An (Almost) Great Steakhouse
By Christine Fillat
Lewnes’ Steakhouse has a speakeasy kind of vibe. The exterior, though tidy, is unassuming, sitting on 4th Street and Severn Avenue in an Eastport neighborhood populated with lots of other eateries. You enter through a corner door into a tight bar where you could easily while away the hours with a cocktail and some new-found friends, watching the Orioles try to win a ball game.
There is a dining room with super tall, rather private (and somewhat careworn) banquettes. A pendant lamp fills your table with a pool of light. Jazz is in the air. Vintage photographs fill the walls. These are shots of the Lewnes family; four generations have been serving Annapolitans from this location since 1921.
This generation made Lewnes into a steakhouse in 1994. The menu takes up one page, offering basic steak house fare; mostly meat, with entrees ranging in price from $19.95 for chicken breast, to $54.95 for a 25-ounce bone-in cowboy steak. There are limited appetizers and seafood options, including oysters on the half shell and clams casino.
The Oysters Rockefeller are fresh, lightly broiled, with rich, creamy spinach, and topped with Hollandaise. This is a perfectly executed dish, one that we could imagine dropping by to enjoy. It is the high point of our meal. A St. Francis Zinfandel, from old vines in Sonoma Valley, serves us well.
The house salad is ordinary, with a handful of lettuce greens, red onion, some black olives and a whole lot of pedestrian blue cheese dressing. The dressing is overly generous, with sparse chunks of blue cheese. Dressing on the side would have been a wise move. There is nothing in this salad to make it special.
A rib eye steak is prepared exactly how we ordered it, medium rare. It is a really good steak that needs no embellishments—tender and glistening with just a bit of fat. “The broilers are 1800 degrees,” says General Manager Joshua Malter; “that really takes that marbling to a higher level. It gives you that extra flavor.”
The crab cake is plunked on the plate with a bit of greens, half of a lemon, and a side of bottled cocktail sauce. This is a very basic offering. The crab cakes are simply good. There’s a little filler. At $33.95, perhaps it could be a little more exciting. This is the land of crab, after all.
The sides are generous and served family style. Mashed potatoes are rich and creamy, but a bit salty. Sautéed asparagus is fresh and crunchy.
The key lime pie is sourced locally, from Cakes and Confections of Severna Park and it’s great. The crust is good; the texture amazing. It is a perfect dessert.
The level of noise increases in the amount of time we are there. People just keep pouring in the doors. There is a lot of activity here. Clearly, it’s a popular place. But we feel something is missing. It’s not quite exceptional.
It turns out, Lewnes has a variety of special sauces that, if you don’t know they exist, you won’t get them. You have to know to ask for them (this is something I learned after my meal, while interviewing Malter). Had I known there was a homemade Coleman’s Mustard sauce for the crab cake, I most certainly would have ordered it. The regular cocktail sauce is just too ordinary to elevate the crab cake. There’s also a house-made cocktail sauce, with fresh horseradish and other ingredients. Now why did we not know about these sauces? Condiments can make or break a dish. They can sometimes take a dish from good to wow.
If you wish to visit an old, established Annapolis restaurant, Lewnes, while not extraordinary, is a fine choice. When you are spending a couple of hundred dollars on a meal, it should be memorable. They’re going to have to up their game to be a really great steakhouse.
401 Fourth Street
Annapolis, MD 21403
Mon-Thurs, 4 PM–10 PM
Fri & Sat, 4 PM–10:30 PM
Sun, 4 PM–9 PM
Christine Fillat lives on the Magothy River and is an aficionado of Chesapeake Bay cooking and living.
Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 9, No. 3 2018