The Taste: Jerry Hardesty, owner of O'Brien's Steakhouse in Annapolis, offers insider perspective on his establishment and shares a dynamite recipe for bone-in pork chops
Dec 18, 2015 09:00AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
The rich, red painted brick structure resting at 113 Main Street in downtown Annapolis comes with a long and colorful history. It began its life more than 200 years ago as the meeting spot for Revolutionaries and loyalists to the crown. Next, as the only dining and dancing establishment in downtown Annapolis, it was the hub for sailors, merchants, and neighbors. It then became home of the first pizza in our town, before morphing into the first cabaret theater of the area. In the ’70s, when transforming into a steak house owned by a sports figure, it lured politicians and more sports figures along with a few ghosts. We spoke about this rich history and current endeavors, with owner Jerry Hardesty.
With rumors of ghosts in your historic building, do you know their names? Are they friendly? Do you have a ghost tour?I’d say the one ghost, Roland, who is here is friendly. But to tell you the truth, we have many more ghosts at Middleton. Groups who study ghosts as a science have come to me and asked to hold séances, which are held right around midnight to 1 a.m. That’s how the ghost’s name came through. No ghost tours...sorry.
O’Brien’s is said to be owned and run by family.Basically it’s just me and I’ve been around long enough with Middleton [Tavern] that I used to be called, “Old Man.” Now I’m just called, “The Dinosaur.” Chris Nokes has been working with me in administration and behind the scenes for well into 30 years. She’s considered family.
Wasn’t O’Brien’s originally called an Oyster Bar and Restaurant? When did the Steakhouse emerge?It all started out as Fran O’Brien’s in the ’70s by the owner of the same name who was a defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins. The steak and seafood menu was a big favorite. I bought Fran O’Brien’s in 1993 and dropped the Fran since he had passed away. Right around the year 2000, I decided to bring back the style of Annapolis’ original steakhouse and I brought in certified Black Angus beef aged 45 days. We are proud of the process of dry aging the beef another week within the restaurant and then using our special in-house butchering process. However, we still have the raw bar, exactly as it has always been.
How are menus and then individual recipes developed? The double 14-ounce pork chop highlighted here will turn heads (and did, when I photographed it). How was the recipe conceived and developed for your menu?My executive chef works solely with me to come up with concepts and then recipes for items on the menu. We may take an old standard and give it a new twist like the Double Pork Chop, which sits on a bed of caramelized onions with a balsamic reduction.
What is your food background?My family is in the mortuary business and I attended the Mortuary of Science in NYC. While I was in school I waited tables and tended bar...and got absolutely hooked on the hospitality business-big time! I decided to follow that completely different field from the family business.
There are four flags flying in the front of the restaurant. Aside from the American flag and Maryland state flag, what do the other flags represent?We fly the United States, Maryland, Marine, and Naval Academy flags. A lot of our inside decor is memorabilia paying homage to Annapolis history and Naval Academy sports heroes.
The special events room upstairs is quite dramatic. Tell us about it.No one else around has a 20-foot flagstone fireplace, which was in the building when I took it over. Of course I kept it, while I had the interior design done with draping curtains that accent the 25-foot ceiling. The special events room is very successful for bridal rehearsal dinners, receptions, banquets, and wine dinners. The upstairs bar within the special events room is the overflow area on Friday and Saturday nights.
Speaking of wine tell us about the Wine on the Beach Festival.Nineteen years ago I founded the festival, Wine on the Beach, in Ocean City, Maryland, which lasts two days. We get between 8,500 and 10,000 attendees who sample wines from the East Coast, micro-brewed beers, Delmarva food, local music, and many crafts.
Double Bone-In Pork Chop with Balsamic Onions and Oven Roasted Potatoes
Serves 1 (large portion)O’Brien’s in downtown Annapolis features this delicious and hearty pork chop that demonstrates how easy it is to take an American classic and give it a modern culinary twist.
- 1 14-oz pork chop (double bone-in)
- 1/2 large white onion
- 8 red potatoes
- 3 sprigs of basil, rosemary, and thyme, removed from stem, finely chopped
- 2 large cloves fresh chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup demi-glaze (store bought or instant)
- 2 tablespoons butter