There’s a lot of buzz these days about the opening of the Inn at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club and its new restaurant Knoxie’s Table. Our taste buds tingled in anticipation each time we passed the construction zone and watched the new establishment taking shape. Owner John Wilson was planning something special here, our food-loving friends whispered. The new restaurant would take Kent Island by storm.
We couldn’t wait to try it. So on a recent Saturday night, we visited Knoxie’s Table. And dinner started with an argument. Where was the entrance to the restaurant? “There’s a side entrance,” some said. “You enter through the front door of the hotel,” others argued. At last, our frustrated driver stopped and stalked into the hotel to ask for directions. “I told you,” the driver announced. “This is the entrance.” To reach the restaurant’s entrance, indeed you do enter through the hotel’s main entrance. This puts dinner guests directly in the path of a lovely gift shop and food market that just begs to be explored. (Gentlemen: drop your ladies off and let them shop for a few minutes while you park!)
The décor at Knoxie’s is what we would call rustic modern. Details speak of a time past, with custom barrel light fixtures and barnwood inlays on parts of the ceiling. On one wall, hand-carved spoons are cobbled together as art; framed images depict bird’s nests and old milk cans. KNOXIE’S is spelled out in block letters across the back wall. Servers wear khaki pants and blue-and-white checked shirts beneath homespun aprons that crisscross and tie in the back.
Though the décor nods to the past, the lines and materials have a decidedly modern feel. A fireplace features fieldstone, tile and a galvanized steel hood. You might find the polished wood floors, leather banquettes and wicker chairs in any well appointed Chesapeake home.
But enough about the décor! We can hear you asking, “How’s the food?”
The menu, which draws its’ inspiration from the Eastern Shore’s working watermen and farmers, is printed on brown paper and presented as a sort of placemat (though the server whisked it away once we ordered). Dinner selections are on one side and cocktails and wine on the other. There’s an array of soups, salads and oysters, plus a number of “mains.” But we spent much of our time debating what to order from the “Food for Friends” section of the menu (a.k.a. appetizers).
Then, we sat back to await the parade of dishes. Tiny crocks of pimento cheese, honey and sweet cream butter sit on each table and serve as the perfect compliment for the contents of the bread basket, which contained both baguettes and biscuits.
The chef exhibited a masterful touch with the Chesapeake fried oysters, which were served atop oyster shells with the tiniest dollop of dry vermouth aioli and caviar. Also making our list of favorites was barbecued quail, juicy and delicious, served on a bed of frisee salad and Chapel’s Creamery Bay Bleu. Of course, sampling the Maryland cream of crab soup was a must and it was as delicious as our server boldly guaranteed it would be. There were a couple of ho-hums in the group, including the chips and French onion dip, but the stellar quality of the first wave of food was enough to earn two thumbs up from the table.
Jumbo lump crab cakes were without a doubt the star of the mains. We know everyone says they have the “best” in the region, but this is certainly a candidate (and yes, we know, crab is not in season yet!). Safe choices also include the filet mignon and the grilled seafood platter, though the meatloaf and mashed potatoes were a bit disappointing. With a simple mention to our server, however, the dish was whisked away, with the offer of a replacement and a credit on our bill.
And then there was pie. We ordered samples of the homemade apple, lemon meringue and banana cream. The apple pie was a masterpiece, though oddly served cold. We sent it back for a turn through the microwave, only to find that the server failed to remove the whipped cream before heating. Still, what the pie lacked in presentation, it made up for in taste.
The lemon meringue was tangy, with a heady Italian meringue. But the hands-down winner was the banana cream, which excels when served cold. The filling reminded us of banana pudding, topped with whipped cream. We sampled the homemade ice creams too, for a sweet finish to the evening.
Looking ahead, we predict good things from Knoxie’s Table. Those in charge here have honed their skills at some of the region’s finest restaurants. Executive Chef Paul Shiley has worked at both The Narrows and Hunters’ Tavern at the Tidewater Inn. Daniel Pochron, who was the top chef at both The Inn at Perry Cabin and Mason’s in Easton, has signed on as food and beverage director. The food is good, and it will continue to improve as the Knoxie’s team gets their footing.
Knoxie’s Table: 180 Pier One Road, Stevensville; 410-604-5900 or baybeachclub.com. The restaurant serves dinner daily and brunch on both Saturday and Sunday.
What’s In a Name?
Among the softer colors and natural finishes at Knoxie’s Table, we spied one bright red bar stool sitting by the door. “That red chair is Knoxie’s,” our server said with a smile. “She sits in it when she comes to the restaurant.”Apparently Knox is the maiden name of owner John Wilson’s wife. His pet name for her is Knoxie, hence the restaurant’s name, Knoxie’s Table.