The following night we dined at 208 Talbot, just a 20 minute drive away in St. Michaels, MD.
208 Talbot is a fine restaurant. In fact, it is the kind of restaurant one usually considers oneself lucky to find during a vacation on the shore, or in the country. It is clearly a step up from the typical old-style seafood restaurants (home of crab imperial) and steak houses and family dining venues that populate vacation destinations. I imagine that when this place opened, food-loving vacationers in the area rejoiced. However, for roughly the same price, 208 Talbot was put to shame by the Inn at Easton.
What distinguishes these restaurants is the answer to this question: would this be a restaurant you would go to even if you werent in the middle of nowhere? (Or, would this be a restaurant you would choose to go to in DC, or NYC?) The answer for the Inn at Easton is a resounding Yes. For 208 Talbot, the answer is No.
The gracious hostess took us to our table, where our waiter took over. For some reason he appeared to be very nervous. I am not an intimidating-looking man. Perhaps it was his first night on the job. In one unfortunate incident, it took him nearly a minute to spit out a sentence offering to help me select a wine.
In contrast to the previous night, Talbots rolls bore the tell tale industrial mark: a bottom with the texture of the grip of a Mag-lite flashlight. Wife and I split a first course of grilled shrimp with a creamy coleslaw salad a droplets of a smoky barbecue sauce. For a restaurant that makes a point to suggest that men would be comfortable in a jacket (but also notes that it is not required), it was odd that the shrimp was still on its wooden skewer when brought to the table-there is no elegant way to remove it. This dish tasted good, but it was nothing special. A modest salad followed the first course.
For her main course, Wife had one of the evenings specials: sea scallops in an asparagus sauce with asparagus spears and a wild mushroom risotto. Most of the scallops was cooked properly, and the asparagus sauce was very light and mild. Pretty good, but awful when combined with the competent risotto, which was dominated by earthy portabellos. Those flavors just did not match at all. My entree was lamb chops, served over white beans, vegetables, and a generous portion of chard, in a rosemary sauce. This was a very enjoyable, homey dish. In the mood for chocolate, I opted for their warm chocolate cake-a mediocre, seemingly microwaved rendition of this now common dessert. Wife had the Baileys and chocolate chip cheesecake--a decent pick from the dessert tray they brought to our table. Despite some flaws, dinner at 208 Talbot was an okay, yet utterly forgettable experience.
In part-in part--my somewhat negative opinion of 208 Talbot may be due to a comparison with our meal at the Inn at Easton the previous night. What probably used to be a find for grateful gourmets is now an average and obviously overpriced dining experience, outperformed by a new neighbor. The Inn at Easton has raised the bar. This may be too bad for the folks at 208 Talbot, but I think this is something we should all be happy about, as it is an indication that restaurant quality, even outside urban areas, continues to improve.