Restaurant Review – Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore, MD)

Woodberry Kitchen (WK) might be one of the most unique restaurants in Baltimore. In today’s world of corporate franchises and restaurants so centered on the bottom line, it is nice to see a restaurant focus on quality and supporting local farms. The mantra at Woodberry is simple, instead of using corporate food suppliers; they use a multitude of local farms, all of which are listed on their menu.

Thanks to good write-ups in The Sun and Baltimore Magazine (amongst others) Woodberry Kitchen’s popularity has simply exploded in the last year. In fact, WK was recently named one of the top 100 restaurants in the entire country. Accolades aside, Woodberry Kitchen delivers. The no-frills, no-glitz approach is supposed to make the diner feel comfortable and pleasant, rather than stuffy and pretentious. Beat-up dark wood tables replace the white table clothes, plaid handkerchiefs replace linen napkins, and recycled paper menus replace smelly old leather bound menus.

We started off with several items from the traditional menu, which doesn’t change too often, but often incorporates seasonal ingredients. The skillet cornbread is a must order. The sweet corn kernels compliment the moist, fluffy texture of the bread. The cornbread is also served with farm churned butter and honey, which is simply delicious on the already rich and decadent bread. We ended up ordering a second round of corn bread because it was just that good. The Marvesta shrimp and lima bean salad sounds like something simple and boring, but when you have farm fresh ingredients, it easily became one of the best dishes of the night. The shrimp were seasoned with coarse salt and pepper, and then accentuated by the young mustard greens with the oil-based dressing. The torn bread croutons were a nice contrast to the supple shrimp and waxy lima beans. The best appetizer of the evening however, was definitely the wood fired Oysters Rockefeller. For $15 you receive six incredibly fresh Chesapeake Bay oysters prepared with arugula, lemon, asiago, breadcrumbs and then scorched under the fire. None of the ingredients over-powered the other and the oyster still had that natural salt-water aroma to it.

For the main courses, diners have the option to order off the traditional seasonal menu or choose from one of the daily specials. I opted to order the roasted pork chop with sautéed root vegetables in natural jus. This dish was unfortunately quite a let down, and made me wish I had ordered the rockfish. I almost felt deceived once the dish arrived because it looked like I received a pork loin, not a chop. Appearance aside, the dish just fell a bit flat – the pork was a bit tough and lacked seasoning. The root vegetable accompaniment had muddled flavors, and just wasn’t very memorable. My girlfriend wisely ordered the chicken and biscuits, which was a wonderfully delicious rendering of a southern classic. The massive chicken breast had this cracker-like crunchy skin, while the flesh was perfectly tender and juicy. Two weeks later, I am still trying to figure out how they got the skin so crispy while still cooking the meat so perfectly. The biscuit eventually soaks up all the natural thyme and tarragon chicken gravy, making for a perfect pairing with the crispy, moist chicken.

It would be an absolute travesty to discuss this meal without mentioning the various cocktails ordered around the table. The cocktails have the same artisan and contemporary pairing as most of the dishes do. The hot toddy, which is a combination Harford County honeyed rye, allspice, lemon, Angostura. As the name suggests, the drink is served warm in a large tea mug – perfect for a cold winter night in Baltimore. Thanks to our servers recommendation I ordered the Gov’t Mule, which featured Organic VT vodka, housemade ginger beer, ginger-lime syrup, served in a copper mug. This is the best alcoholic beverage I have ever consumed in my life, almost resembling a mix between a mojito and a ginger ale. It was the perfect crisp refreshment for a rather heavy meal. Do no eat at Woodberry Kitchen without trying the Gov’t Mule cocktail.

All in all this meal was just fantastic. Despite, the restaurant being mobbed on the Friday that I went, the service was still consistent and reasonably quick. The dining experience is going to take a bit longer than most other restaurants because of the multitude of work that goes into each dish. No worries though, the cozy interior is very inviting and makes you forget about time. Making a reservation at WK is a must. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself making a reservation at least a month in advance. Your patience will be greatly rewarded though, as WK could easily be deemed the one of the best restaurants in Baltimore.

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