362 Front Street, Perryville, Maryland, 410-642-0045, www.therendezvousinn.com
As we headed for Perryville, Md., a tidy little town on the northern banks of the Susquehanna River, my wife Mel and I had one question in mind: What about The Rendezvous would be Scottish? Maybe we would find ourselves gazing at my family tartan behind the haggis counter whilst enjoying a rare scotch or two. After all, we had read an advertisement heralding the restaurant’s “new Scottish pub-style bar.” Now we were becoming increasingly curious-and increasingly hungry.
“I won’t do haggis,” Mel warned as we walked into the establishment, which is within sight of the mighty Susquehanna. Her aversion to this Highland delicacy was understandable. I assured her that there would be options. As it turned out, there were only options. We passed through the Scottish-style bar on our way to the dining room, noting the shuffleboard and pool table and the soundstage where live music (blues and rock, not bagpipes) is played every weekend. But there was nothing particularly reminiscent of the old country.
No matter. By this time, we were so hungry that decor was irrelevant. We took a seat near the roaring gas fireplace in the corner of the windowless dining room. Two televisions mounted near the ceiling chattered about the election controversy. The wooden walls glowed in light provided by overhead lamps, whose shades were made of used bushel baskets-a nifty touch. On one wall hung a huge stuffed marlin that looked good enough to eat.
We ordered appetizers first, opting for the stuffed mushrooms and homemade onion crisps over the coconut shrimp, New Zealand mussels sauteed in garlic butter, or potato skins topped with crab and melted cheese. The five button mushrooms came on a little metal tray and were absolutely smothered in melted cheese-some mozzarella and some cheddar. Beneath this gooey layer were generous globs of The Rendezvous’s award-winning crab mix, which was spicier than standard imperial. It was also very moist and contained slivers of backfin. Alas, no lumps. But the delightful mixture of mild cheese, piquant crab mix and smoky, roasted mushrooms was very satisfying.
The batter-fried onion crisps were unique, piled high on a plate with a side of sweet mustard. Separating portions of the stringy onion strands was mildly challenging but also comical. More than once I found myself feeding huge nests of interconnected onion into my mouth-straight from the plate. As Mel put it: “You wouldn’t want to order this on a first date. It’s like onion hair.” Despite this charming peccadillo, the dish was a sweet and crunchy winner.
For entrees, we passed up the chicken breast topped with crab mix, sliced bacon and melted cheese, along with the black angus ribeye, beer-battered soft-shell crabs and barbecued baby back ribs. Instead, I went for the crabcake platter and Mel chose the Rendezvous crab melt. My expectations for the crabcakes were high, as they have won the Upper Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake Challenge many times, most recently last year. The five-ounce cakes were broiled to a deep golden brown and were extremely tasty and rich, with generous amounts of Bay seasoning setting off the special-grade backfin. They came with standard French fries and a side of delicious, fresh green beans cooked in butter and garlic. Expectations met.
Mel’s crab melt brought on more of the crab mix, this time served atop two toasted English muffin halves, accented by fresh tomato slices and topped with melted cheddar and mozzarella. The dish was a delicious blending of tastes and textures. The crunchy muffin supported the luscious toppings well, and the tomato provided succulence. The portions of both our entrees were generous, and we ordered a to-go box when we ordered dessert.
The dessert was perhaps the highlight of the meal. We turned down the Breyer’s ice cream (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) and the cheesecake in favor of caramel apple granny cake. The dish came with two forks, and we fairly reveled in the mixture of white cake layers, spiced apples and sticky caramel topping. It was sumptuous but not too sweet. And by the time we had dispatched it, thoughts of haggis and Highlanders were long gone, laddie.
From the Perryville waterfront (there is no public landing; slips are available at Owens Marina, 410-642-6646, or the Perryville Yacht Club, 410-642-6364), walk one block up to Front Street. Dining room hours: Daily, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Bar hours: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–2 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Appetizers $2.95–$9.95; sandwiches $4.95–$9.95; entrees $11.95–$18.95; desserts $3.95. MasterCard, Visa and Discover Card accepted. Reservations recommended for parties of six or more.