- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

Sometimes you just feel the need to get away from it all, and Maryland's Eastern Shore offers a relaxed pace reminiscent of an earlier time. So after a lovely afternoon in St. Michaels, we decided to slow things down even further with a visit to the historic Robert Morris Inn.
A refreshing trip on the Oxford-Bellevue ferry across the scenic Tred Avon River brought us to Oxford. The building housing the inn dates back to 1710 and crowns the north end of Morris Street.
The original structure, incorporated into the present inn, was the home of Robert Morris, an agent for Liverpool Shipping who came to Oxford in 1738.
As a leading businessman in the town, he greatly influenced its growth. His son, Robert Morris Jr., became known as "the financier of the Revolution" (he also was a signer of the Declaration of Independence).
The inn has been enlarged several times since its first use as a private home. This year marks 30 years for owners Ken and Wendy Gibson who took over in 1971.
During our Saturday night visit, we were warmly greeted by Mr. Gibson and had a choice of seating in the dining, rustic tap or colonial tavern room. Since we had our 5-year-old with us, we chose the tavern room, which had a more relaxed feel than the other options, but the same menu and attentive service.
If you're the kind of person who demands a lot of variety, the inn probably isn't for you. The menu is simple, and dominated by crab dishes.
For starters, we tried the house specialty of baked seafood-au-gratin cake. Crab and shrimp are combined with Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, then baked ($10). It was a heavenly change from the traditional hot crab dip which we love because the cheese sauce was much lighter, allowing the flavor of the crabmeat to shine through.
Other starters included baked mini crab cake ($5.50); fried seafood sampler of shrimp, scallops and clams ($9); a tomato-based, mildly spicy crab soup ($7.50); Chesapeake fries and onion rings ($6).
Salads are available, but we opted out when we heard about the generous vegetable servings that accompany the entrees. Two intriguing hearty salad options are listed: fisherman's salad bowl ($16) with crab, shrimp, assorted lettuce and egg and tomato; and the Chesapeake fried potato salad, which has tossed greens and tomato topped with Chesapeake fries and ranch dressing ($7.50).
James A. Michener, author of "Chesapeake," rated the inn's crab cakes the highest of any restaurant on the Eastern Shore.
So, for the main event, I decided to try the crab cake platter ($27). One oven baked, served golden brown, the other lightly breaded and fried.
Our waiter pointed out that the inn buys only lump backfin crabmeat.
The pair were tasty and tender certainly Mr. Michener was right and served with three of the chef's vegetables: pan-seared tender young asparagus; homemade carrot casserole; and my favorite, lightly breaded and fried zucchini.
My wife opted for the best of both worlds Black Angus prime rib supreme. It's a regular cut of prime rib topped and broiled with crabmeat ($30). The beef was tender and flavorful and the crabmeat really added another dimension.
The inn also offers a seafarer's platter, an oven-baked crab cake, seafood-au-gratin cake, broiled scallops and shrimp scampi ($34); the Shore combo, a grilled chicken breast with a baked or fried crab cake ($20); and a 10-ounce filet mignon ($28).
All entrees include assorted relishes, vegetable plate and muffins with butter.
Desserts vary daily; we ordered a slice of homemade strawberry pie. Although it's not peak season for the berries, the pie was a simple and refreshing end to a wonderful meal.
Through the years, the inn has been used as a private residence, a town hall, a boarding house, a temporary convalescent home for World War I veterans and a general store. Its days as a country inn began in the late 1940s.
The inn is open every day April through November and on weekends December through March. A trek to the Robert Morris Inn guarantees good food, charm and an ambience rooted in the 18th century.

RESTAURANT: Robert Morris Inn, 314 N. Morris St., Oxford, Md.; 410/226-5111 or 888/823-4012; reservations only for groups of eight or more
HOURS: Breakfast 8 to 10 a.m., lunch noon to 3 p.m., light fare 3 to 8:30 p.m., and dinner 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every day through November
PRICES: Appetizers $3 to $11 (lunch) and $4.50 to $11 (dinner); sandwiches $5.75 to $12 (lunch); entrees $18 to $34 (dinner)
PARKING: On site
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible


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