Quick: Before the weather completely changes and that fall chill sets in, grab a front-porch seat at Alexanders in Buckeystown.
Just down the road from Frederick, this quaint setting of restaurant and inn sets a culinary standard, thanks to the haute cooking of its chef, Chris Smallwood. A local boy who has really made good (he hails from Urbana), Smallwood may prefer a country setting to showcase his cooking, but he has the mettle and skills to compete with the big-city finest.
Of course, Smallwood has cooked in Washington, D.C., at some of its finest restaurants, another reason that even if alfresco dining is no longer in season, make Alexanders a must-eat destination. The menu focuses on simple dishes prepared with Southern overtones and locally sourced ingredients. According to the menu, the restaurant has partnered with Hedgeapple Farm, a next-door neighbor. And certainly much of the produce is grown by near-by farmers, making what you eat some of the freshest and best in the local restaurant scene.
Presenting a carefully thought-out lunch menu — small but well-balanced — Smallwood lets patrons sample such Southern goodies as Low Country she-crab soup or crispy boudin balls. The latter come as crunchy nuggets of bread crumbs and rice wrapped around a pork filling, with flavors underscored and kicked up a notch with the accompanying grain mustard dipping sauce. These must be far and away his most popular appetizer, even outdoing the soup and biscuit sliders. Several orders of these would, indeed, make a satisfying full meal paired with one of Smallwood’s yummy desserts. Of course, the bread tray hopefully will come with the delicate sweet potato biscuits sided with sweetened butter.
But no serious foodie can honestly pass up one of the luncheon entrées. The pick of the day would almost always be the Smallwood Burger, a layering of beef brisket, chili and cheddar, and for an ultra kick, one of the versions comes with chipotle barbecue sauce and beer-battered onion rings. The burger with its fillings must be at least 4 inches tall and every mouthful includes a taste of a just barely sweet tomatoey sauce.
For a more trimmed-down entrée, patrons can consider such dishes as crispy tofu, Low Country shrimp in a sherry cream sauce, or another Southern fav: chicken and biscuit. This comes as a golden and crispy seared chicken breast (ideal for calorie counters) with a rosemary biscuit and an aromatic and rich sausage gravy (perhaps not so ideal for calorie counters). Choice of sides includes an overnight coleslaw, hand-cut fries, and a bean salad garnished with an unusual pickled watermelon rind. The country beans are surely cooked the way Mom or Grandma used to.
While waiting for course to course on the front porch, enjoy the rural setting, the slanted sunlight with the occasional car meandering past and the chirping sounds of country living. So relaxing is this that you won’t be in much of a hurry to get dessert — possibly a lemon cake or a banana cake, and most likely a seasonal fruit cobbler of some sort. Recently, that included a blackberry-peach cobbler topped with a scoop of ice cream.
But all good times do come to an end, and as you pay your bill and step off the grand front porch, remember that you have just eaten a haute cuisine meal in the heart of Frederick County — and with a chef who really does source locally from farmers just down the road a bit.