The Stanford Grill is the perfect setting for a scene in a movie. Imagine Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman --or let's make it Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt -- coming for an intimate tryst. One dark autumn night, they enter the restaurant, its sleek contemporary brown woodwork softly lit by amber lights.
They are led across the dark tile floor past the jazz trio quietly playing "Alone Together" on a baby grand piano, upright bass, and drums. A hostess seats the couple near the large stone fireplace.
The camera moves in for a close-up as they settle back in the plush red leather seats of their booth. Firelight flickers on their faces, while a waiter in a white shirt, black vest and tie unobtrusively brings their drinks.
From the corner where the jazz trio is playing, the subtle strains of "A Night in Tunisia" weave through the muted background of voices and softly clinking glasses.
Brad orders the wood-fired rotisserie chicken (which is turning on the spit on the other side of the room), and receives a hearty portion served with mashed red potatoes and fresh green beans. Angelina orders the Eastern Shore crab cakes with orzo rice and sweet glazed carrots. They select a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling from the list of French, Italian, Australian, and California wines. Both eat with relish.
Over at the bar, the beautiful young bartender Jamie is pouring refills for a watchful bodyguard, who is nursing drinks as he hunches over the gleaming black granite top bar.
Nearby, couples along the wall lean into their intimate conversations. Outside on the patio (where clear plastic curtains keep the space warm enough for dining), a pair of FBI men pretends to peruse the menu while keeping a close eye on our couple, who are suspected terrorists.
But my imagination runs away with me.
This is just Columbia, Maryland, not Casablanca. Nevertheless, the Stanford Grill provides a rich stimulus to such fancies, even though it is only about half a mile as the crow flies from the Target complex on the other side of Route 175.
Previously occupied by the Lone Star Grill, it is on a cul-de-sac at the end of Stanford Blvd., near the Marriott Courtyard Hotel entrance. And in fact, you can get a little lost trying to find the place – but that's perhaps part of its romance.
The Stanford Grill opened just last May. Its hours are 11am to 10pm daily, serving lunch and dinner. Lunch offerings range from sandwiches ($9 to $14), salads ($12 - $14), and entrees ($15 - $25). The dinner menu is similar but adds prime rib and tenderloin filet to the entrée listing. The menu says, "Jazz Nightly."
My young friends Greg Adams (piano), Shawn Simon (bass), and George Barnes (drums), all accomplished graduates of local jazz study programs, were playing the night I visited (which was not the same night that Brad and Angelina were there, sad to say).