by Lynn Jensen
How long are you willing to wait for your meal, if you really love a restaurant?
Fans of Baltimore’s famed Chesapeake Restaurant have waited almost a quarter century, but are finally – finally! – getting their New York strip and oysters on the half shell.
For more than 50 years, the Chesapeake, at 1701 N. Charles St., was one of the city’s “see and be seen” dining institutions, a venue for high-level business dealings and private milestones celebrated with lavish seafood dishes and charbroiled steaks. It was mentioned in the same breath as other big players, such as Danny’s, Haussner’s and Marconi’s: places worth dressing up for. Unfortunately, like these old-school “destination” restaurants, the venerable Chesapeake did not survive the winds of change that hit the dining scene in the late twentieth century. It closed in the late 80s, and despite several efforts to revive it, sat empty for 24 years.
In 2010 the property was acquired by the Station North Development Partners, and a new restaurant was finally a “go,” reopening its doors earlier this year. Operating the business are Ernst and Dana Valery and Mauro Daigle and Annie Baum-Stein, two couples who are also proprietors of the Milk & Honey markets in Philadelphia and Baltimore’s own Mt. Vernon.
Part of the draw, of course, was the neighborhood, near Penn Station. In the intervening years it had become the Station North Arts District, home to galleries, theaters, nightspots, popular restaurants — including, within a block of the Chesapeake, Tapas Teatro, Sofi’s Crepes and Lost City Diner — and new residents who are, for the most part, young, hip and creative.
The revived Chesapeake is not a carbon copy of its former self, but both fits in and enhances its newly vibrant neighborhood. It occupies a smaller footprint than its sprawling predecessor, and the look is contemporary-sleek, with a marble bar, semi-circular leather banquettes, and vintage images of the bay. In line with the trend towards casual dining, it has positioned itself as a drop-in-anytime, not-just-for-special-occasions sort of place, with a variety of price points. Current trends, such as small-plates dining and local, sustainable sourcing, have influenced the menu, but there are also nods to the Chesapeake’s traditional past. Chef Jordan Miller’s specialties include shrimp and grits with wild mushrooms, and fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits.
The Chesapeake is located at 1701 N. Charles St. It is open for dinner Mondays through Saturdays. For reservations, call 410-547-2760.
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