Grand Dame Redone

How many little (or not-so-little) girls have descended the grand staircase of Easton’s Tidewater Inn pretending they were Scarlett O’Hara? (OK, at least one.) These days, the grand 58-year-old inn is getting a much-needed face-lift (though we hope they leave the staircase alone). Renovation has been ongoing for months, with new bathrooms and beds and the conversion of several rooms into larger parlor suites on the horizon. Already completed is the transformation of the Tidewater Grille and Decoy Bar into Restaurant Local, a worth-the-trip dining destination.

What’s for dinner? Restaurant Local’s striking décor is a physical sign that change is afoot at The Tidewater. Sheets of white canvas meant to resemble sails hang from the ceiling, giving the restaurant the feel of a luxurious Chris Craft yacht. Choose from among hundreds of bottles on the restaurant’s downright glamorous wine list (or make reservations for a Tasting Menu with accompanying wine in the equally glamorous glass-walled Decanter Room) and sample a decadent turtle soup, perfectly cooked steaks or innovative lobster dishes, making sure to save room for chocolate fondue with homemade marshmallows for dessert.

Your room: Rooms here are simple but appealing, and feature peach-colored walls and four-poster beds with fresh white bedspreads, televisions, phones and wi-fi. Bathrooms are in need of their much-promised updating, but are spotless. The hotel also offers a number of packages, ranging from “Love Me … Love my Dog” (which includes accommodation for you and your canine) to a “Night on the Town” in conjunction with Easton’s Avalon Theatre.

Romance factor: Bring your own Rhett Butler to sweep you up the stairs… — M.Z.
Contact: 410-822-1300, http://www.tidewaterinn.com. Rates range from $109 to $269. Restaurant Local, 410-819-8088. Open for Saturday and Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner. 

St. Michaels Inn

Celebrity Roost

The roster of high-falutin’ guests who have stayed at St. Michaels’ Inn at Perry Cabin could fill a couple of tables at the Golden Globes: Vince Vaughn, Sarah Jessica Parker, Christopher Walken and Rachel McAdams, to drop a few names. They’ll have good reason to return come June 15 when the inn’s much-anticipated Linden Spa opens. The full-service, 6,000-square-foot pampertorium promises all the usual spa treatments, plus a clay and Linden flower massage and a restorative facial that draws on the plants and herbs grown on the property.

What’s for dinner? Chef Mark Salter’s Sherwood’s Landing is the only four-diamond, four-star restaurant in the state. (And Wine Spectator thinks highly of its 400-plus varieties of wine, as well.) Start with one of Salter’s signature crab spring rolls, wrapped with pink grapefruit, avocado and toasted almonds. Then move onto his honey and tarragon glazed shank of lamb. Do save room for the restaurant’s playful take on s’mores: dark chocolate ganache wrapped in marshmallow on a bed of crushed graham crackers. And don’t forget your wallet: entrees hover in the mid- to upper-$30 range.

Your room: A recent $20 million makeover ditched the Laura Ashley look and updated the decor to a timeless nautical theme. The inn’s 78 guestrooms range from smaller signature rooms in the property’s historic section to sprawling waterview master suites with balconies and terraces overlooking the harbor.

Romance factor: If it’s romantic enough for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, it should fit the bill for you, too. —J.S.
Contact: 410-745-2200, http://www.perrycabin.com. Rates range from $270 to $770. Check for packages that combine accommodations with dinner and other activities in town.

Imperial Hotel

Media Darling

Our own recipe columnist, Andrew Evans, and his Inn at Easton have been written up by everyone from The New York Times to Gourmet magazine to Travel & Leisure, so we figured it was about time we gave him some ink, too. Why are all those publications talking about his inn and restaurant? We think it’s because the Inn at Easton offers the complete package: a quaint, small-town setting, a historic house decorated just right and some of the most original cuisine east of the Bay Bridge. 

What’s for dinner? Evans and his wife, Liz, who worked for several years at a top Vietnamese restaurant in Australia, mix Asian with traditional Chesapeake foods and flavors from Down Under on his menu every night. Think roasted kangaroo tenderloin in a black current sauce or a green Thai bouillabaisse with Moreton Bay bugs, aka Australian slipper lobsters. Through summer, the inn offers a series of Guest Chef Weekends, during which top toques from D.C. team up with Evans in the kitchen.

Your room: Evans restored the circa-1790 inn to its original grandeur, but there’s nothing stodgy about the place. Rooms boast vibrant colors, bed linens with fat thread counts and original Aboriginal art— available for purchase.

Romance factor: Think oysters are an aphrodisiac? Just try the Moreton Bay bugs… —J.S.

Contact: 410-822-4910, http://www.theinnateaston.com. Rates range from $200 to $395; the Modified American Plan, which includes two nights accommodations, two dinners and two continental breakfasts, starts at $580.

Imperial Hotel

Chestertown’s Royal Escape

The three-story Imperial Hotel has been sitting pretty on Chestertown’s High Street for more than 100 years. “Cozy Colonial” best describes the setting here, from the carved green upholstered chairs in the dining rooms to the antique settees in the small corner sitting rooms on the upper floors to the lovely brick courtyard and garden behind the hotel. The hotel’s all-new restaurant, The Front Room, gives this Chestertown landmark new life.

What’s for dinner? Chef Tom Pizzica describes The Front Room’s menu as “eclectic contemporary cuisine,” and the menu features items like the restaurant’s signature crab cakes (lump crab bound with scallop mousse instead of bread filler), fresh local fish and inventive poultry dishes that feature quail or duck. Diners also are welcome to order small or large plates in any of the restaurant’s dining rooms or in the brand new bar. And when the weather permits, try an outside table and indulge in some people-watching.

Your room: The hotel offers deluxe rooms, a suite and a carriage house. Rooms are small but comfortable and feature antique beds and furnishings as well as modern amenities like wi-fi, televisions, phones and updated bathrooms. The suite’s bedroom is done in a salmon and robin’s egg blue color scheme and includes a sitting room, small kitchenette and huge private balcony. The carriage house includes a full kitchen and living room and a view of the garden.

Romance factor: Book you and your sweetheart into the suite on a warm weekend. Order the champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries from the hotel’s snack menu, and make a midnight toast from your balcony. Watch for fireworks. —M.Z.

Contact: 410-478-5000, http://www.imperialchestertown.com. Rates range from $95 to $250 and include continental breakfast.

Watermen’s Surprise

When it opened 18 years ago, the Tilghman Island Inn seemed as out of place as foie gras on a diner menu. But with Tilghman fast becoming a haven for well-off retirees, the inn was simply ahead of its time. Its setting on Knapp’s Narrows is lovely and its playful touches— you won’t be able to ignore cockatiel Blanche du Boid— keep the island atmosphere appropriately relaxed.

What’s for dinner? If you’re lucky enough to visit on a warm spring evening, grab an outdoor table overlooking the water (this is before mosquito season, of course) and watch the waterfowl come and go. The food here has a local bent with an international twist— rockfish gets paired with Caribbean black beans, rice and a three-citrus salsa. Local oysters swim in a Pernod-scented champagne sauce inside a baked puff pastry. The massive wine list, which tops well over a 100 different varieties, has been recognized repeatedly by Wine Spectator. Look for monthly wine dinners, too.

Your room: The Tilghman Island Inn is not your typically quaint Eastern Shore inn. In fact, from the front, it looks like a well-kept motel. (It was actually a 1920s fishery and then a low-end motel in another life.) But its 20 rooms are contemporary and comfortable; many boast spa tubs and gas-powered fireplaces. We recommend one of the recently upgraded second-floor rooms with a balcony overlooking the water.

Romance factor: Islands are inherently romantic, aren’t they? And Blanche du Boid lends a tropical vibe. —J.S.

Contact: 410-886-2141, http://www.tilghmanislandinn.com. Rates: $250 to $300. 

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