Cuisine and Comfort Found: Ram's Head Tavern Restaurant Review
Mar 20, 2015 12:14PM
● By Cate Reynolds
Executive Chef Tom Nicklow, CEC.
33 West Street, Annapolis
By Diana Jeffra // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
On a very chilly January evening, my guest and I arrived at Rams Head Tavern’s main entrance eagerly anticipating the warmth within, good food and drink, and cheer. With wooden floors, tables, and chairs, the main space was dimly lit, but provided a very cozy atmosphere for such a cold night. It has a very classic, historic feel, which, of course, fits perfectly in Annapolis. We made our way through the bar area to be greeted by the hostess and led into the more formal dining area. It was a bit brighter and with noteworthy details; a pressed tin ceiling, unique brass-looking ceiling fans, and even a fountain made from old instruments—this area was a fun contrast to the tavern entrance.
We sat in a room that used to be where they housed the fermentation tanks when they brewed beer onsite. Currently, the house beers are brewed off-site, by Fordham in Dover, Delaware, and Rams Head has opened up this room for more tables. To start our dinner we looked over the lengthy beer menu. I decided on a unique beer from Louisiana, Abita Purple Haze. It is a lager brewed with raspberries that are added after filtration. The berries added a fruity aroma, tartly sweet taste, and a subtle purple color. It is not a typical beer, but would pair very well with cheese, similar to Brie, or entrées prepared with fruit, especially citrus. My guest went for a Crispin cider. This was not a traditional “sweet beer” alternative; it was crisp and clean, not sweet and sticky. It was a nice change of pace, if you are not in the mood for a hoppy beer.
Diving right in, we ordered some appetizers, the Tuna Tartare and Ace’s Wings in the Sweet Thai Chili flavor. The Tuna Tartare was served on a rectangular plate. It was highlighted by very bright green colors, with a coconut wasabi sauce and seaweed salad. It had five little bites; each piece was a little crispy wonton topped with seaweed salad, coconut wasabi sauce, and the tuna tartare. The tuna was fresh and mixed with black sesame seeds and marinated in Sriracha and white soy sauce. The cool, softer texture of the tuna mixed perfectly with spicy wasabi, crunchy wonton, and seaweed salad. It was very nice presentation and is very easy to share; simple little bites. It was not messy and easily transferable to side plates, no forks needed.
The wings are classically prepared but came dressed in a nice new flavor, Sweet Thai Chili. Great bar food, the dozen wing portion is large enough to share and served with the traditional blue cheese and celery sticks. The wings were a nice size and not overly fatty. The Sweet Thai Chili sauce is a great balance of sweet, tangy, and spicy (but not too spicy—like traditional hot wings). The sauce is not sloppy, as usual wings can be, and was sticky enough to stay on the wing—no need for grabbing extra napkins.For our entrees we wanted to try a new menu item, the Scallops and Risotto, and one of the more popular items, the Mac and Cheese Quattro with Crabmeat. The Scallops and Risotto was really delicious. The risotto was topped with sautéed spinach and four jumbo seared scallops. The dish was very appetizing and makes you hungry just looking at it. The scallops had a perfect sear, while the risotto had an excellent texture, not overly cooked or mushy. The bacon used to cook the risotto gives it a great depth and smoke, while the scallops add a sweet flavor and slight crispy texture with the sear. The spinach adds a balance of flavor and offers a cheerful pop of color, along with the smoked paprika oil.
If you’re looking for go-to comfort food, the Mac and Cheese Quattro with Crabmeat would be it. Cavatappi pasta that has a tight spiral locks-in the flavor, allowing the shape to hold the four cheese sauce well. This is a homemade-style mac and cheese; not a super thick cheese sauce that’s electric yellow, like most store-bought brands. It was topped with a panko crumb to give the dish some crunch texture. It can be prepared plain or topped with blackened chicken or lump crabmeat. Of course I went with the crab; I was in Annapolis after all. The entire dish was deliciously satisfying.
Rams Head Tavern is located on bustling West Street in downtown Annapolis and is a great restaurant to grab a few drinks with friends, a meal with family, or even take in a live concert with a special someone (check out the adjoining concert venue, Rams Head On Stage). Other notable mentions include: World Beer Club memberships; Sunday Bloody Mary Bar Special; and weekday happy hours. Altogether, Rams Head is definitely more than a traditional tavern experience. Enjoy!
Eastern Shore native, Diana Jeffra is a professional chef and aspiring food stylist. Her background in graphic design and her culinary degree from the Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute have led her to begin work on her first cookbook. Past adventures have led her to culinary competitions and a summer cooking in Italy.