I’m starting to wonder if, when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve this year, the City of Annapolis – drunkenly sloshing its champagne all over its sister, Severna Park and brother, Arnold – made a resolution to shake up the local restaurant scene. Because it is a damned good time to be eating (and drinking) your way through our fair Capital town.
First there was BAROAK, which finally opened its doors after much anticipation in early March. (It’s a Belgian beer and food lover’s dream.) Now today, Preserve opens its doors to the public from its cozy little storefront enclave at 164 Main Street in Downtown Annapolis.
When I walked into a sneak preview event at Preserve last week, I didn’t know what to expect. But I knew whatever I was served would be as thoughtful as it was delicious. (Jeremy and Michelle Hoffman – the husband and wife team behind Preserve – have tremendous culinary pedigree, which I was able to enjoy when they were still both at Restaurant Eve back when Patrick and I lived in Alexandria, Virginia.)
I was right – the menu was a diverse cross-section of pickled vegetables, rich pierogis, beets, gnocchi, blue catfish, pork, and rich desserts, served with French press coffee from Annapolis’ own Ceremony Coffee Roasters.
Then there was the beer.
They’ve obviously taken a lot of care in the curation of their beer list. On draft, they have four rotating Maryland taps. During the preview, it included: Burley Oak’s Rude Boy (a self-proclaimed “sessionable barley wine”), Union Craft Brewing’s Miracle Weizenbock, Flying Dog’s The Truth Imperial IPA and Jailbreak’s Feed the Monkey Hefeweizen – each for $7.
The bottle list is broken up by style, with classics like Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA, and off-the-beaten path choices from Nantucket-based Cisco Brewers and others. And hiding under the “Wine & Such” section of the bottle list, a cider from Michigan, as well as a lovely surprise in the form of a selection from Charm City Meadworks.
Both their bottle and draft list will rotate, but I love how their initial Maryland draft choices were not only complementary to the rest of their offerings, they were interesting and different from what you usually see. They could have easily come out of the gate with crowd favorites from any of those four breweries, but I am very glad they didn’t.
Overall, Preserve does something that addresses one of my biggest pet peeves regarding consumers and establishments: the idea that you’re either a craft beer destination or you’re not, with little regard for the in-between. No doubt about it, Preserve is a restaurant first. You’re not going to go here for pint nights or to drink your way through some expansive craft list, with sour gems lingering in some cellar. Instead, beer is positioned as an integral part of their overall narrative and approach to food.
In this way, Preserve embodies the notion that beer can be on equal footing with good food and good wine. (VIN 909 understands this, too – but that’s a story for another day.) It’s annoying to go to a nice restaurant and realize that, in doing so, I’ve often made the choice to eat a wonderful meal, without the ability to also enjoy a good beer. But at Preserve, I can have both. A nice surprise indeed.
Preserve | 164 Main Street | Annapolis, Maryland | 443.598.6920 | No reservations