A Family Tradition

"Ektakta" is what you say in Greek if you mean "the best." The Lewnes crew is proud to offer "ektakta" food, prepared with great care and subtle presentation.

The designation "steakhouse" has been earned by Lewnes', the first Annapolis restaurant to feature U.S. Prime steaks. Did you know that only two percent of American beef is high quality enough to carry the designation "U.S. Prime"? Chef Lester Snowden explained that such fine beef demands equipment like their broilers that operate at temperatures up to 1,800 degrees F., ensuring browning on the outside while encasing the flavorful juices.

The Lewnes restaurant history in Annapolis goes back to 1906 when a 14-year-old Greek immigrant named Sam arrived in New York City. He purchased a pushcart and began a career in food that eventually led him to Eastport in Annapolis. He married a local beauty named Cecilia Mandris and soon joined relatives with whom he opened eateries on Main and West streets, and eventually at Sam's Corner in the present Lewnes' location at Fourth Street and Severn Avenue. The children carried on the tradition at the Bridgeview on Sixth Street and Severn Avenue. Bridgeview became the Yardarm and finally Spiro's before being sold. Charlie Lewnes opened Sam's Corner in 1989 and named it in honor of his grandfather, the traveler/restaurateur from Greece, Sam Lewnes. The "steakhouse" name came with an upgrade of the site.

Although we had reservations, they were for 9:30 p.m. Nevertheless, our waiter Adam was attentive and service was excellent. The menu varies but always features the much-touted steak offerings including New York strip sirloin, filet mignon, porterhouse, prime rib and ribeye.

My ally in food selected the petite filet mignon and will attest that no knife was required; the perfectly broiled steak cut nicely with a fork. It was presented sitting singly under an ethereal "monter au buerre," a French and universally accepted chef's expression for an appropriate amount of real butter. You can request no butter or more butter, but as the irreverent Anthony Bourdain of Les Halles in New York City notes in his recent New York Times bestseller---listed Kitchen Confidential, "In a professional kitchen, butter is almost always the first and last thing in the pan."

Seeking seafood, I selected the Garides Scortholemono, large shrimp prepared Aegean-style in a special olive oil, lemon and garlic sauce. Glistening with a dusting of paprika, the six butterflied shrimp were expertly sautéed with succulent results. Other entrees included lamb chops, veal chops, grilled double breast of chicken, jumbo Maine lobster, jumbo lump crab cakes, pan-seared yellowfin tuna steak and broiled Atlantic salmon filet.

Assured that the jumbo lump crab balls contained the same ingredients as the jumbo lump crab cakes, we selected them for our shared appetizer. They were six good-sized golden broiled spheres consisting of fresh backfin crabmeat bound together with the lightest touch ---a binder that remains a mystery. Other appetizers were oysters on the half shell, jumbo lump crabmeat cocktail, clams casino, shrimp cocktail and black bean soup-all favorites with the dining crowd.

A fresh-made round onion loaf was crispy on the outside and puffy on the inside; served with a special salty butter, it was memorable.

We chose the Spiro's famous Greek salad over the house salad tomatoes and onions. (When we said that we were sharing dishes, the selection always appeared on two separate plates at no extra charge.) On chilled plates, the salad was a mélange of crisp head lettuce, red onions, cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper and cubed potatoes-all enveloped in a light and piquant oil and vinegar dressing.

Our sides were hash brown potatoes, redolent with onion and spices and the sautéed spinach a la George, definitely notable with luminous large spinach leaves, sweet onion, oil and tart vinegar that made a surprisingly strong Aegean statement.

We selected a chardonnay from the coastal region of South Africa, the Glen Carlou, rounded and complementary to both beef and seafood. Another good selection might have been a cabernet sauvignon, the Murphy Goode from Sonoma.

Dessert? Although defeated by the generous portions, we looked longingly at the house specialties-the double fudge chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and sprinkles or maybe the shortcake topped with crushed strawberries. Maybe next time.

Manager Erik Peterson also wears the wine steward's beret but modestly protested when called an oenologist. A veteran in the wine department, he selected the 400 wines available and spoke with confidence about his wine cellar. Assistant manager Paul Miguez is also knowledgeable about the extensive wine list.

The décor within divided rooms featured vintage photographs and studies of Eastport architecture and industry all framed against ivory walls and red-brown wainscoting. Rattan chairs with black leather seats and black leather booths beneath recessed overhead lighting provided a private and comfortable ambiance.

The word "Ektakta" is apt to cross your mind when you dine at Lewnes' Steakhouse.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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