I think of the Eastern Shore as Maryland’s breadbasket, historically home to our state’s best ingredients: blue crabs, juicy corn, tomatoes and more. More recently, the region’s restaurant scene is catching up: Easton, a small town less than an hour and a half from Baltimore, has become a foodie capital.
Much credit for the town’s newfound status goes to Paul Prager, a crypto-mining tycoon who came from New York, bought up half of Easton’s downtown and launched a culinary empire. If you had the desire and the funds to do so, you could spend an entire weekend there and eat only at restaurants owned by Prager’s Bluepoint Hospitality Group, including one that serves caviar “bumps” and high-priced Scotch. They’re innovative, decadent and often exorbitantly expensive. (Residents seem to have a love-hate relationship with Prager and his eateries.)
But a varied palate craves diversity, so I wanted to check out the area for myself. Armed with recommendations from Baltimore Banner readers, I scoped out restaurants in Easton and beyond during my two-night stay — places you should consider visiting, too.
Several people recommended I check out restaurants from the non-Prager-owned Rude Food Co., which operates three places in Easton: a burger spot, a Mexican-themed bodega and a barbecue joint. I went for the latter of the three, which is apparently also home of the “bourbon slush,” according to a sign outside. (My mother, who came with me, pronounced it too early for bourbon.) We were impressed by the rude sampler, which included a fatty and flavorful brisket and spare ribs that are among the best I’ve had. The sides didn’t disappoint, either, including a sweet corn muffin, piquant homemade pickles and a delightful bean dish served in a cast iron skillet.
216 E. Dover St., Easton. rudefoodco.com
Out of the Fire
A number of Banner readers recommended I try Out of the Fire, a gem of a restaurant where the plates of Mediterranean-influenced food are just as vibrant and fun to look at as the art on the walls. I’m still dreaming about the creamy gazpacho starter, served with an abstract painting of vegetables and marcona almonds, plus a subtle and surprising watercress salad with blue cheese. I’d brave beach traffic for another slice of the pizza with roasted mortadella and an olive-pistachio tapenade. Heed the website’s warning to make a reservation: Our attempt to just walk in on a weeknight resulted in waiting about an hour for a table.
111 S. Washington St., Easton. outofthefire.com
The newest addition to Bluepoint Hospitality Group, P. Bordier serves crepes, galettes and treats that make Ladurée, the famed Parisian pastry shop, look basic. Treats are as mind-bogglingly beautiful as they are subtly flavored, richly textured and plain delicious. And at around $9 apiece, it’s a splurge I’m happy to make. Behind the scenes is Thomas Raquel, previously head pastry chef at Le Bernardin. I’ll be thinking about Raquel’s peach emoji-shaped confection — filled with vanilla mousse and peach confit — on my deathbed. Take it away or eat it next door at Bonheur, which also serves afternoon tea on Fridays.
5a Goldsborough St., Easton. pbordier.com
It was just before noon and my mother and I were the only people seated in the gilded Viennese-style dining room of Easton’s top restaurant and the crown jewel of Bluepoint’s empire. I flipped through the wine list to locate the most expensive bottle, not to order, but just so I could tell you: It’s a 2016 Bordeaux and it’s $8,400. My mother flipped over the china plate in front of her. “From France,” she announced, approvingly.
Just who has lunch at Bas Rouge on a Thursday, we wondered? As if on cue, we heard the booming Baltimore accent of a woman demanding help getting in the door. A suited staff member rushed to assist, and in walked former Senator Barbara Mikulski, ready for one of the fanciest meals you can find in Maryland.
Lunch, served a la carte, is more affordable than dinner, when the fixed price starts at $125 for three courses. I loved the signature $43 Wiener schnitzel, hammered veal kissed in batter and served with lingonberries and fingerling potatoes. I’ve eaten my share of schnitzel during trips to visit family in Austria, and Bas Rouge’s may be the best I’ve had. The menu isn’t strictly European, though — our starters included a play on Peruvian crab causa, served with potato, avocado and, of course, crab.
Bas Rouge is the kind of place where staff don’t just replace your napkin when you go to the loo; they fluff your pillows, too. Waitresses wore uniforms of short, form-fitting velvet dresses with Peter Pan collars. It’s slightly ridiculous, like Disneyland for the one percent. But that doesn’t mean you won’t love it.
19 Federal St., Easton. basrougeeaston.com
Rise Up Coffee Roasters
America may run on Dunkin’, but Easton runs on Rise Up, judging from the long lines of cars I saw at the coffee shop’s drive-thru window on a recent weekday. Across the street is a separate walk-in coffee shop where you can order drinks as well as items like a tasty breakfast burrito ($10), picked up from the Mad Eggs window just outside.
618 Dover Rd., Easton. riseupcoffee.com
Robert Morris Inn
Less than a 20-minute drive from Easton, the tavern at the shabby chic Robert Morris Inn offers picturesque waterfront views and a cozy atmosphere for dinner. The Oxford restaurant claims to be “the oldest restaurant with rooms in America.” I’ll save fact-checking for another day; in the meantime, I’m too content to eavesdrop on my neighbors’ conversations and catch up on the local gossip. Seemingly every one of the town’s residents stopped by for the Thursday night burger special and half-priced wine deal. (No one can resist a bargain, even in a town of million-dollar residences). I went for the crab cake, succulent and served with a tasty corn succotash plus baby potatoes. Don’t plan to share: The restaurant charges an extra $8 for every split entrée. Afterwards, swing by the Scottish Highland Creamery for a scoop or sundae.
314 N. Morris St., Oxford. robertmorrisinn.com
Old Salty’s Restaurant
The next time a Baltimorean demands a “no-filler” crab cake I will send them to Old Salty’s, a remote waterfront restaurant in Maryland’s crab capital of Hoopers Island. We paid $62 for two broiled, jumbo lump crab cakes, which weren’t so much cakes as a porcelain dish filled with sweet and delicious lumps of crabmeat. Noncrab dishes were hit-or-miss. I was keen to see what the kitchen was doing with invasive species like snakehead and blue catfish, the bane of Chesapeake watermen who work nearby, but the snakehead entrée I ordered on special was underwhelming and slightly dry, with just an orange slice for adornment. Waterfront views and an outdoor bar looked inviting for any traveler, though — as long as you stick to their crustaceans.
2560 Hoopers Island Road, Fishing Creek. oldsaltys.com