It's difficult to believe how much a restaurant can have going for it when it is so close to a six-lane highway catering to the beach-bound and homebound crowd.
Except for the moderate din noticeable outside the front door, however, the Cove House in Grasonville seems more old Eastern Shore than new Eastern Shore.
Indeed, sitting in this fresh, airy, window-lined room, the view is of a bucolic (in the best sense of the word) cove. Difficult to believe after so recently escaping from a hectic Route 50, but the only things moving out those windows, which face away from the highway, are some ducks and, after dark, a boat making its way slowly up the cove.
The Cove House obviously makes its living off folks taking time for an enjoyable meal. The whole atmosphere is in sharp contrast to the frenzy of fast-food places and outlet stores that begins even west of the Bay Bridge.
We were made to feel welcome by the relaxed, polite maitre d'. And more welcome by the waitresses, three of whom served us. All were attentive, friendly, a pleasure to talk to.
And the food? Darn good. Not great. But good enough to add to our enjoyment of the surroundings.
My husband and I began with the Homemade Crab Bisque ($2.95) and the Oven Roasted Mushroom Caps ($4.95).
My cup of soup was a buttery, creamy broth laden with crab and crunchy vegetables, including attractive-looking green and red pepper chunks.
The mushrooms were stuffed with spinach and bleu cheese, which my husband adores, and which I, until this night, had abhored. He swooned over the combination; I found it delightful enough to have several bites. High praise from a sworn bleu-cheese hater.
Next came salads, included with our entrees. We both had the house Caesar dressing, which was far from the classic texture and flavor of a Caesar salad, but pretty tasty in a mild, creamy -- if slightly too sweet -- way.
I moved on to one of the night's specials, trout stuffed with crab imperial ($14.95). I've always loved trout, though not its melange tiny bones. Surprise! This trout was boned and flat-fileted, making a perfect, and beautiful, palette for the imperial.
Like my husband's crab cakes ($17.95), the creamy imperial was a bit bland, at least by traditional standards.
Both the imperial and the cakes were very good and of very high quality. Both had a marvelous, rich texture with the cakes adding a perfect broiled texture -- a wafer-thin crunch covering a creamy inside. A little more spice would have moved both from the unusually good to the truly excellent.
With our entrees we were served perfectly boiled -- although the waitress had described them as broiled -- new red potatoes plus equally perfect cauliflower and broccoli. Perhaps more in the vegetables than in any other course, the Cove House's commitment to quality ingredients and preparation was obvious.
For dessert my husband had the house apple pie; I had a slice of Ms. Dessert's peanut butter volcano ($3.95 each). Both were excellent. The volcano tasted mostly of chocolate -- rich chocolate -- with only the faintest, most pleasant hint of peanut butter. The pie, with a superbly flaky crust and an unusually attractive spiciness, was, my husband said, one of the most distinctive he had ever had.
In all, our bill, with three drinks and two glasses of fine wine from a very reasonably priced, huge list of wines by the glass, was $78.22. We also had coffee with dessert but, in an unusual treat, the coffee was free.
Back to the pie. My husband entertained thoughts of trying to take a whole one home, if that was possible, until I said that we didn't need to have such temptation around the house.
Better to return to the Cove House another time.
Route 50 and 301
or (800) 347-5160
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 5-10 p.m., dinner only; 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday brunch; closed Monday.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: No separate areas designated.