crowd pleaser at parties, and I freeze a pack so I can enjoy it whenever I get a craving for that divine, fudge-like goodness! You can send a “Taste of Baltimore” to your favorite Marylander who will be away for the holidays.
MC Curran is a creative consultant, publicist and producer. She is a proud graduate of the Baltimore County School System, an alumnus of UNC Wilmington and the University of Miami, and Harvard Business School Online. She currently resides on the Upper West Side with Tibetan terrier pup, Maher of New York, who has her own Instagram of hers: @maher_of_newyork.