On Columbus Day, Monday, October 9, 2017, we visited The Front Porch restaurant (click here to see their complete listing in our Food & Drink Business Directory) in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County, for lunch. The restaurant is in the Ford/Sterling House, which the Maryland Historical Trust describes as “constructed circa 1850s, with a circa 1910 turret and other early twentieth-century modifications. It is an Italianate-style, two-story frame building with a hipped roof… three bays wide by three rooms deep and topped with a flat roof… A three-sided, two story, Queen-Anne-style turret is… on the northwest corner of the façade.”
The building was a family home until it was sold about a dozen years ago. After being refurbished, it was a restaurant called Corbels Fine Dining & Spirits for a while. From some reviews that can still be found online, Corbels was considered somewhat pricey for the market. An experience similar to that of the recently departed La Rive Breton, which was located just down the street. Now, as The Front Porch restaurant, which offers “Southern Coastal Cuisine,” it is a more casual establishment, without the table cloths and prices to match.
Welcome to The Front Porch restaurant
A hostess greeted us at the door and asked if we wanted to eat outside on the porch, or indoors. Since it was rather humid outdoors, we chose indoors. Upon entering, we encountered a hostess stand in the hallway, with a bar to the left, and two rooms for dining to the right. Down the hall ahead are stairs leading to the upper floor. At the hallway’s end: access to the lavatories and kitchen. We got a table in the second room on the right.
It’s nice they didn’t gut the place when they refurbished it, so it has a home-like feel. The modern touches, such as the through-wall air conditioning units are kept fairly discrete. And there are still old-style radiators on the floors against the walls. The chair rails, wooden tables, stools, and chairs maintain the old-time feel. It looks like it dresses up nicely for Christmas, with a definite 19th century feel.
Oddly, though, the tables aren’t really “set.” That is, our four-seat table (and others nearby) were decorated with flowers in a simple brown jug, while a stack of appetizer-sized plates was off to one side, along with flatware rolled in cloth napkins. So, you have to pick-up your own plates and flatware, and move them to where you want them. They just left the rest of the plates and flatware on the table.
The waitress handed us menus, which proved to be different from what we had seen online. As it turned out, they had just changed over to their Fall-Winter menu (which is now online in PDF format). Already on the table was their craft-cocktail menu. We asked for waters, and while the waitress went for those, we looked at the cocktail listings.
When our server returned, we placed our order:
- I asked for a Smoked Old Fashioned. The menu describes it as “hickory smoked rocks glass, featured rye whiskey, simple syrup, bitters, orange twist & black cherry.”
- My wife Cindy picked a Porch Thunderstorm. It’s description reads “premium dark rum, fever tree ginger beer with an orange bitters float and a lime garnish.”
Our drinks arrived fairly quickly after we placed our order. While we both enjoyed them, I’m not sure I’d order mine again. It was a bit sweet for my taste. Cindy enjoyed her rum and ginger, noting that the lime added a refreshing quality to the cocktail.
Their fried-turkey sandwich combines the bird with a BLT, avocado, and more — it is a pile of a sandwich.
For an appetizer, we chose the Grilled Flank Steak Bruschetta, which we ordered at the same time as our drinks. The menu describes it as “grilled focaccia slices topped with marinated flank steak, fresh pico de gallo and parmesan cheese.” The serving was quite large, and could easily do for three or four people. Our impression:
- Toasted bruschetta — crunchy and flavorful
- Steak — nicely seared, thick and juicy
- Pico de gallo and cheese — very tasty
It was an all-around excellent dish.
The Front Porch Entrées
When our drinks arrived, we placed the order for our main courses. I chose the “fried-turkey pot pie.” As it happened, Cindy chose a turkey dish, too: their fried-turkey sandwich combines the bird with a BLT, avocado, and more — it is a pile of a sandwich. Fortunately, we had time on our hands that afternoon, because it took quite awhile for our food to show-up.
Is a pot pie really a pie if it’s only got crust on top? In my opinion, no… it’s “a casserole with a lid.”
The “fried-turkey pot pie” (as they call it) is a “16 oz. flaky pie crust filled with fried turkey breast, carrots, snow peas, potatoes, and corn in a creamy white sauce baked golden brown.” How was the the turkey fried? It can be simply fried whole. Or, roasted, carved, and then pieces battered and fried. I made the latter version, a Maryland specialty, which I detailed here: Baked turkey, fried Maryland style.
The Front Porch uses the traditional approach, in that they brine the bird for 24 hours and then fry it whole. There’s no batter in the process. According to the staffer I spoke with, they consider frying to be a more southern approach than roasting. The casserole crust is gorgeous on the outside, and it is quite large — perhaps seven inches across.
On the inside, everything tasted very good. The problem: no crust on the inside. So their description of a “pie crust filled with fried turkey breast” is inaccurate to say the least. Is a “pot pie” really a pie if it’s only got crust on top? In my opinion, no. As Mary Berry of The Great British Bakeoff television program says, it’s “a casserole with a lid.” But, I understand it’s probably much quicker and easier for a restaurant to make it that way, since they don’t have to take the time to pre-bake an interior crust.
The menu description reads: “House fried turkey, smoked apple wood bacon, crisp romaine lettuce, fried green tomato, avocado and swiss cheese topped with chipotle may spread all on toasted marble rye.” On the side were pub fries and a ramekin of ketchup. For Cindy, it wasn’t a surprising choice — she’s originally from northern California and loves avocados.
The fries were crispy and hot. The sandwich fillings and the toasted marble rye tasted great. Also, the whole thing was quite large. For a lunch, you couldn’t ask for a much better sandwich.
We liked The Front Porch restaurant for lunch. The craft cocktails were worth trying, though I’d probably try one of their other recipes on another visit. Overall the food was quite good, and the space-and-decor charming. The service was a little slower than we would have liked, but the staff was friendly and helpful, without being annoying. There’s also plenty of access to parking. I think a trip back for the year-end holidays may be in order. ♦