Located in central Maryland, quaint and storied Annapolis is an easy trip from both DC and Baltimore. This popular city and its Anne Arundel County environs offer visitors endless opportunities to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay area, from historic sites to a lively dining scene that continues to grow. In fact, several new restaurants recently joined the pantheon of Annapolis-area favorites, such as Lewnes’ Steakhouse, Carrol’s Creek Cafe and Cantler’s Riverside Inn, that has been luring visitors for years.
On the list: Kitchen on West St. is making its presence known in busy downtown Annapolis with creative comfort food. Ashling Kitchen & Bar in Crofton and Pascal’s Chophouse in Severna Park present more casual settings while The Blackwall Barn & Lodge in Gambrills offers a fine-dining experience. And a stalwart, Café Mezzanotte, recently underwent a million-dollar facelift and unveiled a new menu. Following is a detailed round-up of these new arrivals on the culinary scene.
KITCHEN ON WEST ST.
Don’t dismiss Kitchen on West St. because it’s located in a hotel. The restaurant, which opened in 2018 in the Hilton Garden Inn, is a worthy contender for casual American fare in the crowded downtown Annapolis field. It offers breakfast, happy hour and dinner in a modern dining room and bar with an eye-catching wall of local photography and paintings. There is outdoor seating, too. The appetizers are fun and appealing, especially the giant soft pretzel, delivered on a stand with beer cheese and brown-mustard dips. Entrees such as mac and cheese with crab, a quinoa and salmon grain bowl and a crab taco put a twist on comfort food. And who wouldn’t want to end their meal with the red velvet Smith Island cake, a multilayered wonder? 174 West Street, Annapolis; 410-990-1100. annapolis.thekitchenandbar.com
ASHLING KITCHEN & BAR
Elise Letavish may have music in her soul, but these days she has food on her mind. A former tour manager for the late rapper Mac Miller, Letavish opened Ashling Kitchen & Bar in Crofton in April with her fiancé, Saeed Ashrafzadeh. The sleek outpost is an offshoot of their business, Ashling Market & Catering, located at The Modell Lyric in Baltimore, where they have fed entertainers ranging from Dwight Yoakam to Cardi B. At Ashling Kitchen & Bar, plush banquettes and bare-wood tables create a sophisticated yet comfortable vibe to accompany chef Ahmed Koroma’s New American cuisine. While entrees like charred salmon, crab cakes and fish and chips are popular, small plates include avocado eggroll, fried green tomatoes and poutine, the popular Canadian comfort food. 1286 Route 3 South, Route 3 Plaza, Crofton; 443-332-6100. ashlingco.com
Owners Robert and Caroline Pascal bring impressive credentials to Pascal’s Chophouse. Robert began his hospitality career at St. Michaels Harbour Inn, Marina & Spa, while Caroline is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The couple honed their skills at their restaurant, Bistro St. Michaels, before opening Pascal’s Chophouse in Severna Park last year. The casual steakhouse with booths, banquettes and bare tables serves locally sourced meat and seafood on a menu that includes wet-aged, grass-fed and dry-aged steaks, crab cakes, salmon and a catch of the day. Or patrons can go less formal with an eight-ounce Angus burger. The thoughtful wine list offers more than 100 labels, most of them organic or biodynamic. 139 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park; 410-647-8216. pascalschophouse.com
THE BLACKWALL BARN & LODGE
The name alone suggests a romantic country inn—and The Blackwall Barn & Lodge in Gambrills, part of the Blackwall Hitch chain, lives up to its moniker. Its various spaces—from the main dining area to a room that hosts chef’s dinners—conjure an elegant farmhouse sensibility, with reclaimed-wood tables, whitewashed paneling, a brick bar, chandeliers and cozy stone fireplaces. Executive chef Neal Langermann supports the setting with seasonal cuisine showcasing the bounty of area farms and waterways, including Chesapeake rockfish, Eastern Shore crab and Virginia ham. You don’t want to miss the fried chicken and waffles for dinner. 329 Gambrills Road, Gambrills; 410-317-2276. barnandlodge.com
Café Mezzanotte in Severna Park is fresh from a $1 million makeover. The 25-year-old Italian restaurant was due for an update, says owner Kosmas “Tommie” Koukoulis, who is also a partner in Craft American Eatery in Severna Park and Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz in Fallston. “It felt like the ambiance was falling behind,” he explains. Last year, Koukoulis closed Mezzanotte for a six-week overhaul, then reopened it with a fresh look that includes reimagined décor and signage and a new menu. Classics like eggplant parmigiana, seafood fettuccine and lasagna are still available, but executive chef Zack Trabbold, working with local purveyors, has created interesting interpretations of old-school cuisine with dishes like rib-eye tagliata and rockfish agrodolce. 760 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park; 410-647-1100. cafemezzanotte.com