Enrique Limardo, the acclaimed chef behind Seven Reasons and Imperfecto, tosses aside his fine-dining hat to bring Columbia, Md. a whimsical new spot for grab-and-go milkshakes, icy beers, waffle fries, build-your-own hot dogs, and candied bacon-topped burgers.
The casual walk-up counter, dubbed Walrus Roadside Stand, debuted this week out of Walrus Oyster & Ale House at The Mall in Columbia. Star Restaurant Group (SRG) also runs Chicken + Whiskey, Logan Circle’s beloved rotisserie chicken joint where Limardo is also a partner.
For the Venezuelan-born chef’s latest culinary collab with SRG, he puts his mark on a menu full of American cookout classics by weaving in Latin-leaning flavors, tacos, tortas, and foot-long churros (10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Md.).
“The idea of migration, traveling somewhere new, is an essential element of what we know as American cuisine. American favorites, from hot dogs and hamburgers to apple pie, all have roots in cultures across the globe,” says Limardo, who also oversees the fast-casual fusion menu at D.C.’s Immigrant Food.
At Walrus Roadside Stand, a signature “Mad Dog” housed in a seasoned fried tortilla marries a Nathan’s Famous hot dog with creamy mac n’ cheese, candied bacon crumble, green onion, and crema Latina. Toppings for all-beef or vegan dogs run the gamut, with options like onion rings, cotija cheese, salsa verde, vegan chili, and sweet and sour pineapple barbecue sauce. Much of the menu is under $10.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends from noon to 9 p.m.
Road trip sugar fixes come in the form of Coke slushies, soft serve cones, creamy floats, and ice cream sandwiches, plus milkshakes that can be spiked with Bailey’s, Kahlua, Gosling’s Rum or E.W. Bourbon. Curbside cocktails include a margarita, sangria, and frozen strawberry mule, plus beer, wine, and fruity lemonades and teas.
Employees appropriately donning “Hit the Road, Jack” tees call out takeout-friendly orders when they’re ready.
“If you can’t walk away with it or walk to a store in the mall, we didn’t want to serve it,” SRG managing principal Des Reilly tells Eater.
Walrus Roadside makes use of the 3-year-old restaurant’s former private dining room and events space that went dark during the pandemic.
“For almost three months every day I looked at this empty PDR and it made me so crazy — one of the scariest things for a restaurant is to see an empty dining room,” says Reilly, a Howard County resident who came up with the idea to bring a roadside fixture to the family-friendly area.
The converted setup includes eight teal stools and picnic tables for up to 20 on a sidewalk patio, where kids can scribble on an eight-foot chalkboard wall.
“Every state has a little roadside stand. A cheap place to get a great taco, frozen Coke for my daughter and margarita for me and my wife while keeping our kids occupied,” he says.
The nostalgic stand is inspired by American car culture and the roadside eatery boom during the 1960s, especially in places like California where everyone drove. Reilly remembers hitting reliable roadside pitstops while living in SoCal in the 1990s, pulling over along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to curb just about any craving alongside tattooed bikers, old ladies, and immigrants.
“I was struck by how good the food is — it’s a mashup of Mexican-American culture. You can get an incredible burger or an amazing tortilla soup or American hot dog with mustard with a cold Bud,” he says. “You’d see guys drinking horchata and Mexican Cokes.”
The “La Jolla Cove” Beyond burger is an ode to his San Diego days, built with hearts of palm vegan mayonnaise, green tomato, pineapple barbecue, tortilla chips and Tajin.