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The Taste: Rip’s Country Inn

Sep 19, 2017 11:12AM ● By Cate Reynolds

Country, Consistent, and So Popular

Rip’s Country Inn
3809 N. Crain Highway Bowie, MD | 301-805-5900

By Rita Calvert

As Bowie has become the perfect midpoint location for folks driving through the area, 65-year-old, Rip’s Country Inn serves as the Bowie place to grab a bite or drink where the food is considered “country” and consistently good. Customers have said, “Rip’s…is much like encountering an old and dear friend. It’s comfort with a kick—those homemade favorites that have just a little something more.” This roadhouse kind of place knows their customers are not afraid of carbs! Word gets around that the ample portions of home-style cooking don’t deplete the wallet.

There are three different operations here: the sit-down restaurant, unique in décor—hailing back to the days when Bowie was central to the horse racing circuit. Private booths look like horse stalls and the exterior resembles a barn. Many customers love requesting their favorite booth, such as Seabiscuit or Man O’ War. Then there is the deli and a wine and spirits store, all featuring wide selections. Brisk business is the norm here and all were bustling when I visited to meet Caroline Middleton, Assistant General Manager, on a weekday at 2 p.m.

The questions below are answered by the owner, Bill Burgess, who owns Rip’s with his wife, Marshele.

How long have you been in business? Give us an overview of the history.

Rip’s has been in business since 1952. The original owners had the business until the 1960’s and then the Bassford Family bought Rip’s. Elaine Bassford and her husband ran the restaurant and the package store before passing the business down to their daughter Marshele. Marshele and I met here as teenagers and now run the business as husband and wife. Our daughters, Carolyn and Meredith, both can be found helping out in the restaurant as well, so we truly are family-owned and operated!

How was the decision made to replicate the Maryland horse-racing decor?

Bowie used to be central in the horse racing circuit. Marshele’s family was active in this culture and [kept] horses. Even though Bowie is no longer known for its racetrack, we love the nostalgia of walking through our horse stall inspired booths.  

Are there family members involved in Rip’s Country Inn?

All the family is involved with Rip’s. Marshele and I are in the building five days a week. Our daughter has managed the restaurant and hosts tastings at our spirit shop. Our other daughter helps out on our big holidays, hosting, bussing tables, etc. 

You are an independently-owned single operation which has been here long before the shopping areas sprouted. How do all of the surrounding franchise eateries affect your business?

We offer a unique experience for our guests. We make all of our food from scratch. Our bar is the only true craft cocktail bar in the area. When you have as much passion as we do, it gets noticed. We maintain our success by being the best at what we do. That’s how we’ve been able to not be affected by the opening of other restaurants. 

How do new dishes on the menu come to be? Do you conceive them and do you work with your chef on creating them? What is the process?

Each day we run features for lunch and dinner. This is how our chefs experiment with their new ideas and we can get guest feedback on the dishes. When we come across a recipe that we love and our guests love we decide as a team if we would like to add it to the menu for our seasonal change. Our chefs draw inspiration from many different styles of cuisine and then give it a country kick making something that is completely unique to us. 

Have any of the current food trends made their way into your menu?

A current trend we have been participating in more and more is the idea of what we call a “composed” dish. We ask that no substitutions are made to the dish because each ingredient in the recipe is carefully picked to work with the other ingredients to make a flavorful and enjoyable meal. You can see this in our Country Risotto. It is our perfect combination with crispy pan-fried chicken topping our creamy risotto with pancetta, mushroom, broccoli, and cheddar. If you remove any of these ingredients, you’ll find the dish becomes lackluster.

What items are made in-house?

We make almost everything in-house from our soups to the breading for our Maryland Fried Chicken. The calamari is delivered to us fresh and hand-cut, then hand-breaded. I will admit we don’t churn our own butter, but would love to be able to one day. One of our chefs has shown an interest in learning! 


The Taste: Chicken Sauté

Serves 2

As a favored dish at Rip’s, this chicken breast has a flavorful coating enhanced by the butter it is sautéed in. Melted provolone cheese topped with the sun-dried tomatoes and caramelized onions blanket the chicken as a rich topping.

  • 2 (6 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chiffonade (thin slivers)
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons caramelized onions, sautéed until
  • golden brown
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, stemmed
  • 2 slices Provolone cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly pound the chicken breast with a mallet to tenderize the meat and ensure proper cooking throughout the breast.

Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and set aside.

In an oven-proof sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. While butter is melting, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture to coat both sides. When butter is hot, add the coated chicken to the pan.

Once the chicken is golden brown on the bottom, flip and cook second side until golden. Place the pan, in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

While the chicken is cooking, in a separate pan over medium heat, add the remaining butter, fresh garlic, caramelized onions, and the sun-dried tomatoes and cook until well incorporated and hot.

When the chicken is done cooking, place the 2 slices of the provolone cheese on top and melt in the broiler for 30-45 seconds.

On serving plate, place the spinach in a mound. Add the chicken with the melted cheese on top of the bed of spinach. Top with the sun-dried tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Rita Calvert has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration, art and nourishment of food and has served as Homestead Gardens’ Culinary and Design blogger and advisor. With close to three decades in the food, media production, marketing and public relations fields, She has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television for corporations, the stage for cookbooks and founded the original Annapolis School of Cooking.

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