Jenna is nice. Because she was our server and was so nice, I told her that would be the first sentence of this review. But while Jenna is nice, she isn’t the only nice thing about The Pines, a great find on Baltimore Avenue.
Let’s talk about the people first. We were seated by the manager, Richard, who knew who we were right off the bat. It would be cynical to believe that the lavish attention he continually heaped on us was because we were reviewing his restaurant. So, I watched him throughout the meal, and shame on me. He gave every table at the restaurant the same attention he gave us. That’s a great start to any restaurant review!
Then, David Gonce, a co-owner of The Pines, came over to chat. Quite personable, David welcomed us to his business like we were family. Then he did the same thing that Richard did. Floating away after our conversation, he started visiting other tables, giving each table the same consideration that he gave us. Sometimes, being treated the same way as everyone else is the height of compliments.
In a continuing theme at the restaurant, the chef, Harkaitz, also made his way out to the floor. I so appreciated his enthusiasm and artistry. It made every good thing about this restaurant come into focus.
This was the first time Sally and I visited The Pines. I had heard that the crowd noise when the restaurant was full made it very difficult to hear. Not any longer! There are sound absorbing panels on the ceiling, and even in the large crowd of a Monday night in season, we could hear each word we were saying.
On to the food. According to its website, The Pines modern tavern offers a winning combination of sensational interior design, a lively atmosphere, creative American cuisine, crafty cocktails, and first-class customer service. The restaurant features a full farm-to-table menu in the dining room and a thoughtfully crafted lite fare menu upstairs in the lounge.
A nice description, to be sure. And accurate. We started with bread baked onsite, deliciously accented with rosemary and caraway seed. With it, Sally had a grapefruit-based cocktail that she loved, a Sparkling Grapefruit Spritz. Now I take a medicine that can kill you if you eat grapefruit with it. Either she was trying to kill me or really, really loved this drink, because she kept trying to get me to have a sip. So finally, I took a sip and suddenly aaaccckkkkkk. Just kidding. It was really good.
Appetizers were mouthwateringly tasty. Sally had the Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip, stuffed with lump crabmeat, spinach, a blend of cheeses, and Old Bay, served with seasoned warm pita. It was brought to us in a sizzling hot skillet. In it were lots of crab, lots of cheese, a little kick, and fresh chives sprinkled on top. I had Shrimp Dumplings, complete with chili oil, ginger orange soy sauce, and cilantro. Perfectly crisp and tasty. A nice harbinger of things to come. Even with curiosities like Spanish Octopus and Golden Potato and Goat Cheese Croquettes on the menu, we knew we made the right choices.
As for entrees, we must warn you that you best come hungry. Portions are big. Really big. Monday is Filet and Wine night, but we chose other dishes on the menu. Sally had the Beef Stroganoff, nicely sauced, and noodles done just right. She complemented that with Caesar salad. Even the croutons are house-made. Delicious!
I had Pistachio-crusted Ahi Tuna, with peach and heirloom tomato panzanella salad. Nicely prepared, with perfect sesame coating. Add to that wonderful macaroni and cheese. I was in heaven.
Desserts were decadent. Sally had the Peanut Butter Pie. Yow, need I say more? I had the Chocolate Shell. Just what it sounds like. Save room if you can!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention other great features at The Pines. For one, they have great specials, including the aforementioned Filet and Wine on Monday evenings. There’s also the Eastern Shore Seafood Night every Sunday.
But perhaps the best feature, though, is The Top of The Pines, a dining, live entertainment, and event/catering venue space above. A place where people can gather to eat, drink, and enjoy some of the best entertainment in the area. On Mondays, you are treated to the Flaming Pianos, and on Thursdays and Fridays, there is a Sing-Along with guest artists. What fun!
The Pines has plenty of regular customers; it is easy to see why.
Oh, and did I mention? Jenna is nice! ▼
Michael Gilles is a playwright, actor, and director from Milton, and a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.