by Michael Vyskocil, photography by Sarah Walsh

Blue Bistro & Catering: Infusing Bistro Fare with a Fusion of Flavors

From hipsters and older adults to everyone in between, Blue Bistro & Catering in Westminster invites guests to experience good food and good company in a bon vivant deli and bistro setting. Managed by Lori Javier and Chef Melissa Fordham, Blue Bistro & Catering has given Carroll County residents a place to go for comforting cuisine with innovative twists on flavors for more than eight years.

Fordham is no stranger to the Westminster community. She received her professional training in the culinary arts from the Carroll County Career and Technology Center. While working as the executive sous chef at the Grill at Harryman House, she served as executive chef consultant at Rafael’s and taught culinary arts classes to adults and children at Carroll Community College.

When the opportunity arose to partner with Javier in this bistro and catering endeavor, Fordham seized it and brought her distinctive culinary style to the deli and bistro menus. The Brisket Cheese Steak is one example of putting a new twist on a familiar favorite.

Lori Javier

Blue Bistro’s version layers slow-cooked shaved brisket with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and garlic mayonnaise on a soft hoagie roll. “You can go anywhere and get a cheese steak, but the brisket steps it up a bit,” Javier said of this creation, which has been on the menu for about five years.

If you’re seeking a caterer, Blue Bistro & Catering offers both in-house catering for parties of 50 and fewer guests, and outside catering for groups of up to 200. Javier noted that the bistro is available to host private parties after 5 p.m., and menus can be customized for special requests including dietary restrictions.

Once a month, Javier and Fordham host a Friday evening pop-up dinner. “They’re an opportunity for Melissa to feature favorite inspirations and incorporate seasonal foods into the menu,” Javier said. “When we announce them, they typically sell out quickly.”

blue bistro & catering

330 One Forty Village Rd., Westminster, MD | 410-871-0900 |


Vanessa’s Corner Pub: Delivering on Value with Good Cheer and Good Food

Where everybody knows your name isn’t limited to Cheers. Westminster has its own version of Cheers, a place where customer service starts from the moment you enter the parking lot: Vanessa’s Corner Pub.

Its namesake, owner Vanessa Chrisafis, brings a civic-minded approach to serving the Carroll County community with good food and attentive service that bring customers back again and again. The building was converted from its former life as a gas station convenience store into a restaurant. Today, Vanessa’s Corner Pub comprises a restaurant with a dining area; a carryout area offering food from the menu, wine and beer; and a bar and lounge.
When it comes to food and beverages, general manager Troy McQuaige is quick to report that pizzas, subs and burgers are among the top-selling items on the menu. “We make a deluxe cheese steak with lettuce, tomato and fried onions, topped with bacon and the best provolone.” Featuring pepperoni straight from Italy, Vanessa’s pepperoni pizza is a customer favorite, along with the perennially popular cheese pizza.

Thursday nights are devoted to burgers, with a build-your-own burger offering. Top the half-pound burger of your choice with any toppings you like.

If you crave a fantastic crab cake, McQuaige added that Vanessa’s crab cakes will satisfy those cravings. “We make our own, and they’re about 8 or 9 ounces, all jumbo lump crabmeat. We go through about 24 to 30 crab cakes a week.”

Desserts are also made in house and include everyone’s favorite cheesecake and a white chocolate caramel bread pudding served with a white chocolate bourbon cream sauce.

McQuaige believes that the reason for the popularity of Vanessa’s Corner Pub is its dedication to staying loyal to the core values inherent in Carroll County’s residents.

Fernando Sanchez Guzman and Troy McQuaige

Vanessa’s regularly contributes to high school fundraising efforts and donates to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer research.

“People here are very genuine, humble and work hard for their money,” McQuaige said. “We like to give them specials that are out of the box, that tantalize the palate and that educate them on their choices of food and beverages. People in Carroll County generally get value for what they earn, and we like to deliver that value.”

Vanessa’s Corner Pub

2600 West Liberty Rd., Westminster, MD | 410-857-2779 |


The Big Belly Deli: ‘Old-World’ Style of Feeding Hearty Appetites and Hospitality

Atouch of whimsy, a heartfelt love of beautifully made food and customers who become friends within a few bites … this is the recipe behind The Big Belly Deli.

Opened in June 2011 in Sykesville, The Big Belly Deli is owned and operated by Thor, Timiri and Ciana Breden. The name “deli” doesn’t fully do this business justice — it’s more like a family dining room serving up hospitality and cuisine.

“Personally, I think we are so unique because we make 90 percent of our food in house,” Timiri said. “We serve food in an ‘Old World’ style while keeping up with trending and popular foods.” While The Big Belly Deli offers a taste-tempting selection of sandwiches, the business also creates extraordinary homemade desserts, soups and many types of specials. “To add onto all of that, we have huge portions and do not disappoint in the ‘hunger factor,’” she added.

And when you’re hungry, you won’t want to pass up The Big Belly Deli’s signature sandwich, the Cuban Press. “It’s a common sandwich,” Timiri said, “but to make it with our own twist, we make a homemade Cuban slaw that is fresh, delicious and adds another quality to the sandwich.” That Cuban slaw complements the spicy marinated pork loin, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise and pickles sandwiched between pieces of butter-toasted sourdough.

Timiri Breden

Other taste-tempting sandwich creations on the menu include the Bavarian Beef, Mozza Pesto and the Philly Cheese Steak.

In addition to lunch, The Big Belly Deli serves breakfast Monday through Friday from 6 to 11 a.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

According to Timiri, what makes The Big Belly Deli thrive is the strength of its location and the loyalty of its customers. “A large portion of our customers are regular customers,” she said. “We have people coming in to order food multiple times a day, every day. We are able to build relationships with our customers, make new friends and grow in our tight-knit community. As we extend our friendliness, we receive just as much back. Carroll County really is a great place to live and to be able to serve food.”

The Big Belly Deli

887 Sandosky Rd., Sykesville, MD | 443-920-3423 |