Eating places in city beefed up March openings expected for two upscale steakhouses

January 12, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Where's the beef? In Annapolis, apparently.

Two new upscale steakhouses have set their sights on this town traditionally known for its seafood and are expected to open in March, city officials say.

VTC The Annapolis Restaurant Group partnership plans to open in refurbished premises at the old Burger King site on Main Street; and the owner of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is remodeling what used to be Marmaduke's Pub at Third Street and Severn Avenue in Eastport.

They will join Lewnes' Steakhouse, the city's other upscale beef establishment.

"You'd think we were the Midwest," Susan K. Zellers, city economic development director, said laughing.

"We'll have to get branding irons and cowboy boots. I think it's part of the trend. You know, heavy white linen, big knives, big steaks, cigars and martinis.

"But if that trend gets them eating here and coming to Annapolis, then that's great," she said.

Bill Heim, owner of the popular Marmaduke's, decided to retire after 25 years in the business when he got an offer too good to refuse from Steve de Castro, owner of Ruth's Chris franchise in Baltimore.

Marmaduke's closed Jan. 1, to the dismay of sailors who filled the downstairs bar and cabaret fans who enjoyed performances in a smoke-filled upstairs room.

Annapolis is the perfect market for his third restaurant, said de Castro, who also owns one in Raleigh, N.C.

"It's right in my back yard," the Crownsville resident said.

"It's the capital of Maryland. I love the water. I love boats, and I love the whole area. I think it's a great market. And, competition is good for business."

Ruth's Chris is expected to open March 23 after renovations to enlarge the dining area. The liquor license allows 160 seats, and de Castro is seeking a conditional use permit to add 40 more. The restaurant has about 70 parking spaces and will need 15 to 20 more, de Castro said.

The Main Street steakhouse's opening hinges on whether the partnership, which owns other restaurants in the state, is allowed to serve alcohol with meals. They have applied for a liquor license.

The Ward One Residents Association, which has frowned upon allowing more eating establishments in the downtown area, is fairly happy to see fine dining replace the fast-food restaurants that have had short life spans at the Burger King site.

In Eastport, which cherishes its quirkiness, Ruth's Chris is a welcome addition, said resident Robert McWilliams.

"All of a sudden, Annapolis is becoming the home of the big beef," McWilliams said. "It's kind of funny."

The more, the merrier, the people at Lewnes', on Fourth Street, say. The family-owned steakhouse has been open for about 3 1/2 years.

"I think it's great that Eastport is going to be the place to go for steaks," said Erik C. Peterson, Lewnes' manager. "It just brings more business into our neck of the woods."

As for its competition, Ruth's Chris expects to fit in nicely with the sailing community, because "we're not just a steakhouse, we do some fabulous seafood as well," de Castro said.

Pub Date: 1/12/98

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