Anyone who has tried to reproduce an old family recipe knows it’s not so easy to bring back a beloved institution like The Chesapeake Restaurant without inviting comparisons. The Baltimore establishment on North Charles Street first opened in 1933 and closed a decade or so after its heyday in 1987. Happily, the new Chesapeake, which opened in June, seems to have found the right combination of ingredients.
Fundamental to the success of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District’s new restaurant is a clear vision of what the 21st-century Chesapeake is and is not. “Almost everything is different—and that’s purposeful,” says its operating manager Elizabeth Tackett. “There are no white tablecloths and dress is unpretentious.”
Executive chef Jordan Miller takes pride in the fact that the new Chesapeake is a spot where you can feel comfortable ordering a plate of foie gras and washing it down with a Natty Boh.
That said, the new owners—Ernst and Dana Valery and Mauro Daigle and Annie Baum-Stein—also have taken care to pay their respects to the “old” Chesapeake in a few significant ways. On Throwback Thursdays, for example, the restaurant serves classic cocktails and recipes from the original menu.
1. The Food: “Jordan never saw a fish he didn’t know what to do with,” says Tackett, chuckling about the chef’s penchant for seafood. Signature dishes include shrimp and grits made with house-cured bacon, smoked tomato broth and wild mushrooms. Scallops with edamame succotash is another favorite. Health nuts rave about the Chesapeake vegan burger.
2. The Turn-On: Hang out at the raw bar with official shuck chef, Will Burris, who will shuck your oysters while you watch. How’s that for an aphrodisiac? Most nights, the bar boasts three varietals.
3.The Scene: More casual and contained than its sprawling predecessor, The Chesapeake now has a hip neighborhood vibe, in part inspired by Valery’s desire to help revitalize the district. (He was a real estate developer long before he became a restaurateur.) We’re talking chocolate leather booths, high tops and an enormous white marble bar, where folks can stop in for a pre-movie drink before heading to The Charles. For a quieter setting, ask to be seated in the dining room, which seats 30 and is available for private parties.
4. The Drinks: Signature cocktails include the Walker-Haslinger made from London dry gin, dry vermouth, orange, rosemary and Jerry Thomas bitters and the best-selling “Feels Real” cocktail, which uses local berries, rum, maraschino, thyme and sparkling wine.
5. The Happy Ending: In-house pastry chef Janae Aiken is fast becoming famous for her moresophisticated take on the coconut snowball, a classic Chesapeake dessert. Aiken’s version is made from triple coconut cake with dark chocolate ganache and house-made cocoa sorbet and toasted coconut.