- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Summer is almost gone, and school is right around the corner. One last trek to the beach? For those fortunate enough to be making another trip to the Atlantic Ocean, think about stopping by the Narrows restaurant.

Located on the Kent Narrows in Grasonville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the restaurant offers water views against a still-pristine backdrop of relatively undeveloped landscape.

New yachts share the waterway with old Chesapeake Bay work boats.

This area of the Eastern Shore has become an ever-growing stopping-off point to and from the Maryland and Delaware beach resorts.

The Narrows is a little tricky for first-time diners to find. Take Exit 42 from Route 50. Follow the sign for “Restaurants.” Nestled between a crab house and a marina is a large gray-shingled building — only after driving closer will you notice the sign. The Narrows seats about 175 guests and has an outdoor wraparound porch that is open during nice weather.

The Narrows can best be described as a solid seafood house with a number of creative plates by chef Paul Shiley as well as local favorites such as crab cakes and oysters. There are plenty of other choices if you are not a seafood lover.

The prices are high, but the restaurant delivers with good-size portions.

Start your evening with the barbecued quail ($10.95) appetizer, and you won’t be disappointed. The quail was nicely moist, with its richness balanced by blackberries and a balsamic glaze. The polenta accompaniment was fluffy and flavorful.

Clams stuffed with fennel, bacon, tomatoes, garlic and bread crumbs is another way to start your engine.

Also, tempura lobster tail is served with a seaweed salad and wasabi sauce.

There are nine salads. Among the more interesting are the hearts of iceberg with red onion and blue cheese dressing, topped with crumbled blue cheese. For meat lovers, the grilled sirloin salad consists of romaine, red onion and blue cheese tossed with tomato-basil vinaigrette and topped with grilled sliced New York strip.

Not many restaurants in these parts are without crab soup. The Narrows serves both the vegetable and cream varieties.

Cream of crab ($6.95 cup, $8.95 bowl) was a nice representation of tradition. It had a smooth, creamy consistency and wasn’t thick and starchy like many. The amount of sweet lump crabmeat was adequate, but not generous.

There are a dozen entrees, six from the land, six from the sea, plus a daily specials board that usually has some sort of fresh fish offering.

The special this day was wild rockfish ($24.95). The rockfish was expertly prepared, resulting in wonderful large flakes of very flavorful fish. The liberal crushed-pepper seasoning was a bit heavy, as it masked some of the fresh flavor of the fish. The bass was served with a corn-and-crabmeat ragout, which was fresh but not quite as flavorful as some of the local corn out there this season. A topping of shredded baked beets added a nice textural contrast.

A grilled, peppered 14-ounce New York strip ($26.95) was prepared medium with a mushroom cabernet sauce and rested over garlic mashed potatoes. The steak was cooked as ordered and was complemented by the rich cabernet sauce. Potatoes were wonderful and creamy with just the right dash of garlic. A side of fried green tomatoes was disappointing, as the outer coating was gummy and greasy.

There are also medallions of pork sauteed with apples in demi-glace and served over polenta.

Cioppino contains lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams and fresh fish with julienne vegetables tossed in olive oil, garlic and white wine and served over risotto.

A crab cake ($16.95) off the light suppers menu was again a good representation of tradition. Made with jumbo lump crabmeat, it had minimal filler and seasonings to detract from the star ingredient. (The Narrows’ crab cakes also can be ordered and shipped to your front door through what the restaurant calls Crab Cake Express. Contact the Narrows for details.)

Entrees include Caesar or house salad, rice or potato and choice of the vegetable of the day, fried green tomatoes or coleslaw. Light suppers come with choice of vegetable or salad.

Desserts are fairly standard for the region, with an emphasis on ice cream. Options include sorbet, old-fashioned hot fudge sundae, bananas Foster, or peach Melba. If you’re not in the mood for ice cream, try cheesecake, mud pie, chocolate bread pudding or mousse in a bag ($7.95), a white chocolate mousse in a bag of semisweet chocolate. The star was the tart raspberry sauce accompaniment.

RESTAURANT: The Narrows, 3023 Kent Narrows Way South, Grasonville, Md.; 410/827-8113

HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday throughSaturday; Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

PRICES: Soups and salads, $3.95 to $15.95; appetizers, $3.50 to $14.95; lunch sandwiches and entrees, $7.95 to $15.95; dinner entrees, $12.95 to $32.95

RESERVATIONS: Recommended but not required

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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