The town of Stevensville isn't the first place I'd think of going for French food. But this tiny town just across the Bay Bridge, which has a general store and an antique shop or two, also has a small French restaurant called Cafe Sophie.
I'm not suggesting that if you live in Baltimore you ought to rush right down to Stevensville. Think of Cafe Sophie as an alternative to the various fast food places and motel restaurants along Route 50. Stevensville is only a few minutes away from the main drag. If you bother to make the short detour, you'll find yourself at a restaurant on the quiet streets of a small town, not eating on the highway.
Cafe Sophie is a pretty place, with Maryland and French flags hanging outside and a table in front if you feel like eating outdoors. Inside the walls are white and deep blue with blue-and-white checked tablecloths and bright red folding chairs. It's not formal: There are paper place mats on top of the tablecloths.
For $14.95 you get one of two dinners, which change from night to night. First courses are extra. The menu is more varied at lunchtime, with a choice of homemade soups, perhaps a croque monsieur, other hot entrees and pates. Everything is made by owner Suzanne Peach, a small, spry woman originally from Lyons. She's lived with her family on Kent Island for the last 10 years; she opened her restaurant a year and a half ago.
The menu, such as it is, is written on a blackboard. For first courses there was a choice of pork and chicken pates ($3.95) -- a peppery pate du chef, a coarser pate de campagne. They were pleasant enough without being particularly memorable, unadorned by cornichons or any other traditional accompaniment. Next came excellent and very simple salads -- just fresh red leaf lettuce and locally grown, intensely flavorful tomatoes in a fine vinaigrette.
We could choose between a beef stew made with Beaujolais or chicken thigh and leg cooked in white wine with tomatoes, red pepper and herbs. Real French country cooking: flavorful but not fancy. The one dish that would have held its own in the most elegant restaurant francais was a savory individual cauliflower mousse that came with the beef. Rice was served with both dinners, and sauteed zucchini accompanied the chicken.
Desserts are made on the premises; the best of them is a creme caramel, but there are also cold fruit souffles and a mocha cake.
We asked Mme. Peach's son Benjamin, who was our waiter, what the Eastern Shore thinks of French cooking; he said he didn't think anyone had tried it. Most of their customers, apparently, come not from Kent Island but from Annapolis and Baltimore -- or cruising boats putting in for the night.
Where: Opposite Grollman's General Store, Stevensville.
Hours: Lunch Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; dinner Fridays and Saturdays, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., closed Mondays.
Credit cards accepted: No.
Features: French country cooking.
Non-smoking section? No.
Call: (410) 643-8811.