Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
By Lynne Layug
A new gathering place opened in Glenelg (at the Triadelphia Road/Ten Oaks Road circle) on January 11, 2017. In what was formerly Bistro Blanc, Dandelion Bakery & Bistro provides a meeting place for families, friends and co-workers to meet, eat and drink. It can be morning coffee and a pastry, a cup of tea while you read your favorite book, a healthy lunch with co-workers, or a wonderful family dinner in a cozy environment. You can even stop in for the longest happy hour in town-from noon to 7pm Monday to Friday! The Dandelion’s owner, Keith Watson, encourages people to, “Come in and relax. No pressure to buy anything-just read a book and enjoy. We want you here.”
Keith had started his cooking career in the mid-1970s as a breakfast cook for Mr. Up’s, a diner above a gas station in Golden, CO. He proceeded to work in upscale restaurants in New York and Maryland and you may remember him as the Executive Chef from the Crab Shanty in Ellicott City. His daughter, Gabby, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hydes, NY and has worked as a pastry chef for several years. Keith’s son, Andrew, worked with him at the Crab Shanty as his sous-chef for twelve years before assuming the role of bar manager at Dandelion. The eatery is the first family project for the Watsons, who put their dream into motion and began renovations last June.
Keith draws inspiration from the fact that he is working with his children every day and that he has the privilege of welcoming his employees into the family. Watching his staff grow through the years while he worked at the Crab Shanty brought him joy and great pride. Keith has watched co-workers and employees get married, start careers and families. He credits the Crab Shanty owners and staff with this sense of family and is still friends with many of his former Crab Shanty co-workers . Keith looks forward to watching his Dandelion family grow (like weeds) in the upcoming years and is thrilled his children are part of this extended family.
When you enter the Dandelion, you are warmly welcomed by the hostess and feel as if you are entering a very familiar, comfortable dining room. The air of familiarity comes from all of the salvaged pieces and furniture that decorate the space and add to its incredible charm. Most of the tables are surviving pieces from Cacoa Lane in Ellicott City, which never reopened after the flooding last year. The booths are originally from Piccolo’s in Columbia which closed in 2001. They had been repurposed by the Tiber River/ Diamond Back Tavern in Ellicott City before finding their home in Glenelg. A church pew from the Crab Shanty has also been reincarnated to seat guests at Dandelion. Barn tables and a ladder in the back private room were salvaged from a farm in Howard County and are uniquely rustic and charming.
One side of the restaurant is an intricate collage of doors, hardware and oddities, collected from former restaurants, hotels and other public meeting places. Each piece tells a story but collectively they create a unique focal point of the restaurant. One door hails from the original Sykesville Hotel, circa 1894; a cash drawer was formerly used at Crab Shanty; a heater register was salvaged from the St. Barnabas parish house in Sykesville, circa 1863. Catching one’s eye is a pencil sharpener that is a memento from Keith’s third grade classroom in 1968. Other items include a drive-in movie theater speaker which Keith obtained in 1978 from the Lakewood Drive-in; a piece of tin from the Hotel Belvedere that dates back to 1902, and an ironing board “borrowed” from a row house in Baltimore before it was demolished. Each of these repurposed pieces adds history and tradition to this new restaurant. The creative use and display of these items reveals a respect for the local history and a desire to honor and build upon these venerable institutions.
When asked what his dream is for his new restaurant, Keith smiled and said, “To make people happy. If the employees are happy, the guests are happy and everyone, including me-is happy.” With what this little diamond in the rough offers, I expect Dandelion Bakery & Bistro will become a sparkling gem that will help many of our neighbors live happily ever after.