Restaurant Review: Hemingway’s Restaurant at the Bay Bridge Marina
Aug 25, 2016 01:27PM
● By Cate Reynolds
Hemingway’s Restaurant at the Bay Bridge Marina
357 Pier One Road, Stevensville,
Suitable for groups, private parties, and special events. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Handicapped accessible. Major credit cards accepted. Ample free parking. Outdoor dining, crab feasts.
Fine on the BayfrontBy Mary Lou Baker | Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
Although there is absolutely no connection between Ernest Hemingway and the waterfront restaurant that bears his name, chances are that the famous literary figure would like its casual bar scene and panoramic views of the Chesapeake Bay, including the soaring bridge that connects the Western and Eastern Shores of Maryland.
He would also approve of the rotating origins of the fresh oysters on the half shell that are a house specialty. Personally, I remember when Hemingway’s opened in the 1990s as a destination appropriate for showing out-of-town visitors the majesty of the Chesapeake Bay from an umbrella table on what was then a small deck, where examining the underside of the Bay Bridge smacked of a type of voyeurism.
But that was a while ago, before Hemingway’s changed owners several times and in 2011 underwent a major renovation and expansion under the direction of Brothers Property Management. The restaurant was always a go-to place for casual fare, great views, and sunset-watching. Hemingway’s still fits that profile, although its menu options now include full-on entrees as well as starters, soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Our review visit was on a stormy Saturday night, so we were seated by a window in the upstairs dining room, peering at a surreal scene of the fog-shrouded bridge. High ceilings and nautical-themed artifacts create a boat-like atmosphere in this space, which features such props as an old ice-cream maker, an enormous ship’s wheel, a life raft, sailors’ rope knots, crab pots dangling from the beamed ceilings, and photo art decorating the walls.
A jolly family-party of 16 claimed a corner of the room, a group of uniformed midshipmen and their formally-dressed dates celebrated at three other tables, and several couples enjoyed quiet time with each other. Maybe because it was a slow night, our service was swift. Ice water and hot rolls in a napkin-lined wire cone appeared as soon as we were seated and before we ordered our house vodka tonic and Dewar’s on the rocks.
Hemingway’s sizable menu shows some imagination from Chef Norman Anderson, an Eastern Shore native with two decades of cooking under his whites. He stays true to his roots, supporting Maryland watermen by serving only “blue crabmeat,” Maryland rockfish, and local produce (when available).
Crab turns up in a pan-roasted “no filler” crab cake appetizer ($16.95) or entrée ($23.95 for one/$33.95 double), a shareable starter crab dip ($17.95), paired with Carolina shrimp in a spinach salad ($24.95), and soups—the tomato-based Maryland version ($8.95) or a creamy bisque ($9.95). Both soups are lovely, as I discovered by ordering The Half & Half ($9.25), a scoop of each served in a large bowl that proved the ideal vessel for swirling together the two very different versions. Hunks of fresh tomatoes and corn kernels thickened the Maryland crab while lumps of sweet crab stood out in a lightly sherried and creamy bisque. The pair proved to be a perfect marriage—one I suggest you try.
Salads are available in big or a small size—“very small,’ as my companion observed when the server brought him the petite version of the Caesar salad. Equally tempting was the kitchen’s sweet and savory mix of Anjou pears, sugared walnuts, sweet onions, and dried cherries paired with baby spinach in a honey mustard vinaigrette ($8.95 or $19.95/topped with an Angus filet mignon). “I would definitely have the beef with it,” he said.
That said, I (almost) felt guilty ordering an entrée featuring twin medallions of Angus beef filet paired with jumbo barbequed shrimp ($30.95) heated up by a Chipotle aioli. This flavorful combo (beef delivered rare as ordered) was prettied up with a mound of julienned carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash and presented on a handsome white plate strewn with snipped parsley—a sign the kitchen cares about presentation. The accompanying potatoes had been “smashed” with a, uncharacteristic, strong dose of horseradish.
Meanwhile, my friend was enjoying the weekend special of wild-caught grouper ($27.95), fresh and delicious in Anderson’s original recipe that included pieces of tomato, grilled sweet onions, red peppers, and avocados.
Other entrée options were seared yellow fin tuna, baby back ribs (“one of the chef’s specialties), chicken in a rosemary lemon sauce over linguine, fish and chips (Atlantic flounder), grill-blackened mahi-mahi, a 12-oz rib eye steak, and a dish called “Best of the Eastern Shore” spotlighting wild rockfish and jumbo lump crab in a buttery wine sauce. Entrées are priced from $18.95–34.95.
If you are not up for a full meal, stick with the Sandwich & Burger Board. Hemingway’s makes a great grilled Angus beef burger cradled in a brioche roll ($11.95) and a delicious chef’s original of veal meatloaf wrapped in bacon, smeared with barbecue sauce, topped with fried Vidalia onions and melted sharp Vermont cheddar, and served on a toasted hoagie roll ($14.95). It’s a winner.
Hemingway’s dessert carte is short and sweet: bread pudding, lemon pound cake with berries, Smith Island Cake ($7.95 each), “enough to share” apple jack doughnuts with a raspberry dipping sauce, or a hot fudge brownie sundae.
Gaby Haddad, general manager of Hemingway’s, has a big job overseeing a multi-faceted establishment that seats a total of 290 on the various levels and outdoor areas. Property surrounding the buildings is beautifully landscaped and could double as a movie set. Haddad also chooses all the restaurant’s wines, reds and whites by the glass ($8–12) and bottles (most under $30). California is heavily represented, with a sprinkling of wines from Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, and two whites (a Riesling and a blend) from Maryland’s Boordy Vineyard.
Go for the view, the sunsets, the sandwiches, the service–and the eye-opening experience of strolling the waterfront walkway of the Bay Bridge Marina.