Smooth Sipping, Indulgent Dining
Jul 25, 2014 12:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Dry 85 • 193B Main Street, Annapolis • 443-214-5171 • dry85.com
Dry 85, located on Main Street in Downtown Annapolis, is a fun, intriguing option for drinks and dinner. Owned by Brian and Lisa Bolter, who also run Red Red Wine Bar a couple of doors down, this establishment was created in the spirit of an 1920s-era speak easy. The décor is industrial with lots of metal but has saloon character; a nod to turn-of-the-century aesthetics coupled with an underground vibe. Even the menus carry over this theme by being placed in manila folder with the metal clips at the top, similar to something you would find in a secret folder.
The name Dry 85 refers to the number of days that the citizens of Washington, D.C. had to wait between the repeal of national Prohibition and the Sheppard Act, which outlawed alcoholic beverages in the capital. The focus of the establishment is obviously the beverages, mainly whiskeys and bourbons.
With a huge selection, a large bar, and a separate lengthy menu, I set course by trying one of their flights. For those that are not familiar, a flight is small group of sample pours. They can be wine, beer, or spirits. In this case, they were scotch. The drinks in a flight usually progress in terms of intensity, so that you can taste the range of the particular drink. We started with a flight of their single malt scotch ($13), and also ordered a Blueberry Lavender Collins ($11) and glass of the 2012 Sabine Rosé ($8). The scotch flight was really nice, as it progressed from clean and creamy to an extreme intense smoke flavor. The cocktail was light and refreshing, using fresh herbs for a garnish and the Rosé was a very pleasant dry variety, which was just what my dinner guests were looking for. But, of course, we were not just here for drinks, we came to eat. If all the servers at Dry 85 are as fantastic as our server, Grace, you will have a great time. She was quite knowledgeable and this really made us want to try a little of everything. We were thoroughly impressed. We began with the Charcuterie Board ($15), Seafood Mac & Cheese ($12), and the Sweet ‘n Spicy Pomegranate Wings ($10).
The Charcuterie Board had Soppressata, Mozzarella Stuffed Prosciutto, Spicy Chorizo, House-made Old Bay Pickles, Stone Ground Mustard, Mediterranean Olives, and Almonds. The Soppressata and Prosciutto were definitely authentic and delicious. I really enjoyed the sweet, spicy tangy House-Made Old Bay pickles. They were something that I haven’t come across before and I am really glad I did. Charcuterie boards are always a great starter, especially this one as there was enough to share with everyone and lots of different flavor profiles and textures to get your appetite revved up for a main course. The Seafood Mac and Cheese was served bubbling hot in a cast iron skillet and topped with panko crumbs, large lumps of crab, and some shrimp. The flavors were spot on, and I really liked how they used Orecchiette pasta, rather than a typical shell or elbow. It gave the dish a different mouth feel, which was unexpected. The Sweet ‘n Spicy Pomegranate Wings were a surprise flavor for wings on a menu. It tasted like a Thai Chili Sauce with an extra boost of sweetness and tang of pomegranate. I really liked the flavors.
For entrees my sister ordered the Blue Cheese and Fig Burger ($10) with Hand Cut Fries. I went for the Half Rack of the Slow Roasted Pork Ribs with House-made Blueberry Sauce ($16) with coleslaw and cheese grits. To round out the meal with a healthier option, my friend, Chris, ordered the Black Bean Quinoa Burger ($8). The Blue Cheese Fig Burger was cooked perfectly, and the combination of blue cheese, figs, and caramelized onions worked well. The blue cheese the burger balances out the sweetness of the figs and onions. The accompanying fries were a good size, not thin like shoestring fries but more on the wedge size. They were seasoned well and had a crispy exterior and fluffy interior, all qualities of a great fry. The half rack of pork ribs with blueberry sauce was exceptional. The ribs were tender and the sauce had pieces of cooked blueberries, which gave it a great texture. The sauce was sweet and sharp. My two accompaniments were the coleslaw and cheese grits. The slaw was shredded to a Goldilocks consistency, not too fine, not too large but just right. And there was a perfect amount of moisture—it was present but cabbage was not swimming in it. The cheese grits were exceptional. These were sinfully good, the amount of cheese and butter is apparent but they are so darn good, I had a hard time putting the fork down. On the other end of spectrum from the rich and decadent Ribs and Cheese Grits, was the Black Bean Quinoa Burger. It was really tasty guilt-free option. The consistency was pretty close to meat but clearly this is a house-made veggie burger. To keep the burger from falling apart it is broiled which gives it a great crusted exterior. The cheese and salsa fit the flavor profiles of black beans and quinoa flawlessly. It is a great vegetarian option.
For dessert there were three options—two kinds of cheesecake ($9) and Key Lime pie ($8). Since there were three of us, we of course tried all three. One cheesecake was Black Bottom, which featured an oreo cookie crust, and the other cheesecake was Blumbleberry, a traditional cheesecake slice with a mixed berry sauce. All were quite delicious and a sweet ending to our meal.
Overall Dry 85 was a very fun experience with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. I recommend it to anyone that desires a fine cocktail, bourbon, or would like a little southern-style comfort food. It’s a great addition to Main Street Annapolis, and I can only imagine what their bacon brunch is like on Sundays.