The first time that I visited the Manor Tavern made quite an impression on me. There were two men in full fox hunt regalia – tight white breeches, close fitting red jacket over a starched white shirt and calf height black leather boots. And what’s important – This wasn’t Halloween, it wasn’t a charade – no – this was for REAL – two guys getting a drink after an afternoon of hunting foxes. Had I somehow time warped into Downton Abbey? Not quite! This was now. This was for real. People who live out near Monkton and My Lady’s Manor do stuff like this.
The Manor Tavern maintains gardens (organic of course) behind the restaurant where a lot of their greens and veggies are sourced from.
I can’t guarantee that you’re going to see men in full fox hunt regalia in the bar of the Manor Tavern (even if it did really happen to me!). In fact, some the folks in the bar at the Manor Tavern look almost real – maybe even the kind of folks who go out for a drink in Essex or Dundalk.
Then there’s my friend Paul from Towson – he enjoys sitting down in a booth in the bar, ordering a “Bloody” and enjoying the view of the locals in between moments debating what to eat (and secretly hoping another “after the hunt” local or two will show up for a “snort” at the bar…)
The menu at the Manor Tavern is one big page (entitled “Provisions” – that must be Downton Abbey speak for menu). It includes nine appetizers ($8 to $16 “Angels on Horseback” – that’s Downton Abbey speak for oysters wrapped in bacon then fried and served with horseradish sauce…), three Soups ($7/cup, $9/bowl), three no protein added salads ($12-$15), eighteen entrees (a couple about $15 ranging up to a $39 veal chop – but most in the $20’s) and some lighter fare including 8 sandwiches/burgers ($11 – $15)
Decisions, Decisions! We reached consensus on starting by sharing an appetizer, Crispy Brussel Sprouts ($8 – “Tender inside, crispy outside with red salt and a tangy BBQ sauce”). Paul opted for a Berkshire Burger ($12 with ground pork from Verdant Valley Farms, root beer BBQ sauce, caramelized ciopolini onions, “daily crisis” habenero Colby Cheese, and baby argula on a pretzel roll). Marty decided on a daily special – Fried oysters on argula ($15). Tom took advantage of a regular Sunday bargain special – Fish & Chips ($13) while John ordered a Shrimp Salad Sandwich on toasted whole wheat ($14 – “a classic with jumbo shrimp, celery, mayo and Old Bay).
Tom, Paul and John thought that the Brussel Sprouts were addictively delicious. Marty though was inexplicably not a fan. They reminded John of a prior visit to the Manor Tavern where he first got to sample “Kale Chips” – somebody in the kitchen at Manor Tavern likes innovative approaches to making veggies palatable!
Paul’s Berkshire Burger looked like quite the mouthful (what isn’t obvious from this photo is that it was taller than it was wide – which made eating it a bit of a challenge!). Paul rose to the challenge though and there was barely a crumb left by the time he had finished – Clearly a success!
Marty’s Oyster Salad had a good number of oysters on top of the bed of greens. Marty relished each and every oyster (and he would have gladly traded the greens for another couple of those oysters!) The Oysters got a “Thumbs Up!” form Marty (though much of the salad went uneaten after Marty confessed his distinct preference for iceberg lettuce).
Tom’s Fish & Chips made a dramatic presentation (though Paul wondered for a minute if Tom had really ordered Fried Chicken! <Wink>). Dramatic as it appeared, Tom reported that the there was a perhaps overly heavy crust on the fish and that crust had absorbed more cooking oil than he might have otherwise liked.
John’s Shrimp Salad arrived exactly as the menu suggested. Clearly avoiding the average risk of drowning the shrimp in mayo, the Manor Tavern version provided just enough mayo with a touch of Old Bay – no more, no less. The pieces of shrimp were indeed jumbo, the hearty whole wheat bread lightly toasted and the tomato slice was deep red and full of summery promise. Despite looking wonderful, the fries were but average (John has had better!).
Tom and Paul particularly were tempted by the notion of dessert and when – lo & behold! – the waitress mentioned “Peanut Butter & Jelly Cake” ($8) as an option, Tom appeared as if in a trance… He muttered gently: “One piece with four forks please!”)
The cake proved to be a disappointment at least to a couple of us (even though the huge serving caught the eye of the locals at the bar on its way to us). “Where’s the jelly???”, John wanted to know. The waitress responded that there was jelly in the over abundant frosting used as filling between the layers. (John succeeded squelching a cynical “Ha!”) ). The cake itself seemed overly dense and dry (and truly might have benefited from some jelly or jam). Adding to the problem, neither the cake nor the outer ivory frosting tasted much of peanut butter. From John’s point of view, the kitchen had pretty poorly executed a great idea for a dessert! While half of the cake remained uneaten, Paul – who has a reputation as having a sweet tooth first downed a huge junk of “Jelly Frosting” and then volunteered quickly to give the rest of the cake a good home if someone could but box it up for him to insure its safe transport.
While Tom and Paul galloped off the rest rooms, John and Marty cantered over to the adjacent main dining room. It was a simple, not particularly impressive room dominated by a big stone fireplace; it had no outside windows (just two small windows just offering a view of another dining room. On a Sunday evening, it was two-thirds full with mostly 50+ year old couples. (By contrast, even on a humid summer evening, an outdoor covered patio with ceiling fans had an animated crowd)
Our friends Tom and Paul are big fans of the Manor Tavern and like the food, service and the atmosphere. Perhaps without the stimulating presence of dashingly tall, trim men in fox hunting garb, Marty on his first visit wasn’t quite so quickly taken with the Manor Tavern. Marty and John noted that you could easily run up a $50+ per person tab in the ho-hum looking dining room on a Saturday evening between a drink and a three course meal. John – between his admiration for the Brussel Sprouts and his shrimp salad sandwich as well as his appreciation of our attentive waitress, discerned more “Thumbs Up!” aspects to the Manor Tavern than Marty. John also ruminates that the drive out to the Manor Drive – a good 20 minutes off from the Mt. Carmel Rd exit off of Rte 83 – on narrow, winding roads full of gorgeous Maryland horse country scenery can be a joy in mid-summer. During winter months, it may be another thing when it gets dark early, the country roads are largely unlit and the impressive country side becomes largely invisible.
One thing is for sure – if you’re in the bar when a couple of men walk in for a drink after the fox hunt, your feelings about the Manor Tavern might grow as bright as those men’s red coats and as shiny as their tall boots <Smile>.
FACTS: Manor Tavern – Monkton; 15819 Old York Road; (410) 771-8155; http://www.themanortavern.com ; Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week; Sunday brunch starting at 10 am; Full Bar (but curiously not one draught beer!), Vegetarian options; adjacent parking lot.