Sunday, July 2nd, my wife Cindy and I drove south on Rte. 5 to Leonardtown for brunch at La Rive Breton restaurant in St. Mary’s County (click here to see the restaurant’s entry in our Food & Drink Business Directory). Typical for July, it was hot, humid, and sunny with scattered clouds (the high temperature for the day was 87° F and the low humidity for the day was 74%). It was quite different weather from our first visit for dinner on January 21st of this year when it was a “balmy” 48° F and foggy (click here to read about our experience that evening).
We left home about 11:10 AM, so as to arrive around noon. Along the way, we passed many a church parking lot full of cars, and several had services that were letting out. Just north of Leonardtown, we encountered a stream of horse-and-buggies driving on the shoulder of the road. Obviously an Amish church had just let out, too. St. Mary’s county has the second largest Amish population outside of Pennsylvania.
La Rive Breton views
Fortunately, we found a parking space on the corner next to La Rive Breton. Upon entering the restaurant, the hostess asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. Given the weather, we chose indoors, and were offered a seat by the window looking out on the town square, which we accepted for the view. There were lots of flags out for the upcoming Independence Day holiday.
On this Sunday, they featured a classical guitarist playing for the guests enjoyment. The room had definitely changed since our previous visit. They now had white table cloths and a bit more art on the walls, such that it felt like a warmer, more welcoming place.
The hostess gave us menus, and a busboy soon appeared to give us water and said our waitress would soon appear. When she arrived she took our drink orders. Cindy asked for a Bloody Mary, and I ordered a Mimosa. And then, as on our previous visit, we waited. A table of three people nearby, seated after us, got their iced teas before we saw any sign of our drinks. We started to think we had again been forgotten and I was almost ready to seek out the manager when our waitress finally appeared with our drinks.
When she delivered our drinks, the waitress told us the day’s specials, but they didn’t change our minds about what we had seen on the menu. We asked for an order of chopped steak tartare as a starter to share. Cindy requested the roasted-lamb tartine. I ordered the Maryland crabcake eggs benedict.
We then realized a couple of reasons why it had taken so long for us to get our drinks:
- Our waitress was doing double duty, serving tables both inside and outside. That often makes it tough on the staff and the customers, because the waitress can’t easily oversee both areas. The reality was, though, they only had a few customers outside, certainly not enough to justify a single staffer to serve just outdoors customers.
- Cindy’s drink was a piece of major construction. Look at that photo above! There’s a large celery stalk, and then across the top is laid a lemon slice, huge olive, and lime slice, all on a long pick, plus a straw. It obviously took a while to put all of that together, as compared to just pouring three iced teas for the table next to us.
Bloody Mary or side dish?
Note one other thing about that Bloody Mary: the glass is rimmed with a spice mix (looks like Old Bay to me). With all that stuff between the drinker and the rim, how in the world are you supposed to be able to taste the spices? Cindy took her first sip from the straw and reported that it was pretty bland.
Not a surprising comment from someone whose bar is usually stocked with Mr. & Mrs. T’s Horseradish Bloody Mary Mix. Yes, that brand is owned by the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, but for a store-bought Bloody Mary mix, it’s a decent starter for a drink. We typically add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco (or Sriracha), and maybe a bit more horseradish — along with vodka, of course.
Since there is no bread service at La Rive Breton, and we’d not yet got our appetizer, there were no small plates on the table on which to offload the fruits and vegetables. We flagged down the busboy and asked for a plate. He quickly brought one, and Cindy was able to clear a path to the drink. Once she could actually sip the drink from the rim of the glass, the experience definitely improved, as she now could taste the spices.
As for my drink, it was fine. Prosecco plus orange juice, and no straw. Pretty straight-forward and not too easy to mess up. I would have had a second one, but we planned on going to a wine tasting at Solomons Island Winery after lunch.
Not long after we got our drinks, the chopped steak tartare was delivered. The menu describes it as “pastrami aioli, shallots, chopped egg, arugula, house-cut peppered potato chips.” This was a simpler presentation than the version of steak tartare we enjoyed here in January. You can see that one as the second picture in the photo gallery from our previous article. While the earlier version was good, this one was great. The flavors and textures of the tartare were perfectly complimented by the crunch and flavor of the chips.
As we sipped our drinks and waited for our main courses, we enjoyed the music of the classical guitarist playing near the bar. We also had a nice view of the town square. A number of folks strolled by, many with ice cream from a shop to the south of the restaurant. The large window beside us was too much for the restaurant’s AC system, though, as you could feel the heat radiating through it.
The menu lists Cindy’s roasted-lamb tartine as “toasted focaccia, harissa aioli, caramelized onions, fried egg.” It looked like there was also some frisée under the egg. The lamb was quite tasty, with a crunchy texture on the edges. As you can see, the egg was perfectly fried. The side salad appeared to consist of red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, arugula, and cucumber slices. The dressing tasted like a sweet balsamic vinegar and oil, and perhaps they added some honey — whatever it was, it was delicious.
Crabcakes eggs benedict
My plate of Maryland crabcakes eggs benedict looked great when it arrived. Its menu description reads “wilted spinach, poached egg, hollandaise.” It tasted great, too, but there was a major problem: it wasn’t hot. I waved over the waitress to let her know. I told her the side salad was delicious (the same type of salad as Cindy got), but that my crabcakes and eggs weren’t hot. She said she’d take care of it right away, and took my plate, promising to bring back the salad immediately. That way I’d have something to eat while waiting for the crabcakes benedict to be fixed.
Cindy, of course, was kind enough to share some of her dish with me, and I did very much enjoy my salad. I gave Cindy the cucumber slices from my salad; I like them fine, but cucumbers don’t like me at all.
The manager delivered a second plate of crabcakes eggs benedict a little while later. She apologized for the first dish not being correct. The second version was piping hot and quite tasty. The eggs, unfortunately, were a bit overcooked. When they delivered our check, they told us the drinks were on the house, to compensate for my first plate not being hot. We greatly appreciated the free drinks.
La Rive Breton makes some wonderful food. The ambiance has evolved and improved, and the staff remains friendly. Where the restaurant stumbles is in the details. That said, they respond to problems quickly and professionally. I’m sure we’ll try them again, and hope to see continued improvements.♦0