Monday, April 5, 2010

LeveL- Annapolis, MD

Want to help improve your city? Support the local restauranteurs. These are the people who feed the congressmen, who feed the businessmen, and who feed the general public. They literally have their fingers in everyones plates, and can be quite intuitive about what a city needs. 

Annapolis, Maryland is sorely in need of a local food scene. A lot of DC commuters live in our city and the housing developments are growing rapidly. Along with them have come the chain restaurants. Annapolis doesn't have much of a local food scene to compete with these large scale establishments. With DC and Baltimore less than an hour's drive from here, and with some of the top chef's (pardon the TV show reference) in the nation, Annapolis needs to start promoting its local restauranteurs or they wont be here for long. 

I've lived in Annapolis almost my entire life, and I have seen downtown change faces pretty frequently. For a while downtown had basically the same shops as the mall. I have started to see some new boutiques creeping down Main Street and I am hoping they are a beating heart that will pump some new life into the local business scene, and slowly but surely the restauranteurs will move in the same direction. 

I know there are a handful of restaurants that have been in Annapolis for what seems like an eternity. Yet, few of the older restaurants in Annapolis are known for their food. Most patrons head downtown for the regular old bar food and some music. I'm not saying the bar food is bad, in fact I think Stan and Joe's has some awesome hot wings, but when it comes down to it, the choice between bar food or more bar food means I'm probably gonna eat in. 

Over the past few years Annapolis has had an influx of all sorts new restaurants, but I wonder how excited I should be about it. These places are either part of new construction, or they are replacing old establishments that were run by local people who were unable to cull some attention away from the big boys. 

One place I am excited about is LeveL. LeveL is a glimmer of hope that Annapolis is headed in the right direction. I have been trying a handful of new places in and around the area and I have been to some delicious new places in the last few weeks, but the most exciting for me was LeveL.

At LeveL the ingredients are sourced locally and that support our economy, which makes the food worth my time, on top of tasty. 

The menu has something for everyone, and for small plates I felt the portions were generous. One of my favorite items was the Bison Satay from Gunpowder Bison in Mokton, Maryland. The people up there raise some great meat and are doing a lot to promote local farmers markets and food. 

The clams and chorizo dish was also delicious, one of the best clam dishes I've had. The seasoning was dead on, and the clams were nice and sweet. The white wine and Pernod in the broth were nicely balanced and didn't overwhelm the mild flavor of the clams. 

I loved the lamb osso buco with a bit of marrow and a spoon to get it out! I hate it when you see marrow and you have to ask for a straw. 

The Risotto with Chorizo was more like macaroni and cheese, but the flavor of the Cherry Glen cheese in there matched incredibly well with the chorizo which made me really happy.

We also ordered the Seared Sea Scallops with Honey & Garlic Olive Oil and Micro Greens, the seafood trio of spicy tuna, rockfish ceviche, and crab tempura, the brussel sprouts edamame with a hint of sesame oil and salt, the duck confit, the "meat pizza" which was more like a flatbread (I must admit it needs a new name), and the rockfish nuggets which i felt were on the dry side.

For dessert we ordered the Milk and Cookies with Chocolate Soy Milk and Cookie Dough Foam, and the Bread Pudding with chocolate and bananas. The sweetness of the soy milk was welcome and refreshing after all the heavy food we ordered. I wasn't a fan of the bread pudding, but I'm not partial to bananas either so maybe thats not a fair argument. 

There are still a few items on the menu that need the kinks worked out of them and some standalone dishes that need some companions on the menu, but the food and the concept of LeveL are exciting and worth checking out. 

I hope that LeveL will keep the chef working hard in the kitchen. I also hope the rest of Annapolis follows suit and starts promoting the local community and our small business owners. 

Please go show your support for this great new restaurant.


Sarah said...

I agree! I've been thrilled with Level's philosophy and their food from the moment they opened. Now we need about ten more restaurants just like them in Annapolis :)

Keith Walmsley said...

We came in tonight at 4.45 our group fluctuated from 2 in number to 9 depending, over the course of our 2.5 hour happy hour gathering. We were consistently and rudely told by staff that we were in the way of a walkway. When we attempted to spread to a table we were told it was reserved. When the server who was incredibly rude told us to move every time she went up and down the stairs (through the door at the bar corner) a hostess told us that we could remain at a table we thad accosted to attempt to create room for the servers to work we were pleased we had been told the reservations for that table had been cancelled. The same rude rude waitress then told us again to move.

At this point a supervisor/manager/owner involved himself. He was incapable of understanding that we were simply looking to be accommodated. The restaurant had 1 table when we walked in was less than 25% full for most of our time there and may have been 30% full when we were made to feel unwelcome and left. The table was then inexplicably re-reserved.

Our group was composed exclusively of Annapolis residents. A group as diverse as teachers and high-end realtors, government staffers and wealth managers, IT professionals and brokers. Yet we were made to feel like out business didn't matter. We checked out at over $200 which at a little over $5 a drink and $5 a plate (though roughly half of our group was ordering off the regular menu and 2 "charity" cocktails were also ordered) one might think that we could be considered a valuable commodity in a largely empty space.

With a group who are local and rely on broad networks for our livelihoods, who had made happy hour at level semi regular, and for whom your profit margins are significantly greater than that at the at least 10 empty tables would have been and probably a more profitable per head (even at $5 a drink you markups are still considerable) spend than the few tables that were populated, it might be reasonable to assume that we could have been accommodated.

It is not my choice to add 2 or more extra tables beyond what the space was clearly designed for (though I understand that the space was purchased for a great price: lock stock and barrel when kyma closed- so the design errors were not yours) , nor was it my choice to have your staff continually gathering below stairs, nor was it our choice to be treated poorly by a rude waitress and arrogant supervisor/manager/owner. It was our choice to spend our money there and remains our prerogative to inform our diverse local networks of our experiences there.

We will not be returning and will share our disappointment with all who ask.

Robin@ Good for the Palate said...

I haven't had a bad experience yet. They are a small space and must have a headache dealing with it.

I appreciate being made aware of their shortcomings and hope that you will disseminate your information as a review on sites like Yelp, Google Maps, and Urbanspoon so that others may be aware.

I know I will be wary next time I decide to stop in.
Better luck next time!