Would you like to eat outdoors or indoors?" our hostess asked.
The question startled me. We had just walked through a hotel lobby so new you could still smell the paint, and I was trying to get a sense of the restaurant before me.
A rustic fireplace dominated the center of the room. Caramel-colored booths hugged the walls. Lamps ensconced in slatted market baskets hung from the ceiling. But through an open door, summer beckoned along with the soft laughter of diners enjoying the warm evening air. After a long, cool spring, eating outdoors was an irresistible option so we all opted for the patio and took our seats just as a flock of geese sailed through the sky on their way to the open waters of the Cheapeake Bay.
Opened in November, Knoxie's Table is part of an ambitious expansion at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, which includes an upscale Inn, a newly opened spa and a restaurant headed by Chef Paul Shiley.
The term "farm to table" is ubiquitous now, but Chef Paul Shiley has been establishing relationships with local Eastern Shore farmers and fishermen for years, beginning with his past tenure at the Narrows on Kent Island and then Easton's Tidewater Inn. The menu states Knoxie's sources as "Local 1st, Mid-Atlantic 2nd, Domestic last."
Local is taken one step further with an impressive garden at the inn, meant to provision the kitchen throughout the growing season. While it was a bit early to take advantage of the staked plants out front, the promise of "field to table" is very real here.
The drink menu offers a well chosen selection of wines by the glass and bottle as well as craft beers, signature cocktails and scotch and bourbon tasting flights.
We started off with glasses of South African Chenin Blanc from MAN Vintners ($7 glass/$28 bottle), a lovely wine for the money. My only problem was that the wine was served in hard plastic cups.
"No glass on the patio," my waitress informed me, although a gentleman at the next table was definitely sipping from a wine glass.
"Oh, he got that from the bar," she said.
It wasn't a satisfactory answer. If one customer can be accommodated, that means another can as well. This, along with long lapses in the service made for one of the few bumps in our experience throughout the night.
The menu is divided into Soups, Salad Starters, Food for Friends, Bistro Bites and Mains. Gluten Free items are identified clearly.
We began the meal with the "Food for Friends" section of shareables. Fried Green Tomatoes ($12) featured tomatoes that were fresh enough to actually bring a tart snap of flavor to the table. The panko crusting was more crust than crumb, but quite good as was the lump crabmeat and a vibrant remoulade sauce.
Warm biscuits and fresh bread were place on the table along with three small jars of pimento spread, butter and honey. The biscuits, made in house, were heavenly, whether buttered, honeyed or slathered with that delicious cheese spread.
Rockfish was a special of the evening ($28), and one that had to be tried considering Shiley's reputation. Resting on a colorful bed of vegetable ribbons and garnished with a sweet tomato topping, the flavors and freshness of the fish complemented each other beautifully.
Since we were on the bay, another diner decided to splurge and go for another special, a Softshell Crab and Crab cake ($36) paired with corn salsa. The "whale-size" soft shell crab was enveloped in that same crusted panko as the green tomatoes, and was seasoned so that the moist meat had room to shine. The large crab cake was filled with very good lump meat but could have used a bit more seasoning to give it character.
Just as we began deciding on our entrée selections, three beautiful slices of pie were delivered to the table next to us. Dessert was definitely going to be in the picture, so I chose my main meal carefully. The Black and Bleu Salad ($15), with fresh greens, large chunks of blue cheese and perfectly grilled blackened tenderloin cubes made for a satisfying yet light meal.
The Eastern Shore is as famous for fried chicken as it seafood, and the Knoxie's Fried Chicken Sandwich ($14) was a fine example of this Delmarva staple. Crunchy and moist with buttermilk-like richness, the boneless breast was served with a fried pickle, cucumber slaw and duck fat fries.
The same hand that makes those delightful biscuits fashions Knoxie's homemade pies. The choices of the evening were Banana Cream, Lemon Meringue or Bumbleberry. Because of the season, we chose the Bumbleberry ($6), a delightful mix of blueberry, strawberry and raspberries in a flaky crust. It was so good I wished we weren't sharing.
While the Inn at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club depends on the wedding and special occasion crowd, Knoxie's Table has enough going for it that it should lure locals and Western Shore folks over. It's a little pricey, and a little out of the way, but the resort-like atmosphere and the genuine efforts at local sourcing makes it an interesting choice for a trip across the bay for some serious comfort food, Eastern Shore style.
Janice Gary is an award-wining writer and author of Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance. Send restaurant news and suggestions for reviews to email@example.com.
WHERE: 180 Pier Road, Stevensville, MD 21666
WEB SITE: www.baybeachclub.com
HOURS: Monday-Thursday, 4-9 p.m.; Friday, 3-10 p.m.; Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; Brunch: Saturday and Sunday: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
FIRST COURSES: $5- $15
MAIN COURSES: $14 - $38
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards accepted
EXECUTIVE CHEF: Paul Shiley