Grove Market – Bishopville, MD
It was a few days before we left for vacation when we learned that we had become one of the Chosen Ones. We had a reservation at Grove Market – not an easy task given the size of the restaurant and the process needed to secure a reservation. This involves calling the restaurant, leaving your name, telephone number, size of your party and the date(s) you’d like to go – best to leave a couple of choices in your message to increase your odds. If you have a little luck on your side you get a return call with your date and time of your reservation – in short, you become a Chosen One as we had.
To say the restaurant is eclectic is an obvious under-statement. Conveniently located outside a trailer park, the restaurant is housed in a small red shack that looks more like a dive bar (complete with a neon Budweiser sign in the window) that caters to bikers than the source of a foodie mini-culture. Inside the walls are covered with everything and anything – lacrosse sticks, a Budweiser dartboard, moose antlers, buoys, American flags – knick-knacks everywhere, all outlined in Christmas lights.
Our table was in the back corner of the front room – the back room has a great view of the trailer park. My seat was next to an old deli counter that served as a prep-station – so I had a great view of the kitchen through the cloudy glass, over the potatoes and other side dishes waiting to be served onto plates. I watched as the chef at work a beautiful loin of tuna – a generous portion was sliced off for another lucky dinner. I knew I was in for an incredible meal at this point.
Another eclectic point on this restaurant – no menus. Our server, who could not be friendlier, recited the entire menu to us, providing an amazing amount of detail on each dish without a single pause to remember some part of that dish or where she was in that night’s offering. Each dish sounded better than the previous and I was getting lost – but two dishes caught my ear’s attention. The scallops appetizer and the roasted duck as the main deal.
K had the smoked plate for her appetizer – this was more of a main dish than a starter based on the portion size. The plate included both smoked salmon and bluefish, and was served with a salad and saltine crackers, of course. My scallops were the definition of perfection – deep rich buttery flesh packed neatly between the two charred ends.
My main dish was to me the star of the evening – a half duck, roasted to perfection. It was crispy. It was rich. It was moist and oh so delicious. I had never been served duck in this manner – usually the serving portion is the standard breast with crispy skin. This was exactly as advertised – half a duck, minus the head. At first I was polite – I dove into the meat, cutting through the crispy skin and retrieving each succulent bite with my fork. After the meat that could be retrieved this way had made it’s way off my plate I was left with the challenge of the remaining meat that was on the bones – none of this could be left behind. So I discharged the formality and approached the task as I would with any other poultry – I set the knife and fork on the table with all sense of decorum and attacked the remaining meat with my fingers – somehow I don’t think the other diners would mind, seeing that we were sitting in plastic lawn chairs (I was informed that the owners had obviously renovated recently as all of the chairs matched). When finished, my face and fingers were covered in deliciously warm duck fat and the bones were clean.
If you are ever near Ocean City, MD I can not recommend this restaurant enough – sure, it’s a bit off the beaten path, a short drive away from the crashing waves of the ocean, but it is so worth the trip. There are some people do not appreciate the eclectic manner of the place – you will not hear the menu before you select your wine. You will not get a high-chair for your child, so hire a babysitter. The beer selection is minimal but if you want the Maryland experience they do have Natty Light. The wine list is plentiful but you can bring your own wine for a small corking charge ($12). Call the number, leave a message and hope that you are selected as a Chosen One.