Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lewnes Restaurant

I've ingested more meat in the last week than in the previous six months combined! A business associate of Rod's took us to Lewnes Steakhouse in downtown Annapolis. I voiced my usual reservation about dining at an Annapolis restaurant (see previous irritable posts on the subject), but Rod wanted to eat somewhere convenient rather than commuting into Baltimore. Fair enough. All three of us had had a long, trying day, and we didn't need extra time on the road.

So Lewnes it was. To my pleasant surprise, it is a restaurant that seemingly deserves its good reputation. An Annapolis fixture, Lewnes has been around since 1921, and the building certainly conveys a homey, lived-in atmosphere. The modest menu is limited to a few surf and turf offerings: the requisite filet mignon, rib-eye steak, and crab cakes. If you're a carnivore with a conscience, you might not want to partake of their U.S. prime beef, which is raised in feed lots, not on open grassland ranges. The web site is somewhat deceptive in that regard: viewed quickly, one might miss the essential fact that Lewnes does not use grass-raised beef. I blithely ordered my petit filet mignon, thinking that the poor creature who was sacrificed for my culinary pleasure had at least enjoyed his brief life in a natural habitat. Had I known of his feedlot existence, I would have ordered fish. Lest you think that I'm somewhat fanatical in this regard, read Michael Pollin's The Carnivore's Dilemma. Never again will you unthinkingly swallow a mouthful of meat or poultry.

Despite my guilty conscience, I have to admit the meat was excellent, rich and marbled in the manner of corn-fed prime beef. Lewnes does a fine job of preparing steaks, which come to the table sizzling in butter and cooked to perfection. I ordered medium-rare, and medium-rare I got. No complaints there. As is customary in steak houses these days, sides are ordered (and billed) separately. Ours were good but not superlative, with the exception of very nice fresh spinach sauteed in a little olive oil. None of the sides were hot enough, a continuing obsession of mine. Every restaurant in the U.S. should have monthly seminars on the art of getting food to the table piping hot: when did it become acceptable to serve tepid fare?

Service was prompt and professional. We declined dessert, although we had an absolutely amazing 2000 Dunn cabernet sauvignon with dinner, an outrageously expensive wine. I can cheerfully declare that it was worth every sip, but that's largely because I was the happy recipient of an expense-account meal.

Would I return? I don't think so. I'm not that keen on slabs of meat anymore (although there was a time), and their policy of using feedlot cattle troubles me. Given the number of small farms in Virginia that are now pasturing cattle, I don't see why a local steak house has to serve beef raised in gruesome conditions. Last night I unknowingly supported the horrors of industrial farming, something I prefer not to do again.

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